Recently we got together with our pastor friends. Our conversation was like a breeze of spring air in a stale apartment. It had been a rough week and our visit had been a refreshing oasis. There’s something powerful about connecting with others who are likeminded and who build each other up and encourage each other, isn’t there? Whether in work, relationships, parenting, or our own spiritual, mental, or emotional health, these moments of refreshment are critical.
A Realtor friend and I were talking about life and the stresses we’ve come through or were in, and reflected on how to survive or even thrive in the storms. After some thought, I said, “We have to remember where our strength comes from.”
There is so much stress, competition, rejection, rudeness, and disrespect in this world – it’s bound to pound us into the ground sometimes. It’s in those moments, when the days are hard and long and we wonder if the sun will ever shine on us again (have you been there?) that we need to feed our spirits.
Where does your strength come from?
For me, I don’t have enough strength in myself, so I rely on someone else’s. I draw from God’s strength. If I’m having a day, I’ll crank up some worship tunes, lift my hands, and pray the words with Lauren Diegel to bring to life the dry bones in my life. If you haven’t heard that one, give it a listen! It’s such an anointed piece, spoken passionately and from the heart, it moves me to tears.
“But we know that you are God, yours is the victory,
we know there is more to come that what we may not yet see
so with the faith you’ve given us, we’ll step into the valley unafraid.
We call out to dry bones, come alive!
We call out to dead hearts, come alive!
Up out of the ashes, let us see an army rise.
We call out to dry bones, come alive!”
These are the words that revive my heart on a day when it’s feeling dry. I’m reminded that regardless of how situations look to me, they’re not hopeless. I’m reminded that everything, even whatever my storm at the time, is in God’s hands, and He is a loving Father who cares for me. This truth has pulled me through the darkest times in my life. Divorce. Single parenting. Death of loved ones. And so many more hard days.
I want to build people up. Being an encourager is who I am. If I’m not doing that, I feel like I’m dry and empty inside. In those storms, when circumstances have tossed me around so hard I feel like I might come apart, it’s impossible to encourage others. Unless I refuel from my Source. With His strength and love reviving me, I can be who I am. Even on those dark days.
If you’re in that storm right now, I just want to encourage you to find your source of strength, and draw again from that pool of refreshment. Take that time to care for yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Connect with people who will build you up and who you can encourage, too.
What has helped revive your heart in your own storms?
“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
Isaiah 42:16 NIV
Talking to Real Estate agents about commissions can be kind of… uncomfortable.
To discuss commissions with an agent can feel like asking them to hand over their paycheck for inspection and approval. It’s much easier to just swallow the questions and go with whatever the agent says, isn’t it?
But I know you still have those questions. And I care about helping you make informed decisions. I hate seeing people get manipulated or taken advantage of just because they don’t know the facts.
So let’s do it. Let’s talk about some of those burning questions about REALTOR® commissions.
What is the going rate for commissions? You won’t like this answer. It’s negotiable. One of the considerations is what competing sellers are offering as a commission to competing agents who may have a buyer for their property. In areas where properties frequently sell in a week, the commission my be lower than in an area where it frequently takes months. The main reason for this is that the longer a property is listed, the more it will cost the agent to market it. Those costs need to be reflected in the commission. I have personally charged as low as 3% for a family member (we still offer 2.5% to the selling agent) and as high as 7%. For the record, if I did not give birth to you, I will absolutely not list as low as three percent for you regardless of where or what you are selling!
Why do commissions vary so much?
There are a few reasons for the variation. One is local market. Other considerations are:
-What the agent offers. If no marketing is planned, the commission may be less. More marketing will cost the agent and need to be paid for out of their commission.
-Greed. Whether it’s wanting the high dollar (through a higher commission) or to get the most listings (perhaps through a lower commission), it’s a factor sometimes.
-Negotiation. Sometimes a client can negotiate a commission up or down to get the services they want. -There may be more than one person being paid to work for you. Some teams have administrative staff working behind the scenes that also get paid.
How much do Realtors Make?
Not as much as you think. The commission charged is shared between broker of the listing agent and the broker of the selling agent. Often it is shared 50/50. (At 5% that would leave the broker with 2.5%) The broker then pays the sales staff a percentage of that amount. That percentage varies depending on the office policies and agreements between office and agent. Most work on a commission split which can be as high as 50% of their paycheck! Subtract all the advertising and marketing expenses (professional photography, advertising, signage, etc.) incurred to sell the property. (This can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars)
Out of what’s left, the agent must pay mandatory licensing fees, franchise fees and, very often, they are also required to pay rent and fees to their broker. You know – office space, etc. Then there is just the everyday business expenses like vehicle insurance, car payments, phone bill, internet, fuel, office supplies, etc. Do the math. These kinds of numbers are why it’s a dog-eat-dog business. This is the stuff that sends a lot of newbies packing in their first year.
