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February 2023: How to Trust a Salesperson

Just above lawyers, car salesmen and politicians, you’ll find real estate agents on most lists ranking professionals by how trusted they are. Surprised? I’m not.

My goal whenever I write is to arm you with some good information on what’s going on in the real estate market. But I’ll often stop and think about how the info I’m sending you might be landing. I mean, whenever I get something from a real estate agent or any salesperson, I’m pretty wary. I’m guessing you are too.

That’s a good thing, I think. Lots of folks are somewhere between mistrust and distrust when it comes to working with salespeople like real estate agents. And it’s important to know how to deal with us, because sooner or later, you’ll probably have to.

So this time, I’m going to turn the microscope on myself and those in my profession—real estate agents.

Trusting a salesperson is hard

We show up on your doorstep, we call you, we send you glossy postcards showcasing a property and our cheesy grins. It’s all pretty weird. I mean, that kind of thing is expected when you go into certain stores. But at my own home? Why do they do that?

Well, there’s a lot of us, for one thing, and I don’t think anyone would intentionally go into a real estate agent store, if they even existed. So we have to come to you. Which means, well, we can be annoying. Sorry about that.

Salespeople are just plain hard to trust. We’re not compensated unless you actually buy or sell something with us, so our motivations are always being questioned. Frankly, that’s probably the hardest thing for me about being a real estate agent.

More than a gate-keeper

I recently had the opportunity to help a friend prepare for selling his home by himself. He didn’t want to pay an agent, so I did all I could to prepare him to be successful, including drafting up a detailed, several-page plan covering good marketing practices, smart pricing, getting the home ready for sale, navigating how to keep his home secure during showings, pointing out all the nuances in the purchase contract, advising on how to make sure buyers were qualified to purchase his home, explaining the disclosure process, etc.

Essentially, it was a very, very long list on how to not get screwed and get the best price for his home.

Real estate agents are not just gate-keepers. Buying and selling real estate, in spite of what your uncle might tell you, is complicated. And a job poorly done—whether by Joe Homeowner, or an agent—can open you up to liabilities, missed opportunities, and discount results.

So experience, diligence, knowledge and skills are important. But what’s the point of all that if you can’t trust the agent?

Skeptic with a standard

Let me be clear: I think there are many good agents out there. Really good ones. I know several personally. And I’m not endorsing distrust and cynicism, which prejudges people’s motives. After all, at the end of the day, real estate agents are just people, like you.

But I do think a little skepticism is healthy.

In fact, I’d urge you to become a skeptic—a skeptic with a standard. Eventually, for your agent to be a help to you, you’ll need to have some trust in their guidance. So can I offer you a standard to hold us to?

The first thing you’ll ever sign with us

It’s smack dab at the top of the very first form you’ll sign with an agent. It’s the very first disclosure you’ll get before you sign any listing agreement as a seller, or any offer as a buyer. It’s called the “Disclosure Regarding Real Estate Agency Relationship” (AD) form.

And the very first thing this very first form discloses is that your agent has, “a fiduciary duty of utmost care, integrity, honesty, and loyalty in dealings with [you].” Read that again. That’s a high standard... In fact, the fiduciary duty is the highest standard of care in law. It means that the client’s interests come before the real estate agent’s.

Is this what you expect from your real estate agent? You should.

Ask the question

So be on the lookout for an agent that will be a fiduciary for you. Do they have commission breath? Are they tickling your ears with everything you want to hear? Are you getting straight answers from them?

I’d encourage you to put your agent on the spot and ask them about their fiduciary duty. At minimum, it’ll serve as a reminder to them of who “number one” is in the relationship.

You don’t have to be naive to trust a real estate agent. Ask for what we promise you, use good judgment, and lean on your fiduciary once you’ve found him or her.

Trust is always going to be a tall order

As long as people are fallible, distrust is going to be the popular option. But maybe if we can each learn to give “utmost care, integrity, honesty and loyalty” to one another, like a good real estate agent does, we can make some strides away from the trendy cynicism of our day.

Please, keep your standards high for us real estate agents. If you want some particulars on how your agent should be acting, Google “REALTOR code of ethics” to see what we’re bound by and can be disciplined for failing to do. I want to see us climb the rankings on those trust lists.

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