To try to win new business, many real estate agents cold call homesellers after they take their homes off the market. But according to Nobu Hata, director of membership engagement at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), a handful have taken things a step further: they contact the families of those homeowners as well.

  • Different agents have different answers to questions such as: Do listing agents deserve more than half the commission? Are open houses selfish? Should you be able to pronounce 'Realtor' 'Real-ter?' When is texting kosher?

To win new business, many real estate agents cold call homesellers after the sellers take their homes off the market.

But some agents have taken things a step further: they contact the friends and family of the homesellers, according to Nobu Hata, director of membership engagement at the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Most agents can probably agree that crosses the line.

But other conduct — such as pocketing more than half of the listing commission, door-knocking and open houses — is more divisive.

Read on for insight into the arguments for and against six business practices that polarize real estate agents — and tell us where you stand.

1. Should listing agents pocket more than half the commission? 

Some argue that listing agents shortchange buyer’s agents if they keep more of the commission than they dish out. But where professionals stand on the issue may depend on the scope of their services and how they break down costs.

One cohort maintains that listing agents deserve a larger piece of the pie because they put more into a transaction, such as by producing open houses and high-quality photos.

John Grimes, a Marietta, Georgia-based Realtor, disagrees.

The cost of gas, countless showings for fickle buyers and guidance on the mortgage-application process, among other things, justify an equal cut for buyer’s agents, he commented in the Facebook group Real Estate Agent Group — Collaboration,

“If they are being honest, the justifications are a smoke screen and the real reason for the imbalanced compensation is that if some [listing agents] can grab more, they do,” Grimes argues.

If listing agents don’t go halfsies with buyer’s agents, they also do a disservice to their clients, other critics contend. That’s because, they say, the practice can limit the exposure of a property to potential buyers by reducing the incentive for buyer’s agents to show the home.

This critique assumes the listing agent pockets a larger share of commission by offering less than typical compensation to buyer’s agents, such as a 2 percent fee in a market where 2.5 percent is the norm.

“We all know that when the buyer wants to look at six properties, but only has time for four, guess which listing does not get shown?” said Grimes, implying that the listing that allegedly shortchanges buyer’s agents wouldn’t receive a visit.

2. Texting more than talking

Some agents gripe that too many of their peers don’t answer or promptly return phone calls.

But critics shouldn’t complain, others respond, unless they also use a preferred mode of communication for many people today: text messages.

“I don’t answer my phone while on a tour as a courtesy to my clients,” said Vallejo, California-based Realtor Bo Saunders. “However, if you text me you WILL get a quicker response.”

“Text me a topic first,” adds Chuck Fleischer, a broker-owner in Richardson, Texas. “Chit chat is time wasted.”

Texting can also be a plus because it creates a record of communication and may be more reliable than calling if cell service is spotty, agents say.

Moreover, notes Springfield, Illinois-based Realtor Gail Wasmer,”texting is not a trend that will be dying.”

But if avid texters want to avoid nettling some of their peers, it’s clear they should pick up the phone more often.

Bracken Foster, a Chicago Realtor, wants to throw up his hands when he follows listing instructions to call to schedule a showing only to be told to text the request.

3. Open houses

If homebuyers can search all listings online and tour the homes in private showings, can agents really justify the time, cost and inconvenience of open houses?

Skeptics wonder whether agents who hold these events are more interested in attracting new buyer clients than providing sellers with a genuine marketing boost.

Others worry that open houses can create safety hazards.

“I stopped doing them years ago and when I explain the risk vs reward to my clients they are no longer interested,” said Dawn Bertani, a Fraser, Michigan-based Realtor, in the Facebook group Inman Coast to Coast.

But open house apologists insist that the events regularly land listings on the radar of potential buyers.

Their value may vary significantly by region. In markets with inventory shortages, for example, some agents report that open houses are the most efficient way to attract bids in bulk.

“I’ve had enough of these conversations to understand, and respect, how little value open houses can have in the wrong environment,” said Kendyl Young, a Montrose, California-based broker-owner.

But in the Greater Los Angeles Area, she suggests, open houses produce results.

4. Door-knocking

Some go-getters drum up business by ringing doorbells and pitching their services face-to-face.

While many people aren’t fans of solicitation, door-knockers argue the tactic allows them to connect with homeowners who could use their help. If they use door-knocking to pick up a client in need of a skilled professional — and they, in fact, are skilled professionals — doesn’t the end justify the means?

“If done right, then it’s great for both the agent and people they door knock,” said Adem Aydoner, a Bloomington, Illinois agent. “Door knock and give them something of value.”

But from the perspective of Linda Lyons — a White Plains, New York-based associate broker — door knocking is simply “rude and intrusive.”

5. Working part time

“To be called a Realtor you should have a minimum of sales per year,” argues Noemi Cardoso. “Being a ‘realtor’ … who sells one home once in a blue moon does not make a professional.”

Others echo the sentiment, claiming those who only dabble in real estate tend to provide a lower level of service and burden more experienced agents with extra work.

But others discourage painting part-timers with a broad brush. Sure, there may be some moonlighters who are clueless, but plenty of others do a fine job for many clients, they say.

“I retired from [government] service in 2007 and have been doing RE ever since. Even during those years when I was working at both, I felt I worked hard and did right by my customers/clients,” said Boca Raton, Florida-based Realtor Steven Weintraub.

“I just did what I needed to do and not doing ‘x sales’ in year didn’t make me any better or worse,” he added.

6. The pronunciation of “Realtor”

While practitioners universally agree that pronouncing “Realtor” — which is trademarked by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) — as “Real-a-tor” is incorrect, they can’t seem to reach full consensus on whether the term should be pronounced “Real-tore” or “Real-ter” — even though the official pronunciation is the former.

Search “realtor dictionary” on Google, and the top three results all feature playable recorded pronunciations of “Real-ter,” not “Real-tore.”

Also witness National Association of Realtors (NAR) President Tom Salomone use the “ter” pronunciation in this presentation. And watch most actors (posing as customers) in this joint NAR-realtor.com ad repeatedly do the same.

“I’ve never heard anyone at NAR pronounce it like Real-TOR like Thor,” said Las Vegas-based real estate agent Todd Miller, who cited the cases mentioned above.

Yet others would beg to differ.

“Tor, never ter,” said Rosemary Buerger, a Cameron, North Carolina-based Realtor.

Sam DeBord, president of Seattle King County Realtors, offers some high-level analysis.

“It’s technically ‘Real-tore’ phonetically, and the passionate believers say it that way, but it’s widely accepted to say ‘Real-ter’,” he said. “It’s not acceptable to say ‘Real-a-ter’.”

NAR takes a harder line.

“[T]he term is two syllables and pronounced as “real-tore,” NAR spokeswoman Sara Wiskerchen said in an email.

Asked if the “er” pronunciation was at least acceptable, she didn’t budge: “[The proper pronunciation is ‘tor’ like ‘thor'” she said.

The trade group’s guide on the term devotes a section to the topic:

“Irrespective of local dialect and custom, the term REALTOR® has but one pronunciation:
REAL’ tor

Members are encouraged to carefully train new employees and salespeople, particularly receptionists, on the proper pronunciation of the term REALTOR®. Consistent aural use is just as important as consistent visual use to the preservation of the distinctive and recognizable character of the MARKS. Teach employees and salespeople to avoid uses such as:

“Good morning! John Doe, REAL-A-TORS.” or

“Good morning! John Doe, REAL-I-TORS.” or

“Good morning! John Doe, RE-LA-TERS.” or

“Good morning! John Doe, RE-AL-TORS.”

Email Teke Wiggin.

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