In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic. Anthony is the broker-owner of South Florida’s largest RE/MAX office, and a working agent who sells more than 100 homes each year.
This month’s situation: a seasoned luxury agent is struggling with what she feels are abusive demands of sellers and is looking to her broker for advice. Her broker believes the agent needs to set clear expectations right from the beginning of the agent-seller relationship and see the full potential a listing brings to her business.
I worked hard to secure a big-ticket luxury listing, and I’m holding onto it for dear life. Competition is fierce these days, and I credit my promise of exceptional service with giving me the edge over my competitors.
I included all the “bells and whistles” in my presentation — drone photography, Matterport dollhouse models, and quality marketing. I provided a list of services as well as a schedule for market reports and activity on the listing. I will definitely earn the payoff when this property sells.
There’s only one problem: The sellers are driving me crazy! It’s as if they think this is my only listing and are entitled to every second of my time. Multiple daily calls with basic questions and insisting on extra favors, as though I were a property manager or personal assistant.
I know I should say “no” and push back against these outrageous demands on my time, but I really need to keep this listing. How far is too far in keeping a potentially lucrative sale?
While I credit this agent’s enthusiasm in getting the listing, she may have overlooked an important element: setting the client-agent expectation bar right from the beginning. Even if those parameters were mentioned, it’s obvious the seller did not get the message about what is and is not the agent’s responsibility.
Instead of asking “how far is too far?” in this case, maybe a better question is “how do we reset expectations?” with this seller, in a way that keeps the listing. It’s a tricky matter of communicating loyalty and gratitude, while gently explaining what assignments need to be passed on to third parties.
It may help to accept responsibility for lettings things slide to this point over a nice lunch. In the past, I have joined and supported agents in these conversations, but sometimes the seller gets defensive and feels ganged up on.
If the client continues with this behavior, the agent alone must determine if the trouble is worth the potential reward – which, in my view extends far beyond the commission. I see every listing as an opportunity for the growth of an agent’s business. As such, the thought of giving up a listing, especially a luxury listing, is one I don’t like to entertain.
A listing provides the agent substantial marketing exposure, often resulting in more listings in that neighborhood and price range. Each of these new listings has a compound effect on inventory. I would advise this agent to think long and hard about losing a listing over minor inconveniences and perceived disrespect.
How to resolve
There is a saying in business: “There is only discord when expectations are different.” Both the agent and the sellers have expectations of each other, and this agent presented herself as the panacea for the sellers’ real estate needs.
It is common for agents to give a listing presentation in which they tell the sellers what they will do to sell the property. Unfortunately, most agents do not think to ask questions of the sellers to ensure they are on the same page. An agent should always ask the sellers what they expect of the agent, then tell the sellers what is expected of them.
There is a partnership between sellers and their listing agents in which both parties have responsibilities. Without this crucial step, the sellers can assume the agent will do whatever is needed to make them happy and sell the home.
At this point, the best course of action is to follow the broker’s advice regarding delegation. The agent should explain how it is in the sellers’ own best interest to keep their listing agent focused on the critical activities of marketing and selling their property, and even present a list of reliable vendors and contractors to recommend. The next time the sellers ask for a favor, the agent can say, “great idea! Let me put you in touch with the perfect person to do that for you!”
Anthony Askowitz 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, where he leads the activities of more than 190 agents. Follow Anthony on Instagram.
NOTE: Anthony Askowitz is not an attorney and does not give legal advice. Please consult a licensed attorney regarding matters discussed in this column.