I recently had lunch with a past client, and we had an interesting conversation about Realtors and real estate companies.

Like most consumers, my lunch date believes that real estate companies sell real estate. I set him straight on that by explaining that real estate companies do not sell any real estate at all. The agents, who are independent contractors, go out and find people who want to buy or sell houses. We do all the work and incur most of the expense.

I recently had lunch with a past client, and we had an interesting conversation about Realtors and real estate companies.

Like most consumers, my lunch date believes that real estate companies sell real estate. I set him straight on that by explaining that real estate companies do not sell any real estate at all. The agents, who are independent contractors, go out and find people who want to buy or sell houses. We do all the work and incur most of the expense.

The reason I had to set him straight on this is that I mentioned the name of a real estate company and he had a negative reaction to it. I asked him to tell me more. He said that company has signs up in his neighborhood on the worst homes he has ever seen and that the agents don’t seem interested in marketing the homes.

What my client was reacting to are the for-sale signs he is seeing in front of the vacant properties and foreclosures a short distance from his home.

His impression is that the agents who list the homes don’t really do anything except put signs out, and he notices that the snow doesn’t get shoveled, the lawn doesn’t get mowed and there are never any lights on, and the front stoop often has a pile of old newspapers or mail on it.

I explained to him that if he wants to keep our city beautiful he and his neighbors will have to take action. They can pick up any litter and call the city complaint department about the snow or grass. We have laws here, and the city doesn’t care if the home is owned by an individual or a corporation — the laws still apply, but will not be enforced until someone complains. It is the property owner’s responsibility to keep up the property, not the listing agent’s.

He made the remarks about the real estate company because he sees how the agents market foreclosures. In my market the only way to make a living selling foreclosures is to sell a lot of them. Some of the banks don’t pay much in the way of a commission, and the homes are often priced well below the median for our area. Many are in rough shape. Banks don’t seem to require that anything be done by the listing agent beyond putting up a sign and putting the home in our MLS.

If he had to choose a Realtor, he would not choose one from the company that we were talking about or any of the Realtors with that company. He is not the only one who has this kind of an attitude. We are judged by the homes our signs sit in front of and by how we market them.

When we list homes, people notice the homes and how we market them. The neighbors form opinions about us, about our company and about Realtors in general. My former client would not choose a Realtor who specializes in foreclosures to sell his home. He believes that they are not qualified to list his home, and that they would not do a good job.

I would argue that the agent is doing what is expected, and that he or she may be qualified to list any home. The truth is that banks often make lousy clients and don’t understand how to sell real estate. It doesn’t look that way to the neighbors. We build reputations with everything we do or don’t do, and are judged by the homes we put our signs in front of, and apparently by the homes our colleagues working under the same brand put their signs in front of.

Where does this leave us, our companies and our industry when the foreclosure crisis ends?

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

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