- Last week, we asked Inman readers to share what they've done for listing clients, and what they will never do for them again. We got a bevy of answers that ranged from fetching water for toilets to knocking down trees.
- Most respondents were comfortable with giving repair and staging advice, and offering emotional support to clients.
- But most drew the line at doing repairs and finding contractors -- which open the door to liability and cost issues.
An accurate Indeed.com real estate agent job posting would have a separate listing client qualifications column: “Must be prepared to dole out repair advice and provide emotional support. A certificate in cleaning preferred.”
These non-transaction-related listing services are par for the course for most real estate agents, according to a recent short poll by Inman.
So where should you draw the line? Cutting down a tree? Child care? Hauling five-gallon buckets of water for flushing a toilet?
Respondents reported doing all of the above — and more — in the name of providing exceptional service and closing a sale.
Which non-transaction-related listing services are common — and unusual?
According to the survey, the most common duties for listing agents go far beyond negotiations and showing homes.
Nearly 82 percent of respondents said they have provided repair advice, and 81 percent tapped their inner Dr. Phil to help clients who are selling their home work through difficult circumstances, such as a divorce.
“Client’s soon to be ex-husband [had] been controlling for years. Client had always wanted the tree down (it’s growing too close to a garage), so when the judge gave the go-ahead for her to list, we went into the garage to get a saw,” one respondent said.
“It was cathartic for us to cut the tree whilst she helped push it over. We all laughed afterwards. It was a symbolic gesture.”
Cleaning, hiring contractors and providing staging advice rounded out the top five, with approximately 80 percent of respondents saying they have offered these services.
But sometimes listing agents are asked (or volunteer) to take on unconventional tasks, such as paying for clients to stay in a hotel for the first weekend their listing is on the market, overseeing a total home renovation or picking up an out-of-state seller’s car from the repair shop.
Is it OK to go this far beyond the scope of your duties?
Although some may give a side-eye to performing these tasks, most respondents said they have no problems providing such services — especially if they see that it’s needed.
“I feel that it’s important to do all that we can for our listing clients. After all, they have many choices when choosing who to list with, and there’s no reason that I can’t do a little extra to ensure that they are happy and satisfied,” said one respondent.
“It really depends on the client and their need. I did all of the above except pet and child care for an 83-year-old client whose son and grandson came to Carlsbad to move her and 30 years of treasures up to Washington,” said a survey taker.
“They did not have time to complete the job, so I did.”
On the other hand, some respondents said their willingness to go “the extra mile” backfired and caused clients to abuse their kindness.
“Appreciation can quickly change to expectation, and that is when things turn south,” one agent said. “Once it is expected, and seen as ‘part of my job,’ that is when I know I am in trouble. The adage ‘no good deed goes unpunished’ seems to always come into play.”
Just say ‘no’
Almost half of respondents said there weren’t any services that they’ve completely stopped offering (as shown by the “other” answer choice), but they did stand firmly against making repairs and hiring contractors, which could open the door to liability issues if the repairs aren’t done right.
Furthermore, respondents said making repairs and finding contractors further muddies the conversation about commissions.
“It just gets complex. Especially with contractors. I have a seller ask me to hire someone to get something done for them and then they wouldn’t pay the contractor,” said one respondent.
“They assumed it was coming out of my check — which it did.”
Beyond causing confusion around commissions and payment, another survey taker noted that a subpar contractor will sully not only their reputation, but the listing agent’s as well: “When you cannot control the quality of service and when that service is too expensive or difficult to remedy, then you should not provide it any longer,” a participant said.
“Contractors can leave a bad impression on clients when they don’t work in their expected timeframe and when their end product is not what the client wanted. This puts your reputation at risk as well.”
Meanwhile, other respondents said risks are part of the business, and they shouldn’t keep agents from providing “full services.”
“I know there’s a risk in some of these, but we take risks every day in everything we say and do as an agent.”
Be the source
Despite being burned by clients in the past, the majority of respondents still choose to provide non-transaction-related services for their listing clients to build their reputation, generate future business and because they simply feel that’s their job.
“I don’t mind helping where I can to make the process smooth. Plus, all of these ‘touches’ are an opportunity to build the relationship further, which is harder to do with sellers than with buyers,” said a respondent. “My goal with every transaction is to get a referral.”
“As Realtors, we have experience about what works better for selling property. Advising our clients on what works over what doesn’t can only help them,” noted another survey taker.
“Also, I provide my clients with housekeeping and staging since my ultimate goal is to sell the property as fast as I can at the highest price. When Realtors decide to save money and make this a client responsibility, they shouldn’t complain about their listings not selling.
“They will also get more referrals, which will actually end up as a profitable additional service rather than a loss.”
To maintain sanity and build healthy, solid relationships with clients that will lead to referrals, respondents suggested setting boundaries and talking about costs before agreeing to take on extra duties.
As one participant put it: “As with all relationships, it’s important to know your boundaries, and to understand that we are the ones who set the expectations with our clients.”
Editor’s note: Inman received 58 responses to the short poll. Some responses included in this story have been edited for clarity.