When all is said and done the Real Estate Professional may only net approximately 20%-30% of the gross commission collected at the end of the year. Hopefully that will be enough to cover the income tax payable to the government.
Are Commissions negotiable? Yes, but if you’re going to negotiate, I have three words for you. Do it carefully.
It can be risky to demand of and stomp on someone who you expect to work for you.
Not unlike offending the dentist with all the sharp tools in your mouth, or blasting the restaurant cook and demanding a new meal, making huffy demands is risky. What you don’t know about commissions – and the message they send to other agents – is dangerous to your deal.
Basically, if you’re going to negotiate, basically be respectful. Real estate agents are people too. And some of them really do have your best interests at heart.
Why should I pay that much just to have them sell it in a week? Review the answer to “How much do REALTORS® make?” Those numbers all apply whether the property sells in a week or 10months. The only difference is that the 10 months didn’t come by and eat up all the agent’s profits. Good for them. They got paid.
So did you. Go celebrate!
HINT, HINT, NUDGE, NUDGE…Perhaps it may be important to ask the question, “What services do you offer at that commission?” There is a vast difference in what services different agents offer at the same commission. You can pay the same commission to many agents but you won’t get 5 star service from all of them.
Don’t make the mistake of being so focused on how to get the lowest commission just to find out that you got no VALUE for the commission.
In conclusion, most Real Estate Professionals will charge you the same Commissions as the competitors. You can hire a rookie or an experienced agent for the same commission. It would seem more logical to look for the agent who will do the most work for their commissions.
Of course you will want to be sure that their work results in sales.
I LOVE my job – It’s got adventure, variety, and the deep satisfaction of helping people find their perfect-for-them home.
Last month put that love to the test though, I’ve gotta say. From every angle, side, and corner, various Boogiemen leapt from the shadows.
Here are a couple of general examples of conversations that may or may not have happened recently.
Client: “Hi, Tina?”
Me: “Hi, how are you?”
Client: “Hurry!!! I NEED to see this house RIGHT NOW!!!!”
Me: “Umm… you know people still live in it and need some notice, right? They might have babies napping or–”
Client: “–I don’t care! I’m parked outside of their house right now! Get over here!”
Me: *bangs head on desk*
Me: “Hi. My client would like to make an offer on your listing”
Agent: “We already have someone else interested.”
Me: “Uh… it’s for sale, is it not?”
Agent: “Yes, but they don’t want offers.”
Me: (I wonder if the agent is blocking offers from other buyers so they can double end the deal… His clients wouldn’t appreciate that. Too bad they’ll never know. Man, I can’t wait until they make that illegal (like they are about to in Ontario.) In the meantime…
Me: “Okay, I’ll bring an offer. My buyer will pay every dollar the seller is asking and then some.”
Agent: “Go ahead, but they’re not going to take it.”
Me: *bangs head on desk*
But then there was the buyer who said something shocking to me this week.
We’d been working together to find them a house, and it was… difficult. They did not have access to internet and that felt crippling. They’d had a nightmarish, stressful relationship with the builder of their home right from day one. For years, that stress robbed them of the joy of living in their custom built home. Now they just wanted out.
Because of their worn-down, stressful state, they were not only deeply sad and exhausted, but also in a desperate hurry. Not a good combination. They had three weeks to find a new house.
That’s like giving yourself ten minutes for a 1-hour grocery shop. It’s insane. Like, reality TV, run through the aisles like a madman, plowing down women and children kind of crazy.
So here we were. Dashing like madmen.
Whose hair was on fire.
The hardest part for me was seeing how the anxiety had pulled their faces into hard lines over the years. They weren’t the most expressive people, and I’d never seen them smile. Not once. Years of annoyance can make a person cranky and it made me sad that their home-owning experience had done that.
Plus, knowing they would probably settle, desperate for a new house, I was sad they would likely repeat the disappointing experience of owning a home they didn’t want.
When we finally came across the one that struck them as home, I was excited because I knew something about it they didn’t.
“Ah, I know the guy who built that house. He’s a new, young builder trying hard to please people. He does quality work and treats people well.” I said.
