Integrity in Real Estate
I recognized the address right away. I had been there before. The foundation was in deplorable condition.
I knew they would not buy it.
But, I booked the appointments anyway. We saw five houses on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
Once they saw the house with the crumbling foundation they exclaimed they would never invest in a house like this.
“I know,” I said. “I knew about the foundation, and I knew you would never ever buy it.”
They looked confused. “Why did you take the time to show it to us then?”
“Because I respect your need to make your own decision. I will not filter the choices based on my opinion, but on yours.”
They nodded and seemed to appreciate that.
It had only been our second time shopping. They did not know me well, and this was a perfect way to demonstrate that they can trust me. I knew that if I tried to prevent them from seeing a home they wanted to see, they may question whether I had my own agenda.
Eniko and I don’t choose to show only homes that offer the highest commission.
We don’t limit the buyers shopping to only listings through the brokerage we work for. (Even though we have a lot of inventory to choose from). We respect our buyers’ decision to choose and furnish them with all the options they request.
Once buyers get to know us though, something changes.
Suddenly we’ll get texts asking, “What do you know about this property? Have you shown it?”
Once we have developed a trust relationship and we get asked these questions, we can avoid unnecessary showings.
It’s at this point in the shopping experience we tell the buyer, “The house is beautifully redone and has a lot of character, however, the basement is built on blocks and is horizontally caving in. There is constant water in the basement as a result of the shifting of the east wall of the basement.
We all save time when that happens. But saving time is always secondary to integrity.
By the way, that home with the theoretical basement on blocks that’s caving in? We may not recommend it to one buyer, but we might just call the concrete worker we know who said he was looking for homes where he could raise the house and redo the foundation.
There is a buyer for every house at the right price.
Tina Plett, Sutton Group-Kilkenny Real Estate
ACCREDITED BUYER REPRESENTATIVE
Sometimes loyalty is a bad idea.
Even to family.
And especially to the neighbor’s uncle’s cousin’s friend.
Like the woman whose loyalty is causing her crippling pain to continue.
She had been seeing a physical therapist to help her with the constant pain she was in. For all the therapy she’d been receiving, her condition was getting worse, not better. There were other therapists who were skilled at treating this very problem.
“Maybe it’s time to try another therapist,” I said.
“Oh! But I can’t do that! I know somebody who works there.”
I let her statement just hang in the air, hoping she’d hear the lunacy of it.
After a moment, I chided with my signature brand of sarcasm.
“Oh. Well, in that case, you’d better just stay in pain.”
She smirked. “Good point.”
I guess she felt like her leaving would mean the therapist would be out of a job.
Which, of course, is totally false.
Loyalty can be a bad idea in real estate too.
Too often people have hired a realtor because their face is on a sign (here’s why that’s a dumb idea) or worse, because their neighbor’s friend’s son is an agent.
Which apparently means you are obligated to hire them.
Let’s just let that hang in the air for a moment so we can hear the lunacy of it.
Imagine this loyalty applied to doctors. Using only doctors who someone knows, regardless of their skill level or expertise, would be stupid.
“Oh, you’re an OBGYN? Perfect. Because I have this heart condition…”
“Oh, this life-saving pill was made by Valeant? Sorry, I only buy from Pfizer because my dad worked there for twenty years.”
Do you hear the lunacy of it?
“Oh, you’re a realtor specializing in rural properties and digital marketing strategy? Sorry, my brother Bob always uses another agent, so I have to too.”
Your loyalty should not be treated so cheaply.
Don’t give it away.
Especially not just because someone thinks you should.
Loyalty is precious and should be earned.
When it’s not earned, it’s treated poorly. Then you get poor results.
What else could you expect from a doctor not skilled in your area of need? From a therapist that can’t help you? Please, at least find out about the services a real estate agent offers before you make a decision on who you will hire to represent you.
Make them earn your loyalty.
And if they can’t, they didn’t deserve it in the first place.
Tina Plett, Sutton Group-Kilkenny Real Estate
We reserve the right to refuse service.
We reserve the right to choose if we want to work with you. We reserve the right to terminate a business agreement.
We, Tina Plett and Eniko Crozier, are service oriented at heart and we have been known to go the extra mile and serve our clients beyond their expectations. We delight in pleasing our clients. We are consistent. We strive to be on time. We invest ourselves emotionally, mentally, physically and FINANCIALLY to obtain the objectives of our clients.
