by: Maya J. Paveza, Happy Grasshopper, Staff Writer; REALTOR®, Associate Broker (DE), and Real Estate salesperson (PA).
Please Note: The opinions and views expressed below in this blog post, are those of the author only. They do not reflect those of any other person, entity or company, and no endorsement is implied.
There's enough focus on the perception of the actions of a few which impact the many.
We should raise the bar once again.
In this week’s blog post, we covered some of the top ways to market a listing for real estate. There are a lot of innovative ways to do it, from social media to gimmicks, but how agents market a property is a personal preference. It got me thinking, what about the awful ways that some market their listings? Now, I know you all reading this aren’t the agents I will refer to here, so I wanted to get your thoughts.
In a time where the focus is on how we market, we forget that the results of that marketing, the consumers we reach and how they perceive us, matter more. I mean the marketing methods of questionable choice. Those ways I consider to be sneaky, like keeping a property “Active with Contract” so an agent can get more buyers to call about a prime listing. Honestly, I am not sure I could actually name a single agent (more likely many, but they aren’t in my local association) who does this, but I do see it frequently in a surrounding market.
Sold is Sold, or is it?
There is a clear, ethical choice when agents market in this manner. Hold up, I recognize that sometimes the status has legitimate uses. I know my MLS offers options to specify why that status existed. I will note, and offer kudos to, BrightMLS (the one I belong to) because they have made changes to keep those extended Active with Contract in check—I was stunned when the MLS automation “accused me” of potentially violating the use when my home inspection negotiations got extended a week. My fault, I didn’t update the date in the MLS because I had never had to before. The BrightMLS system is getting smart (and good, for that market I referenced earlier is in the same MLS).
So back to the legitimate reasons for utilizing the A/C status? They may include “right of first refusal,” or “home sale contingency,” or “home inspection negotiations.” Those are legit and OK reasons to use that status and that’s about the extent of them. Over the last few years, the abuse of the status is out of control; some REALTORS® are gaming the system to the disadvantage of the consumer and public opinion of our profession. That's not how you market a real estate listing to consumers. It's time focus on raising the bar in real estate marketing practices.
That reminds me of 2003 when we would hold showings until an open house, the market was so nuts! I once had a line a half-mile long, just folks waiting to get into a house. We got 5 offers, and I had my own clients there crying in the basement because the house reminded the wife of her grandmother’s —she had to have it. The MLS fixed that, too, by implementing the “Active no showings” status which doesn’t feed to Realtor.com or any website, essentially cutting off that early supply for the addicts. Side note: I never did that again and I never did dual agency again by personal choice after that.
Back to the point and to offer an example for your consideration: when an agent keeps a property as “Active with Contract” after inspections are complete and mortgage commitment is clear, it is for one reason and one reason only. They’re practicing a sneaky and unethical market practice of “bait and switch.” We’ve all had this experience — a client wants to see a house they find on Realtor.com or another website, and when we pull it up on the MLS, it is active with contract.
When I encountered this situation, I always did my due diligence; I called the agent and inquired. The response was often, and usually — ”the contract is solid; we are not seeking back-ups.” I didn’t ask the question I wanted to ask, “So why is it still active with a contract?” I knew what the answer would be, and I didn’t want to waste my time arguing with some unethical jerk with a god-complex and a poor grasp on reality.
Are you Slim Shady? No, you are not.
We all know the answer is, “Because I get calls, and when I get the calls, I get a shot at converting that lead into a client.” That’s shady. An agent who does that is insulting the intelligence of the real estate consumer and leaving a bad taste in their mouths. This results in the distrust and dislike of the entire profession. Of course, we should report such things. It is in the COE, but then again I know my local board frowns upon filings, I sat on the Professional Standards Committee for a few years, and there weren't many hearings, and when there were... well, not allowed to talk about those still. Did you know it costs to file an ethics violation against another agent? Well, that encourages integrity (sarcasm intended if you missed the tone). It’s an affront to the industry and reputation of a REALTOR®.
Why is this an affront to our industry and reputation? The consumer has had a negative experience, and they believe we are all snake-oil salespeople, only wanting to “get that sucker” to step up to the table and play a shell game with them. That doesn’t help the general perception of the value of a real estate agent or REALTOR® in the home sale process. It doesn’t speak the true story of the Code of Ethics every REALTOR® pledges to uphold when they join the organization (I am not digging deeper into that until after my REALTOR® membership expires next year, I just paid $600 to renew for 2020).
I spent my real estate career focused on consumers and customer service, on helping dreams come true. I was a real estate fairy-godmother in my mind when I started. To me, it was never about how many sales I could get. It was about helping people realize their dreams, and I loved that. Other times it was helping people get out of bad situations, like short sales. I transacted, and negotiated, my first short sale listing in 2006 before there were even departments to handle them. I was in real estate to help people by offering my expertise.
I never changed my practices, but I lost my passion over time, I started to dread my phone ringing. I developed an aversion to even talking on the phone. I grew tired of being in the position of being immediately judged by people, as some "sneaky" or "shady" salesperson who was only out for myself. That hurt, literally causing me heartache. I had always had clients who were grateful and appreciative, and that felt great. Something shifted in the last few years, suddenly people were treating me so badly, being rude, disrespectful, verbally abusive—just unacceptable behavior.
It’s hurtful when people give so much of themselves and select sacrifice over profit, just to help people. We need to encourage those compassionate souls to enter the industry, not dissuade them. We need to mitigate the effects of poor training and substandard supervision of agents by brokers in some areas, the results of the mere lip service and a polite nod to the truth of the real estate industry, serving the needs of the consumer. This truth needs to become the guiding principle. I’ve borne witness to this for far too long. This is NOT raising the bar in real estate marketing practices.
Idealism, Passion and Compassion, are what make a great REALTOR®.
The idealism I brought with me into the industry still is there, but the quest to effect a positive change or build a new business model has made me weary. The future can be bright, it’s a choice we will all make. We listen to people talking about disruption in the industry by technology, but that’s not the disruption that we should focus on.
We should disrupt ourselves with new compensation models which will allow an entire pool of people to enter the industry. I have long believed in a model that has a base salary and a small commission bonus for either a limited time (apprenticeship) or the entire career, at the agent’s choice. That would mean a lot of amazing individuals who can’t afford to enter real estate will then be able to. We all rise.
With that said, I love this industry, but I am about to close my final listing and move to a referral status. I worked far too hard to obtain my sales license in Delaware and Pennsylvania, and my Brokers (associate since I am not the broker of record) license in Delaware to let them slip into non-existence. I will keep them, but maybe not the NAR membership because there is that shackle I would like to break.
I see the amazing potential of the agents out there. If only the few that seem to hold the public eye and perception would slow down and focus on service and quality. We all need to uphold our pledge we made when we took our oath to join the National Association of REALTORS, and respect the code of ethics and always put the needs of clients ahead of our own. Here's to brighter days!
Your Turn! Tell us what you think...
How about you? What do you see in the industry these days? What do you think needs to change? Stay the same? How are you raising the bar in real estate marketing practices.? Tell us below!