That was all they needed to know – that they’d be treated well for once.
The buying process was difficult – sometimes it seems like agents don’t want to sell their listings, and this was one of those times. After working and working at it though, we did manage to get the house.
* * *
One week after the couple moved into their new home, I was walking up their sidewalk to check in. (They appreciated the personal face-to-face approach.) As I neared the front door, I wondered if this stressed out, anxious, desperate couple with their faces pulled in hard lines would have anything good to say about our working together. Had it been pleasant at all? Would they feel they had been treated well or that the whole thing was worth it?
With all these thoughts swirling in my mind, I rang the bell. The door opened, and there stood before me a woman I almost didn’t recognize. Where before a permanent frown had been carved into her face now shone a relaxed, upturned smile. Her eyes that had looked dead and empty now seemed to shine, almost laugh.
I mentally willed my mouth not to gape open in shock. “How’s the new house?” I asked.
That’s when she said what I never thought I’d hear from her.
Her smile expanded into a full out grin. “It feels like home.” She sighed and her eyes went dreamy, “I’m happy.”
I nearly cried on the spot. “Wow – after a week it’s feeling like home already?”
“From the first day it felt like home.” She raised a palm to her chest as though speaking of a loved one, “Tina, the chains have come off and we are free. … I’m happy. So happy. The grandchildren love it here too!”
I almost burst into tears. She was happy?
That moment was worth every difficult, head-banging, hair-pulling moment before it.
THIS. This is why I do what I do. This is why I love working as a real estate agent.
I floated back to my car and through the rest of my week, grateful for the reminder, blessed by the satisfaction of having helped someone and then being able to see that dramatic transformation.
These are the moments that fuel us through the hard days, aren’t they?
What one memory or thought keeps you going through your hair-pulling days?
This tale might be fictional, but it’s based on several real, local people and events.
On things that actually, really happen around here.
Bill had been turned away from every brokerage in town. No one was willing to sell his house for him.
No agent, whether moral or shady, would touch it.
And it wasn’t because of the property; the home and yard were in great shape.
The problem wasn’t the location. Actually, it was a highly desirable place.
Buyers were searching for a property like his.
Still, no one would list it.
Why? Because Bill insisted on selling it for double its value.
What was worth $300,000 in the local market, he decided he would get $600,000. And he was completely dead serious.
So he left office after office, unable to find the agent who would invest their marketing dollars in such. No one was willing to torpedo their own reputation by listing such an impossibility.
Bill returned to his home and promptly stuck a sign in the yard. If no one would help him, he would do it himself.
Two things can happen at this point, and neither is a good thing.
Bill could sell the house to an unsuspecting private buyer who doesn’t realize it’s a horrible deal. Because ‘hey, it’s a private sale, so it must be cheaper’. Umm, no. Either the buyers come up with cash for the inflated price and buy something without any promise of equity for years and years and years or, more likely, the bank looks at the deal, and refuses to fund the mortgage. Because paying double is insane.
Or, most likely, and what happens most of the time, the property sits. And sits. And sits.
Because people aren’t stupid. No one will pay double. Or even 30% more than it’s worth.
Look, if this forewarns you about anything, let it be this.
Beware: private sales aren’t always on the up and up.
Buying without an agent to protect you is risky
And, if you’re selling, for Pete’s sake, remember people aren’t idiots – not buyers, not agents – and be reasonable. People (and banks) will only pay what things are actually, legitimately worth. Anything more is flat out greed.
Like working side by side with your direct competitors under the same unified banner.
You’re on a team, but you’re also not.
Sure, there’s camaraderie, all of us being members of the real estate ‘sisterhood’, but here’s the thing.
Sometimes sisters fight.
Insecurities, miscommunication, and outright jealousy and fear can cause a lot of problems among humans. Even real estate agents. Even competitors.
We can’t avoid it, really. So the trick then isn’t to avoid competition or miscommunication, it’s trying to figure out how to disagree like grownups, and compete with sportsmanship.
I’ve seen my share of office feuds, both between agents in the same office and agents in different brokerages. Sometimes it’s frustrating to watch, other times it’s heartbreaking to watch someone flush their reputation and professional relationships down the crapper for a measly paycheque.
I’ve seen people huff and puff about ‘how dare so-and-so talk to THEIR client’ when the truth is that was never ‘their’ client. (Because first, people are not property to be claimed by real estate agents and second, saying hello to someone in the store does not a client or piece of property make) *rant over*
I’ve also been to countless meetings with other agents and was met with snarky attitudes, snide comments, and outright belligerence. Once I got over the shock of a fully grown adult behaving like a toddler in wingtips, I stored it in my memory as evidence of an important truth – one we all need to learn.
