Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Texas Home Buyer Two Steps Around Her Agent

A friend stopped by the Home Girl's office yesterday. She was terribly upset because a client that she had worked with for over a decade was terminating their agency agreement.

It's painful to be fired. Ask any number of the currently unemployed who have been terminated or laid off due to downsizing and the lousy economy. Sometimes the termination is justifiable because of the employee's actions or non-actions, and sometimes not so much.

But no matter the cause, the sick feeling in the pit of the stomach is right there, a tight, nauseating knot that lasts for days. Even when the the termination makes sense, it hurts.

In the private sector, employees are paid for their services. In fact, if an employee is not paid for work performed, then a complaint can be filed for theft of services. Governor Perry signed SB 1024 eliminating a loophole that previously existed for a criminal theft of service charge. Under prior law, a party obtaining services from another under a promise to pay could avoid a criminal charge of theft of service so long as the party was making minimal payments. Read more here:

My colleague did not have such recourse. The buyer felt that she had "found" her home without assistance.
  • She failed to take into consideration the hours that were spent setting up searches using specific criteria requested by the buyer.
  •  She did not take into consideration the number of homes that had already been shown to her.
  • There was no accounting for time spent researching property values in communities in which she had expressed an interest.
  • No mention was made for reimbursement of travel or gas expenses.
This is just a partial list. This buyer just didn't understand or care what her friend and agent was doing on her behalf, spending considerable time (and time is money) and concentrated effort.

This agent is sharp. Had the buyer mentioned that she was not finding her desired home, that her needs had changed, then the search would have been tweaked and more homes may have been available. There was a signed buyer agency agreement and an established relationship of many years.

Instead of communicating her wishes to her agent, the buyer called ANOTHER agent to show her a property. Kind of like a first date with somebody when you are married to somebody else. I guess the showing agent didn't ask the right questions (are you working with an agent?), had no ethics, or the buyer answered, "not really".

When I receive a sign call and ask "are you working with an agent" and the potential buyer answers "not really" , I usually cringe and then proceed to lose the lead by saying something intelligent like,
 " Seriously?, What does that mean? Not really. Do you or do you not have an agent?".

These questions are not an effort to be lazy, to not show my own listings, but are used as an effort to be ethical, to respect the efforts that another agent has invested into his or her client, and to avoid the confusion caused by an existing buyer's agency agreement versus the procuring cause argument that will probably be offered by the agent that showed the one property that my friends client "found".

As Realtors, we have an obligation to be ethical. Customers are under no obligation to share in that responsibility, but clients have signed an agreement to be loyal. It just seems to me that you got to dance with who brung ya, and if you don't want that, then break up before the dance begins.

Post script.  I was able to visit with my colleague today to see how things were going.  It turns out that she did have a conversation with the "new" buyers' agent.  The agent did ask the questions, but the answer was the usual - not really, not a signed agreement. ( I guess the buyer forgot  - hmmm)   The new agent has offered to pay a referral to my colleague.  I don't really think this is a win-win.  I am happy that my friend is getting a little compensation.  My opinion of her former client is not so great, slightly better of the other agent, but now I am the one with a sick feeling in my stomach and I don't feel like dancing with anybody.

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