In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic.
An experienced agent believes her office’s involvement with a well-known charity has zero impact on a customer’s decision whether to hire her or not. Can her broker show her the value of this relationship?
My office has a long association with a well-known national charity, and part of this relationship involves agents agreeing to donate a portion of every commission to the organization.
I knew and accepted this when I joined the company years ago, and I’m delighted to have my work benefit such a worthy cause. Throughout the year, I also make additional out-of-pocket donations and enjoy how this association with the charity builds camaraderie in our office.
While my broker and I share an affinity for this charity, we have a disconnect when it comes to promoting our company’s involvement to new customers. He believes we should make it a priority, and I couldn’t disagree more.
First of all, I personally feel that charity should be given quietly and without fanfare, and find actively promoting our collective impact to be somewhat boastful. But more importantly, I’m convinced that the only thing a potential client cares one iota about is my ability to buy or sell their home — full stop.
All the philanthropy in the world isn’t going to change anyone’s mind when it comes to business. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the most generous, impactful nonprofit organizations in the world — but if a company wants to buy MacBooks and iPhones, does all that philanthropy make one bit of difference in their decision?
An even better example might be my own original decision to join this office. Issues that mattered to me were the experience and talents of the broker, the collective strength of my fellow agents, the generosity of my split, my opportunities for growth and advancement, the company’s name recognition, and the abilities of the support staff.
I’m honestly not sure if the charity we support even came close to being one of my top priorities.
If my broker wants to promote our contributions in company advertising and marketing, I suppose that is his business. But agents should have complete freedom (within reason) to promote what we think is important when pitching a prospective customer, and I choose not to emphasize this minor aspect of my business.
The foundation of our business is in building relationships. When people have similar interests or challenges, they can relate to each other.
A prospective seller recently explained to one of my agents how she needed to sell the house because of her mother’s dementia. My agent shared her family’s struggles dealing with her own grandmother’s dementia, and after a 30-minute conversation, she secured the listing.
The seller probably liked other agents and appreciated other advantages my agent had to offer, but this commonality was the deciding factor. My agent could relate to that seller’s situation, the emotional turmoil and special accommodations that would be required in this transaction.
Another agent may have been just as skilled and knowledgeable, but this seller clearly wanted someone who was empathetic to her unique circumstances.
Many recent sellers complain that agents only care about their commission. I can’t imagine entrusting my life to a surgeon who only cared about how much he would make after operating on my heart, or my child’s education to a teacher who didn’t care if the children learned, as long as their salary was paid.
A buyer or seller also wants to know that the agent they are relying on to help them with one of their largest and most impactful investments cares about them personally — at least as much as the agent cares about the commission.
How can an agent give evidence of what is in his or her heart? Simply stating they care isn’t enough — actions speak louder than words. The answer comes in dedication to our community, in the form of charitable contributions, participation in fundraisers and volunteer work.
We are proud of our company’s charitable involvement, and we should be! It demonstrates concern beyond ourselves, and the high quality of people we employ. (In fact, this policy works as a filter of sorts for me when recruiting — if a potential new hire has a problem donating a portion of their commission, it shows me they do not have the mindset to fit in with our company culture.)
A company should certainly be discerning about which charity they choose to support. Organizations that help kids, pets and illness support/prevention are almost universally acceptable, and some of the few things we can agree upon in our politically divided society.
These are the issues that connect us and distinguish us as human beings, and experience has shown me that clients will hire you when they know you give back. For every sale we complete, we give the seller or buyer a certificate that reads, “a portion of the commission has been donated in your honor,” and this makes a much bigger impact than any superficial closing gift.
I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of customers share this sentiment with me and our agents over the years. We are proud of doing well and doing good, and agents who emphasize this charitable nature of our brokerage reap the benefits accordingly.
How to resolve
There is ample room for common sense, balance and agreement in this situation. Agents can and should use their best judgment regarding the extent to which they showcase their company’s philanthropic endeavors when pitching prospective customers.
If the prospect highlights their own community or charitable involvement in conversations or on social media, the agent may focus more of their presentation on this aspect; if the prospect seems to be more focused on performance and “dollars and cents,” the agent can shift focus appropriately, while still including the charity as a side note.
In either case, there is little harm or risk in simply mentioning an office’s charitable efforts, and doing so may offer unexpected returns.
Anthony is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty, with offices in Hollywood Beach, Davie, Miramar, North Miami, South Miami, Kendall, and the Florida Keys, and where he leads the activities of more than 190 agents. He is also a working agent who consistently sells more than 100 homes a year. For three consecutive years (2018, 2019, and 2020), Anthony was honored as the “Managing Broker of the Year” by Miami Agent Magazine’s Agents’ Choice Awards. Follow Anthony on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/anthonyaskowitz/
NOTE: Anthony is not an attorney and does not give legal advice. Please consult a licensed attorney regarding matters discussed in this column.