We are passionate about what we do and deliberate and strategic in how we do it.
We offer to work seven days a week and we can do that because we are respectful to each other and we take turns giving each other a day off and time off when needed. Eniko has her day off on Tuesday. Tina has her day off on Wednesday.
When you meet with one of us for a seller consultation or a buyer consultation we will tell you more about the services we offer.
So why this bold Opening statement?
We respect ourselves and we want to be treated with respect. We have no interest in abusive relationships even in business. The commissions we receive from a sale are not worth losing our integrity or self respect. We will not tolerate abuse in any form.
Our time is valuable. Our spouses and children sacrifice time with us so that we can Serve you.
We have no interest in being a tour guide. We are real estate professionals. Give us one good reason why we should spend our evenings and weekends with you driving around looking at houses unless we are the ones getting paid. How would you feel if you put in 40 hrs of work and then find out that someone else got the paycheck?
So let us save you some time. If you want to list your house and want us to lie about it having been a grow op, then don’t call us. We refuse your business. If you want to go shopping for houses with five different real estate agents so that you can go every night of the week with someone else, then don’t call us. We will refuse your business. If you want $600,000. for your property after we have shown you proof that the market stats show that it is worth $180,000. then we refuse your business.
If you think I am exaggerating to make a point you are mistaken. If you think we are out of line to draw these boundaries for our business then we are not a good fit to work together.
We may request to meet with you before we show you a house. We may ask to see your identification. We may ask you for a pre approval letter from your mortgage broker before we start showing you houses.
Working with a real estate professional should be a mutual decision. The seller or buyer should not allow themselves to be bullied into doing business with an agent. The agent need not feel obligated to take all business opportunities.
Some opportunities that have come our way have been out of our area of expertise. For example, we decline commercial listings. We decline condo listings. We are happy to refer you to a competent agent who is qualified to work in these fields.
However, we can’t wait to hit the road and come over if you are asking us to list a rural property. We will list and sell in Steinbach and Winnipeg and everywhere in between.
We specialize in residential resale homes and have experience in new home sales.
In conlusion, we want to enjoy our work. We want to be safe. Your jobsite may require steel toe boots and hard hats. Our safety is in three words. No thank you.
It happened again.
They’re coming for me, and they’re coming for you too.
They go out of their way to drive to your place, and lie to your face.
Money. Envy. A burr in their britches. Self-loathing. Ego.
Who is this insidious creature? Allow me to set the scene.
I recently listed the home of a sweet elderly couple I’ve known for most of my life. The kindly gentleman had been my brother’s childhood hockey coach way back when. In my hairdressing days, this man became a loyal customer. When I moved into reflexology, he was my client there too. Now, I get to be this couple’s real estate agent. I’m so honored to serve them, and grateful for their lifetime loyalty. You can’t buy that, you know?
Days after I met with the seller and discussed when to put the For Sale sign in their yard, a vehicle drove onto their driveway.
The visitor was another agent who had heard they were moving, and he had come with an agenda.
“So, you are going to list with Tina Plett?,” the agent had asked.
“I was just wondering why you wouldn’t choose a local agent…?”
My client, who was confused by this sudden confrontation about his personal choice, replied, “Tina is as local as it gets!”
The agent left, the mission apparently fulfilled. The goal had simply been to undermine me without provocation, even if it meant being confrontational with a sweet elderly couple.
The weird thing about it though, is not that it’s ridiculous, given that I was born in Steinbach, have lived and worked in Steinbach for most of my life and still do. The weird thing is also not that I have listed in and around Steinbach for years, nor is it that I have life-long relationships with several of my clients.
The weirdest part is not even that this undermining tactic keeps happening, or that the very agents who confront elderly couples in order to win some imaginary pissing match also list in multiple towns.
No. The weirdest part is that they think it’s necessary.
Is it that my success is intimidating to people? (Strong women everywhere will know this feeling well) And apparently this intimidation causes them to dive desperately into aggressive behaviour, and they’re okay with whomever that hurts, even if it is gentle elderly couples.
As usual, all I can really do about it is let you, the reader, know this is happening.
Then you will not be shaken by cowardly egomaniacs in suits who come a- knocking to intimidate you. Or perhaps they will try to steal a paycheck from me and use you to do it.
