Representing your clients doesn’t mean making decisions for them or telling them what to do

Broker Notebook

The way some real estate agents talk, you would think that their clients worked for them. They tell tales of how they made their clients do this or that, and how they tell their clients what to do.

I represent my clients and I can only give them advice. I can’t make them do anything. Telling my clients what to do isn’t a good idea either, and it really isn’t my job.

Obedient real estate agent image via Shutterstock.
Obedient real estate agent image via Shutterstock.

Sometimes we forget that we work for our clients, and that we represent them.

Representing someone is different than making decisions for them, or telling them what to do.

A few weeks ago I was told by a real estate agent what she would have told the sellers I was representing to do if they were her sellers. She looked so surprised when I told her that I don’t tell home sellers what to do.

I can just imagine myself telling my sellers with the utmost confidence what the right thing to do is. They would just do exactly as I told them, and we would all live happily ever after.

I am fairly certain that if I could persuade everyone to do everything my way, the real estate transactions would be much smoother, and maybe the world would be a better place. But it just doesn’t work that way.

Some agents will put out email blasts when they have a new listing that say, 'Show and sell.' What does that even mean?"

People who like to boss others around and tell them what to do should consider hiring someone. Or maybe they should find a different kind of job.

I perform many different tasks during the course of a business day, but almost never get to tell someone else what to do. The closest I come is if I go to a restaurant for lunch, I get to order food.

As a real estate agent, I represent my clients and I give them advice. But I don’t tell them what to do.

With younger, first-time homebuyers in particular, I explain agency relationships. I emphasize that I work for them as their agent, and represent them. Even though at times it may seen like I am in charge, I am not. They are.

There are times when I totally disagree with my clients. But when I present the poor offer to the listing agent, I act as if it is the best offer I have ever seen, and that it is the best offer the seller will ever get.

I support the decisions my clients make, and I do everything I can to help them reach their goals. It is all about them, not about me.

When I don’t agree with how a seller wants to price a home, I let them know what my thoughts are. I give them data and advice, and even argue with them.

In the end, if I take the listing, I act as though the home is being offered at the perfect price, an amazing price.

Sometimes sellers will not go along with staging or the improvements I suggest. Occasionally I end up listing a house that’s a mess. They are harder to sell, and generally do not fetch top dollar, but they do sell.

Sometimes my clients are wrong. Sometimes I am wrong. In the end the homebuyer or seller has more at stake than I do. The decisions are theirs to make.

Some agents will put out email blasts when they have a new listing that say, “Show and sell.” What does that even mean?

I help buyers select a home to buy, and then I help them buy it. I don’t show and sell.

Agents who send offers on my listings will often add “Let’s get this done” or “Let’s make this happen.”

Sure, we would both like a sale. But I can’t make anything happen.

If it is a great offer and I think my seller should accept it, I will say so.

If it is not a good offer, I’ll recommend various counters or, in some cases, rejection. It is up to my seller, not up to me. They can accept or reject any offer for any reason.

There are times when agents really do make a transaction happen. But it isn’t because we told anyone what to do. It is because we worked together to solve problems, presented the solutions to our clients, and our clients accepted our proposal.

There is a sales component to the job. We need to sell our services to people so that they will sign contracts so that we can represent them and have the opportunity to market their property or help them buy property.

I can’t make my clients do anything and I really can’t tell them what to do. They do not always follow my suggestions. Each home that is sold is sold by the owner. We represent our clients, we do not control them.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


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