Umm…Not a Good Idea


My friend Ronda, who’s also a real estate agent, told me a painful story yesterday that resonated deeply. I couldn’t help relay it because it’s not an uncommon story and I think most agents have had this experience at some point in their career. Several months ago Ronda met and developed a relationship with some people and began the process of serving them as their agent. Since late January they’ve been looking at places in various Peninsula communities…and that means driving around in Ronda’s car, previewing potential homes and providing expertise on areas, schools, restaurants and features and benefits of these neighborhoods. At one point Ronda drove the client’s to the airport as they departed for a vacation.  She picked them up upon their return as well.

Not that uncommon, believe it or not. Often, this is what agents do. A few days ago she contacted them to see if they wanted to go look at property in the near future only to be told in an e-mail that they had just bought a new house in a particular neighborhood of San Francisco (out of the area in San Mateo County they had been looking in with Ronda) and they had ended up using one of the couple’s parent’s real estate agent from way outside of the Bay Area to write the offer. The agent get’s a call, writes an offer and sells a house…all without spending one extra second with these clients.

You might think that Ronda had been perceived as inept or unsatisfactory to these buyers, but I can tell you that she’s been a passionate, professional and dedicated advocate to all of her client’s best interests in all of the years I’ve known her. You might also say that this story simply represents real life and in sales you have to have thick skin. OK, I get that, and it’s true…to a point. The truth is that this kind of event is a very discouraging thing, especially in this kind of market. It hurts. I know it hurts because it’s happened to me before too. It’s happened to most good agents I know at one time too.

OK, I’ll get off of my soapbox, it’s just that I think this kind of thing is wrong. If you feel that the agent you’re working with is not serving you well, sever the relationship and tell them why. At least then they can grow from the experience and try to improve. Something else I’m completely sure of, one day Ronda’s phone will ring and somebody is going to say something to her like “My Brother just found a house that he’s in love with, would you mind writing an offer on it for him?” A deal will almost literally fall out of the sky for her. The painful ones always seem to even out this way somehow. I guess that’s how life just is.


  1. “Not a good idea” -What a GREAT post!
    I bet the clients came up with some lame excuses why they did not use Rhonda. My 8 year old knows right from wrong-
    they did not??
    Why do people think a real estate professional’s time and expertise should be given for free??!!

  2. Tough to hear a story like this, especially in such a market. I think they could at least set expectations properly beforehand…

    I am from out of the US, and I always wondered why real estate agents go to such lengths when doing business here. If/when I go home buying, I would probably be happy to pick up the agent/drive myself. After all, I am the one buying !

    But the bright side, IMHO, is that for every client dropping out like this, an agent who goes to such lengths will probably get several who close.

  3. Frances Rokicki says:

    Jim, this is so true. You cannot control everything around you and your customers. It does happen and you just have to move on. A new day will bring a new opportunity:)

  4. SteveTinFC says:

    I know Ronda, as well, and know that she is a consummate professional. This is a hard one to swallow, yet she’s got a great heart, and I hope she’ll work through the pain that was caused by this incident.

    Your last paragraph struck me. This may sound totally stupid and naive, but I’m going to say it. If such a transaction “falls out of the sky”, I’m wondering, should the agent ask the rainmaking-client, “Umm, excuse me, but before I write this deal for you, are you already working with an agent?” In other words, under the context of the Golden Rule, should an agent stop and ensure the client is not doing this kind of thing to another agent first before taking the deal?

    I can hear all the “nice guys finish last, Steve” posts that are about to follow, but if we all truly believe this is “not a good idea”, then should an agent on the winning side of this equation allow that behavior to propagate without at least first checking that assumption?

    Just saying….

  5. Jim Minkey says:

    Great question Steve! Yes, I do think that question is appropriate. In all of the cases that happened like that with me personally the answer was no. These buyers were looking by themselves, trolling on open houses on Sunday’s without having any committment to an agent and the call came via a referral because, at crunch time, they knew they needed representation. Most buyers recognize that it’s a process and like help from an early stage…but some don’t.

    You’re right though…the question needs to be asked.

  6. That just happened to my wife’s buyer’s agent. He took them all over town, showed them several properties and they said they wanted to think about it. He calls them back a week later and finds out that a “friend of the family” has submitted their offer. I’m not sure why that friend simply didn’t spend the time and money showing them around in the first place.

  7. kahajay says:

    Well, if the clients wants to look at a different region outside of the agent’s area, isn’t it appropriate to switch to a different agent (That’s what happened in this story)? After all, they don’t intentionally dump the agent. But I do agree, they should at least let the agent know what they are thinking.

  8. Jim Minkey says:

    I understand and agree, it’s usually a good idea to find somebody more familiar with the new region. It’s just that in this case the buyers used an agent who was MUCH further away, had no experience of any kind with SF and it was significantly further from the subject property than was Ronda. When asked they said they just didn’t know any better. Go figure.

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