You will also know that they offer only lies.(Well, that and a willingness to intimidate innocent citizens like single moms and elderly couples if that’s what they feel like doing.)
And, most encouraging, you will also know that what I’m doing – my transparency, integrity, forward-thinking tech savvy, and kick-ass marketing – is working, and they want a piece of it.
So take heart, we’re on the right track…
You’ve advertised your house For Sale By Owner.
Soon after, a real estate agent lands on your doorstep saying they have a buyer for you.
All you have to do is lock yourself into a listing contract, and the buyer will appear.
If you’ve ever agreed to sign based on that promise, you’ve also probably noticed that the elusive buyer never shows. Perhaps they conveniently changed their mind. Maybe they never existed. Either way, you’re left empty handed, wondering if signing was the right thing to do.
Ever been there?
You’re not alone.
It’s an age-old tactic agents use to acquire listings. People easily fall for it, so the method continues to be used.
“But what if they really have a buyer? I don’t want to miss out!”
It’s true, they may have a buyer for you. I let my buyers choose if they want to include private sales in their search. There are a lot of good agents who go to such lengths to seek out a property for their buyers. And they should be compensated for their effort. (No one likes working for free)
But here’s the thing – YOU certainly don’t need to fork over the entire listing with full commission!
Two Ways to Protect Yourself
You Can Offer the Agent a Fee Agreement for Bringing a Buyer.
You want to sell, they want to be paid for working.
Both are great and make sense. Neither requires giving them the whole listing though.
Offering a set fee for bringing a buyer assures them you won’t swipe their contact (and paycheck) away from them if they do bring a buyer.
It also allows you to keep your private seller status, and saves you the cost of a full commission.
Sign for Only That Particular Client, or for a Specific Time
If the agent really has a buyer, they’ll be glad to be paid a commission for bringing their buyer. They did the work, and should be paid. They will gladly agree to a fee agreement.
If they balk, you can have a pretty good idea that they’re after the listing, not trying to bring a current, existing buyer.
*Please note that if you sell your house with the buyer’s agent that the buyer’s agent is representing the buyer and not representing you as a seller. You will still be legally responsible for your representation and documentation.
Tina’s personal thought. “If your goal is to sell and someone wants to buy it, then sell it. It does not make sense to turn away a sale in this market.” Negotiate a fee and start packing.
And, as always, if you know someone who is selling privately right now, share this with them!
Help them protect themselves, and save them a load of cash!
Recently I spoke with a woman who wanted to list her home with me. But there was a problem. She explained that they had attempted selling privately. “We have a dilemma – we already have someone interested in our house.”
I said, “That’s not a dilemma, that’s an opportunity!”
Then I did what many other agents don’t.
I told her to name those people as an exclusion in the listing contract.
That means if those people end up buying the house after all, my sellers don’t have to pay me. (Of course, if they want to hire me to write the offer instead of paying the lawyer to do the paperwork we could agree to a fee. Not a full commission. That would help me recover costs for investing time and money on their behalf.)
If you want to list, but have buyers possibly interested already, use this technique with your agent! List those interested buyers as exclusions. You worked hard to get them!
Many agents will not mention this to their clients.
Some agents will be angry that I even told you about this technique.
But you need to know. There is already provision for this in the contract.
If you, or your friends or family members have tried private selling, and are now thinking of listing with an agent, please share this with them! They need to know too! It could help them potentially save tens of thousands of dollars!
It’s a question we all wrestle with, whether we are the customer or the business owner, the teacher or student, the politician or voter. Does faith have a place in the public arena, and how does that look for me and my business? There’s a reason it’s confusing. (And it’s not you!)
As I was thinking about it this week, I remembered a story from years ago, and how it impacted the way I live out my faith in business today.
Many, many moons ago, I went to a clinic for blood tests in the basement lab of a clinic. As I exited the elevator, and turned to head toward the lab, I suddenly felt compelled to talk to a woman who was seated in a nearby waiting area. I didn’t know her and didn’t understand why I would feel the need to talk to her, so proceeded to the lab instead.
After my appointment, as the door closed behind me, I felt strongly compelled to talk with that woman again. I decided that if the seat beside the woman would be vacant, I would sit and talk with her. As I rounded the corner, I noticed all the waiting room seats were full, including the one beside her.