Agents, we need to get it through our thick, competitive heads, that we don’t need to steamroll and pull each other’s hair to make it!
We need to realize other agents are our not our enemies – they’re our best customers!
Why Competing Agents are our BEST Customers 1) They Cover You on a Day Off
Without some degree of teamwork (or shirking our clients), we won’t get a day off. We need each other. If you expect another agent to do anything on your behalf, you’d best maintain those relationships.
Someone whose client you poached, whose deal you tanked, or who you simply treated with disdain is not going to jump to help you.
2) They Bring Referrals!
Referrals from other agents is a huge resource for leads. Winnipeg agents occasionally send me leads so they don’t have to drive all the way to Steinbach for a showing. I absolutely want those! But, when I sell a house as a result of that referral, I absolutely give a referral fee to that agent. I treat them well and reward them for their efforts to work with me. And the people they send my way? I treat them with excellence too. Know what happens? Those agents don’t hesitate to send me referrals in the future.
(If I’d choose to be snippy, cheap, or treat their would-be clients poorly though, I could not expect that referral source to keep flowing!)
3) They Understand Loyalty
Some people put a lot of energy into ‘protecting’ their clients from being ‘snagged’ by another agent. I have a list of problems with this. Why would any agent put so much work into keeping someone who is so apparently disloyal (clients aren’t objects to be kept on a shelf anyway), when it’s so much easier, efficient, and rewarding to work with people you like and who like you – clients and agents.
Cultivate those relationships, and reap loyalty. (and so much more.)
We need every office to be willing to work with us – to be willing to bring offers and show our houses.
If another agent thinks you’re a pain in the a#$ to work with though, they might just resist showing your houses. They might just try to steer their clients to other options to avoid the unpleasant, sarcastic, snarky-attitude-ridden experience that is meeting with you.
4) Repeat Business. Like… A LOT.
Another huge reason other agents are our best customers is because they can repeatedly write offers on our listings. A buyer or seller will only do business with us once every few years at the most generally, but a realtor can do business with us many times!
Bottom line: We need each other. Let’s act like it.
Showings here, demanding clients there, and a list of time-sensitive tasks that needed to be done ‘asap or else’ had chased me to the end of my time.
But there was one more to go.
That evening I met with an older couple, in their eighties, to show them a house.
I had no idea the surprise that awaited.
We walked into the vacant 1960’s home with its original wood doors and trim stained that awful kaka yellow. The countertops were original too, with their brightly colored laminate. It was one of those moments where, for just the teensiest split second, I was sorry I could see. Amazingly, the home had not been updated at all. It felt like we had stepped back in time.
While this modern-day REALTOR® was shaking her head, wondering how such a severely outdated place like that would sell, my elderly clients had other thoughts. They caressed the laminate countertops and wood door frames.
“Look at this – they have wood doors!” She said to her husband.
“Oooh, yes,” he said, coming up beside her and running a hand along the door also.
They did that in almost every room. It was sweet and also a bit weird. But it was the era they came from, and, outside of museums, they probably hadn’t seen such a well preserved 1960s relic in decades. I imagined I might likewise caress metal window casings or rustic log furniture one day. And if I did, I hoped it would be sweet too.
“How much is it? And does it have a basement?” The husband asked. We’d talked about it a few times, but he was forgetful.
“It’s $215,000. And yes, it has a basement.” She answered politely, as though it was the first time he’d asked. “The door to the basement is by the kitchen.”
“Ah, $215,000. Okay.” He walked over to the door by the kitchen and opened it. “Is this it?”
“No,” she said, “that’s a closet.”
“Oh! A closet! How lovely!” he said, and closed the door. “Where’s the basement then?”
Without a sigh, grimace, or any single sign of impatience, she walked over to him and showed him where the door was.
“Oh! A basement! How lovely.” He said, “And how much is it?”
Her patience with him seemed limitless. She calmly answered his questions several times over, each time as though it was the first they’d spoken of it. There was no, ‘Remember??’ or “I already told you”. There was no exasperated head shakes or eye rolls. In no way did she ever shame or embarrass him or even seem impatient or inconvenienced at all.
Her response stunned and humbled me.
I imagined, in her position, I would definitely let a sigh escape if I had to do that all day every day. I found myself wanting to be more like her.
They didn’t end up taking the house, which I think is great because it means I get to spend more time with them looking at others. They’ll look at houses, and I’ll look at them.
Which made me realize something else.
No matter what we’re doing – no matter how mundane or unimportant or invisible the task at hand, there is always someone watching – someone noticing how we live and respond. And hopefully, what they see is something that inspires them. Or encourages them. Or just makes their day a bit brighter.
When I arrived, I found her hunched over a box, in tears.
She had been packing, getting ready to list her house. Well, their house.
They had lived there for decades. Now the marriage had come apart at the seams, and she was left to tie up the loose ends. She would pack up the house and ready it for sale.
It looked like about the hardest thing she’d ever had to do.
There, with tears still streaming down her cheeks, she held a stack of photos in one hand and a wad of tissues in the other. She still wore her wedding ring.
When someone in a happy marriage looks through photos, it’s a refreshing, satisfying time of reminiscing. Laughter and tears of joy accompany the cozy memories. But when a person is in the midst of separation – especially one they don’t want to happen – it is anything but cozy. Each memory stabs the heart, leaving a gaping ache for what will never be again.
As I put a hand on her shoulder, a fresh wave of tears flowed from her eyes. Her head hung as though a weight were tied to it.
As I scanned the room I realized she would never get the house packed in time without some help. Little was packed, even less was cleaned. Grief overwhelms. At that point, a simple task like putting photos in a box or sweeping the floor can be too much to even think about, much less accomplish.
Just then, she looked up at the wall and sighed a heavy, hollow sigh.
I followed her gaze to a photo on the wall. There, in an ornately carved wooden frame, their wedding photo hung, looking as though nothing had changed since the day it was taken.
After a moment of thought, I removed my hand from her shoulder, walked over to the photo, and lifted it from the wall. For a second, I felt like an art thief.
“Let me help you,” I said, looking back at her for any sign of disapproval. Her mouth parted slightly, as though to speak. Then she closed her eyes, nodded, and hung her head for the next wave of tears.
The offending photo was turned to face the wall and tucked behind the sofa. Then, together, we packed a few boxes.
“See if you can get some friends to help you with this,” I suggested, “It’s a huge job on a good day but it’s overwhelming and feels impossible when you’re going through a separation. You need help.”
She nodded and, before I left, called some friends to help her pack up what was left of her married life.
People sell their homes for all kinds of reasons, but there is a unique dynamic when the sale is due to a separation. And it raises all kinds of issues for everyone – the sellers, buyers, and the agents caught in the middle.
Oddly, no one really talks about it.
Which is why I’ve written this series of posts about selling due to separation. It’s important to talk about it so we can understand when the issues come up, and know what to do about it. Maybe we’ll have some compassion or be able to avoid surprise attacks if we’re aware.
Wherever I’ve been, professionally or personally, it’s been because God has led me there. Helping sellers in the midst of separation is just another such opportunity I see Him giving me. I am not afraid of crisis. Lord knows I’ve had my share of it. And I’m honored that He uses me to serve others in their own crises. Whether it’s to help sell a house, pack boxes, or just pull a photo off the wall.
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.
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.
Since my childhood, I have always enjoyed competition. Competition is motivating, one way or another. Competition makes us set goals to achieve.
I grew up with brothers and I wanted to throw a baseball, catch, and skate like they did. In the process of practicing catch or skating, we built deep relationships. Competition is engaging!
My mom may have beat me at every rummy game we played, but it was sweet to win a round along the way! Competition can either get you playing your best game or cause you to become destructive!
It is very easy to defeat someone, but it is not easy to win someone!
What is your motivation? Are to trying to beat the competition? OR, Are you trying to win business?
The stories I could tell to confirm my point are unending. It is shameful, the extent people go through to defeat the competition! Regularly, I am told of experiences that are simply wrong. At the end of the day, what you take from others by your manipulative craftiness, will not be as rewarding as the relationships that can be built.
Someone who has earned business by their quality of service, will have repeat clientele and referrals.
Someone who is a bully, will also earn a reputation.
I am committed to excellence. I work for my sellers and buyers and watch them achieve their goals! I see myself as a facilitator. By genuinely caring for people, it is natural to have their best interest at heart.
I want to love my life and feel good about myself at the end of the day!
RENT SCAM ALERT Someone is posting houses for rent that are listed by Real Estate Professionals using the professional photos and write up. The house is NOT for rent. Then they are collecting rent in advance to secure the rental. They will take your money and run. You will […]