The Great Unspoken Truth


A long time ago, when I was still fairly new in the real estate business, I was flying back to Memphis to visit some relatives when I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me on the plane. Naturally, the conversation evolved into a discussion about residential real estate. He had bought and sold several homes and actually had more experience than I did at the time. I remember him telling me about some friends that had chosen an agent exclusively because they got a break on the commission and he recounted a horror story about their experience selling their home. That wasn’t the memorable part…the part that I never forgot was the resolution that came to him as a result. He said, “I want an agent that’s been sued a couple of times. I want somebody who has lived through their mistakes and has seen it all, because they won’t be surprised by the unexpected”.

That statement still resonates with me all these years later. Clearly, experience is a great asset to either buyers or sellers but not all of that experience comes from closing lots of houses. I’ve sold hundreds of homes and that’s blessed me with a ton of practical experience when it comes to doing it again right now…but the truth of the matter is that it’s the mistakes I’ve made that have really taught me invaluable lessons that very definitely help my clients now. The great unspoken truth is simply this, you show me an experienced real estate agent and I’ll show you somebody that’s survived some mistakes.

11 years ago I represented a buyer who bought a house on the bluff just above the Ocean over on the coast. The place had a 180 degree panoramic ocean view, a fairly well know pub was a block down the hill and a really gorgeous state park was just beyond that. We were so excited! What a location! I envisioned seeing my friend whenever we went to the coast for years to come. The area had some funny geological anomalies that were disclosed on some reports but nothing specific to this house. We had heard about problems in this area but we did inspections and everything seemed OK. A year and a half after she moved in a fracture in the earth opened up under the front right corner of that house. Turns out it was a fairly common thing in this neighborhood. Some houses got effected, some didn’t. You just didn’t know if or when it would effect your place. Every few years she needs to pour concrete into this opening fissure to stabilize the house. The foundation has cracked in that corner and she’s had problems with rodent infestation as a result of the hole that was created by this confluence of fault and foundation. I’m honestly not sure if the house can ever be sold…when the earth opens up under your house that doesn’t look real good on the disclosure.

In retrospect, I think both my client and I were way too emotional about the opportunity to get this house in this amazing location. We got blinded by that and didn’t see the negative possibilities. There’s many, many other houses nearby that don’t have any kind of issue like this…houses sell there all the time. What do you suppose I say when clients ask me about houses they saw online in that area now? That was the last transaction I ever did where I allowed my feelings about a house to override my caution about possible negative implications. What a great lesson.

When I think about the current trend of discount brokers offering rebates to buyers and simply showing up to write offers I cringe! Many of these “agents” don’t even actually see the home in question, much less have any clue about how to interpret what’s in the disclosures or know nuances of particular neighborhoods. Like wise, the Internet is never going to answer all of these questions either. Experienced agents, who have learned from their mistakes, are really a valuable commodity


  1. A VALUABLE commodity indeed!! Thanks Jim!

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