I sighed relief. As I approached the elevator, the man seated beside her got up and left. There it was, and empty seat right beside this woman, just as I had reasoned. I sat down beside her, bewildered about why I was even there. I turned to look at her, and she dropped the bomb.
“I just found out I can’t have any more babies.”
She went on to explain that she had a child, but having another would be impossible. She was deeply sad – grieving! – that she would never have another. It was a deep pain I could understand well. I had also received the news that, two and a half years after my first child, I would not be able to have more. It was devastating news to a mama who thought she was just getting started with her family. I wanted five children. It was heartbreaking, and I had to mourn the loss of a life I would never have. I didn’t know exactly how she felt – we all have different expectations and circumstances – but I could sure understand the pain.
Beyond the pain, she also felt guilty for feeling sad. “I know I should appreciate the one I have…”
“You do.” I reassured her, “Just because you’re grieving doesn’t mean you’re not grateful.”
She became quiet, and let the words sink in. Then she nodded and turned to me with glistening eyes, “Yeah. You’re right. I do!” She seemed relieved – freed to grieve without guilt. To share that common experience and encourage her in her sorrow was clearly the reason I was meant to sit beside her.
On the drive home, I thought about our encounter and realized that living out my faith is quite simple. It doesn’t necessarily require speaking Jesus’ name in every statement or to every person. It’s speaking love and truth and life into people’s life that is relevant. Seeing an unmet need and making an effort to meet that need. It’s that simple.
The beautiful thing about faith though, is that it’s not a formula or set of rules. It’s relationship, so it’s different for each person. A person has a different relationship with their spouse than with their children, and each of those is different from the relationships with friends or their insurance broker. Each relationship will look different, have different expectations and even customized vocabulary or behaviors.
For me, I’ve understood my path in business is to simply meet a need and cultivate relationship– to love and live out the character and principles that come from walking in the Spirit. For others, living faith may be a more obvious or out-loud kind of path. I think the important thing to remember is that we are each responsible for ourselves in front of God, and can’t pass judgment on each other’s paths.
Faith is just that personal, and God is way more brilliant and mysterious than to use all people in the same way.
Do you wonder how living out faith in business should look for you? What’s one way you live out your faith at work?
Recently my boss, one of the founders of Sutton Group-Kilkenny Real Estate, passed away. As I reflected on the great employer he was, and all the things I appreciated about him, I remembered how I loved listening to him tell the same story over and over again about how Kilkenny Real Estate became a Sutton Group franchise. So I thought I’d share it with you.
Blaine Campbell was a bit of a rebel. Don’t let his friendly, helpful ways fool you – he was a forward thinking guy who would gladly rock whatever boat needed rocking if it was the right thing to do. How Sutton Group – Kilkenny Real Estate started, for example, had everything to do with bucking the system.
Generally, being a real estate agent comes with a whole lot of expenses. Office space and administrative staff are an expected cost. Back in Blaine’s day, it was also standard to pay high commission splits. No one ever questioned it – like gas or hydro prices, it’s just the cost of doing business. People just accepted the status quo.
Blaine wasn’t interested in status quo.
He knew there had to be a better way. He found three other like-minded agents to join him in his plan to break from status quo, and together they shared the expenses of office space and an administrator. Kilkenny Real Estate was born. Maybe that doesn’t sound earth shattering, but one does not typically get close and cozy with one’s competitors, especially not entrepreneurs, and especially not in a dog-eat-dog industry like real estate. It would be like Sobeys and Safeway partnering to share a building, office supplies and personnel, but still be individual, competing companies. It just doesn’t happen.
But he didn’t care. This was, to him, a logical improvement. Beyond logic though, he also believed that relationships in the work place should be built on honesty and integrity. When that happens, sharing goes smoother, and synergy happens. (Synergy is the proven idea that a number of people working together can accomplish more than that same number of people working individually)
Other agents heard about this new arrangement and wanted in. Lower costs? Trustworthy team mates? Synergy? Everyone wanted a piece of that. Blaine welcomed them. And more came. And more. … and more. Suddenly the office was filled to capacity, and then some. As demands on their office and staff increased, so did pressure. Synergy slowed, frustrations rose.
Something had to give. Blaine had to either send everyone on their way, and return to the small four agent arrangement or a big change would have to happen.
He then heard about the Sutton franchise. The Sutton pay structure was much like the original agreement between the original four agents. Basically Sutton Group frees the entrepreneurs to keep their income and decide how they want to run their own business. After all, we are independent contractors.
After looking into Sutton Group a little further they decided to go for it. “And you should have seen what happened then!” he told me one day, grinning. Oh, how his eyes lit up whenever he got to this part. The company grew hugely and quickly after they partnered with Sutton group. He never regretted that decision.
I love that story – it is exactly everything I love about Sutton Group-Kilkenny. Integrity, relationship, synergy, and especially freedom to steer my own money, and innovative thinking. It’s everything I ever wanted in a workplace.
And it gets better.
All that innovation and freedom was not just given to the agents, it was also for the administrators. I remember how Blaine told me one day, “The best thing that happened to the office was the day we hired Roberta Talmage.” She is the office manager now, but in her starting out days as administrator, she too had that innovative streak. Roberta created an entire new system of operations and had all the paperwork organized in record time. She didn’t mind changing everything if it was needed. I love that. And the relationship bit was there too. Blaine appreciated that he could rely on her, and that she was not only his valued employee, but also trusted friend.
Even after the huge business growth, Blaine Campbell humbly served his staff. He helped make the feature sheets, the Just Listed and Sold cards, and did all the printing and marketing for us. It was his way of staying in touch with staff. Even though his poor health kept him from the office in recent months, the business was his pride and joy.
I recently sent him a thank you email, and think it’s fitting to close with his humble, team-minded words.
“I’m fortunate to have the best people in the business running the office.
They are the ones who make everything great.”
I’m gonna miss him.
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They say word of mouth is the best source of new clients. I’ve said it too. And it’s true… to a point. But here’s the thing. Everyone gets referrals. Even the most unreliable, unprofessional business person will occasionally satisfy a client. Those satisfied clients will gladly recommend them, because their experience was pleasant. Try this – put out a call on Facebook or Twitter for a professional they’d recommend. (It will be more interesting if you experiment with a trade or industry where you know some of the professionals and their reputations.) You’ll get all kinds of names. The funny thing is, you won’t know any more about those businesses than before you asked. You’ll still need to look them up, do your research, and make a decision. As a business person, how will referrals set you apart then?
Let me share a story. I recently hosted an open house in Niverville, when this young couple came in. We had never met, but as soon as they slapped eyes on me, they said, “You’re Tina!”
It’s a weird feeling when people do that by the way. For a half second I feel like I might be in trouble. I said something clever like, “Yeah…?” and tried not to look too confused.
She smiled and continued, “You sold the house adjacent to our back yard. We see your name and face everywhere – and you blog too!” They were complete and total strangers, and are not on my list of Facebook friends. I wondered how they’d seen my blog posts. She said a friend of hers had shared a post on her Facebook page. “Do you remember the subject?” I asked.
“Yup – For Those Who Smoke After” she smirked.
At this point her husband piped up, “What?”
“I’ll tell you after…” she leaned over to him, and winked at me before continuing, “In one of the last posts you talked about working with crazy people”
The husband joined in, “I’ve seen your ads in the Property Guide. It seems like your advertising is more… upper class.” I thought about a recent ad I’d put out that had this picture of a shrub mooning a neighbor. The caption read, “Time to Move?” I wondered if he had seen it.
“Ah, thanks. It looks professional because I hire professionals to help me with my marketing.”
This couple was considering hiring me before we ever met, and it was not because someone referred them. It was because of what they’d seen in my marketing, and on my site. And this happens all the time. People come over from China and choose me. When I ask other clients – complete strangers who hired me out of the blue, “How did you get my name?”, they often answer, “I did a Google search.”
Here’s the deal – whether or not people are given recommendations, 68% research real estate agents online. When your potential client arrives at your site – and they will come – what will they find? What they hope to find is who you are. They don’t care about salesy photos and impersonal how-to tips. Tips, tricks and hacks can be found anywhere. They want to know about YOU. Are you trustworthy. Are you successful. Are you professional. Are you real. Will you treat them with respect. And they want to find this out online.
The most overlooked source of referrals is a real estate agent’s website. Most don’t have one, and of those who do, few blog. Nearly three quarters of potential clients research agents online. You need to be as personable and friendly and professional there as you would be in person.
Whether they’re coming to your site because of word-of-mouth, or because of Google rankings, potential clients are looking for you. …Are you there?