Does “full-service real estate” really mean anything, or is it just something brokerages say to charge higher fees? Teresa Boardman looks at the service-shortfalls of so-called full-service brokerages and teams.

My company is small but that doesn’t mean that we don’t provide a lot of service — and excellent customer service, too. I am not sure what the relationship is between the size of a company and the level of service, but sometimes agents from larger companies assume that we cannot provide “full service.”

Larger real estate companies do not appear to provide better customer service but most provide “full service.” We don’t associate great customer service with large companies.

Do real estate companies that charge more provide better service? According to the advertising on the internet, only the companies that charge more provide full service. Companies that charge less apparently do not provide as much service. This seems to be a well-known fact among consumers and industry professionals.

What constitutes service?

Service isn’t about having a phone system where a client can press one to be put on hold and listen to a recording about how important their call is. If that is customer service, then I have to admit we don’t offer it at all.

Service isn’t about having to spend time hunting down an agent or someone in the office who can answer a question or respond to an issue. It isn’t about hearing “That isn’t my job” or “I’ll have to ask the manager.”

Having a group of people called a team involved in a transaction doesn’t appear to provide more service, full service or better service. Recently, an agent who is on a team had a schedule conflict and wasn’t able to accompany her client to an appointment at one of our listings. No other team member was available to help.

That gave us the opportunity to provide service to our clients and to their client by going on the appointment. There are many such opportunities and they are good for business.

How some brokerages fail agents

The new agent with a big company that provides tons of full service made a few mistakes on an offer for her client on one of our listings.

We helped her re-write the contract because it was a great way to provide service to her client and to ours and we were happy to help. Sure there were plenty of people in her office who could have helped. She will be a great agent one day; maybe she can come and work with me.

How some agents fail clients

Several years ago, one of our elderly clients was locked out of her townhouse after a buyer’s agent locked the door between the garage and the kitchen after a showing. The lockbox was electronic and could only be opened by a member of the MLS.

The buyer’s agent was far away and unwilling to go back and let the woman into her house. The agent was part of an office that had at least 100 agents and was located two miles away from the townhouse. There were no agents in the office who could help. That same company uses its size as a selling point in its marketing.

The listing agent was far away and on another appointment. I drove several miles to the townhouse and let our client in. We advise all of our clients to make sure they have a key with them at all times, but people make mistakes and people get locked out of their houses. Some of us have old-school lockboxes on our properties just in case.

There are things that agents and their managers at large companies cannot do. Sometimes they have to run things up the chain of command and other times, to be honest, they seem to have procedures rather than problem-solving skills or even an awareness of what can be done to resolve a problem.

Whatever happened to common-sense service?

One manager at a large real estate company told me that I wasn’t being flexible enough. His request had to do with me releasing earnest money funds to better accommodate his company’s accounting system. The rules for how funds in trust accounts are to be handled are a lot less flexible than I am.

I’ll be honest: I don’t really care how someone’s accounting system works or what their company rules are.

At a minimum, a real estate professional has to have experience and knowledge in order to offer full service. A very basic service that agents provide is advice based on experience and knowledge. Understanding real estate contracts and problem-solving skills are also an essential part of great service.

It is fairly easy to figure out what limited service is, but it isn’t always the same. Sometimes limited service is about doing everything except representing the seller. It is always spelled out in a contract. “Full service” is a lot more vague.

No two properties are the same and each homeowner and homebuyer is unique. Service doesn’t mean exactly the same thing to all clients. Some need a lot of hand-holding; others need guidance and someone who will listen and give advice when needed or asked.

Full service doesn’t mean much. Maybe it is just a phrase used to justify higher fees. If consumers will pay more for “full service” then I am“full service” all the way.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker-owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is also the founder of

Teresa Boardman
Show Comments Hide Comments
Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription