Why the Real Estate Agent Distrusts the Consumer

There is a reason that the majority of my business has always been representing sellers.  Just as the used car salesman reputation of real estate agents doesn’t come from space, so too is true of the "buyers are liars" mantra.  Before you go getting all up in arms about what I just said, please hear me out.  It is my belief that most of my colleagues are not just better than used car salesman (why they get such a bad rap would be an interesting discussion) but their are exponentially better and truly bring value to the transactions in which they are involved.  It’s the minority of agents who are uninformed, dishonest, and generally lack integrity that tarnish the industry reputation.  Similarly, most buyers seem to appreciate the value that an excellent agent brings to the mix but unfortunately they seem to have a difficult time finding those excellent agents or they don’t realize it when they have found them. The inability to find an agent that one "clicks with" and trusts is the foundation of the "buyer are liars" mantra that many in my industry live by.  This circle of distrust snowballs to a point where, regardless of the competence of the agent, neither the buyer nor the agent trusts what the other is telling them during the course of a transaction.  Some examples:

  • A MANHATTAN buyer and agent work together for 6 months or more (often times for 1-2 years) all the while the buyer assures the diligent agent that they are the only person that the buyer is working with.  6 months or so into the transaction, the buyer either "vanishes" or simply calls and says, "I found an apartment in Brooklyn through such and such agent.  Thanks for all of your help."  The agent was not only unaware of a Brooklyn search but more surprised that the buyer was working with someone else.  6 months of hard work with absolutely zero payout…how many other professions would settle for that?
  • Another Manhattan buyer tells the agent how much they value his/her participation in their search because of the agent’s experience and knowledge of the marketplace only to cut the agent out of the transaction thinking that they can do better by directly negotiating with the seller’s agent.
  • A third Manhattan buyer is working with his/her agent for more than a year and finally locates a perfect property for his buyer.  The buyer convinces the agent to let him speak directly to the seller.  The buyer’s agent asks the seller’s agent if this is possible and they all agree only to have the buyer attempt to cut both agents out of the transaction when he speaks with the seller.
  • And the most frequent offense by buyers is the statement  "we’re not working with a broker" which almost always implies that they think they can strike a better deal because no one is being paid on their side of the transaction.  Trust me…more often than not, the seller is still paying a full commission so you aren’t doing any better without an agent.  In fact, I would argue that a transaction with two educated, knowledgeable, and professional agents with integrity will be more fairly negotiated to a better end than a transaction with only one agent or none. Don’t forget where fiduciary responsibility lies and also keep in mind that sometimes that fiduciary responsibility is to the agent’s own pocket.

I could go on.  These aren’t scenarios that I made up.  They are incidents in which I was one of the players.  In addition to these examples of less than scrupulous buyers, the "buyers are liars" mantra also comes from the fact that although many buyers think they know exactly what they want, the buying process is just that, a process.  In my 16 years, I can’t tell you how many "prewar" buyers bought new developments, how many Downtown buyers bought Uptown, how many "view" buyers chose more space, and how many "doorman" buyers bought townhouses. 

So you see, the distrust in this industry goes both ways.  The only way that we can change that is by raising our level of service to the consumer and proving to the public that we can be trusted.  Only then will they disarm and allow us to truly help them with the process of finding a home.  Until then, many continue to play the game.

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