by Maya J. Paveza, originally posted in 2016 on the EstateSocial Blog.
Open Letter to Real Estate Consumers by a REALTOR® —Because you should know why we do what we do, and why we love it.
Dear Real Estate Consumer,
Whether you own a home, rent a home or want to own or rent, most people at some point have or will be, a real estate consumer. I would venture to guess that by the age of 30 more than 95% of American’s will fall into these categories. This letter is to you. Not all of you are those should read this but you probably know someone who would benefit from the read. Please share this.
I am a REALTOR® —a Real Estate professional. I help people buy, or sell, houses. Sometimes I help people with rentals, but my primary purpose is to help people. I offer a service, expertise, passion, and commitment—my goal is to help people navigate the waters of the largest financial decision most people make in their lifetime.
I care, we all care. We chose real estate because we've loved what it represents for a long time. For me, it was since I was a child when my parents sold my first home. I remember peering over the wall of the pool cabana and watching an open house in real time. It was fascinating, I wanted to be inside and to watch what happened. I wanted to know how people reacted. I wanted to know what those people did and looked at in my home. I wanted to get inside their heads to understand the thought process, how they made a decision—whether they wanted to buy that awesome Palo Alto home.
We are REALTORS®, we are professionals.
We're REALTORS®, we're professionals. We have invested time, not to mention a LOT of money to obtain, and maintain, our real estate licenses. We have rules and regulations we must follow. They go beyond the professional, intruding on the personal, we are always a REALTOR. We are when we work, when we live, and when we sleep. How we behave, and what we can disclose—at all times—is governed by the Code of Ethics we pledge an oath to uphold. Don't forget the Federal Laws or Acts, such as Fair Housing and Equal Housing Opportunity. We have federal guidelines to observe and respect, if we fail—heavy penalties could be levied against our Brokers, and ourselves.
We are (mostly) independent contractors. That means we pay our own social security (double what you would see deducted from a regular paycheck), we pay our monthly fees (including the website you use to look at houses), we pay annual fees to be members of the National Association of REALTORS®, we pay for Errors & Omissions Insurance, we work for Brokers, in most places we also may need to pay our Broker a fee, and we pay a lot more, in many ways.
We answer our calls at all hours of the day or night. We are frequently greeted with contempt and a tone of distrust from consumers who call our cell phones or offices. We are the “lowest of the low” in the minds of some, and it shows in the way that they treat us. We work every day to fight that public opinion, that awful misconception, that we are “not necessary.” “Anyone can do it, why should I pay a commission when all you do is list my house and nothing more” is the driving force we are frequently forced to face, and fight every day. Yes, there are some bag apples in the bunch, but that's not something we like, or want.
We don’t get a paycheck, we only get a commission, which is a LOT less than the percentage you think it is. Everyone else gets a piece of that pie before we do. No one pays our expenses but us. We get no payment until after a closing, and when varies depending on how the broker pays an agent. When we work with a client we commit to them, to not show another person a house they might be interested in, to put their needs first even ahead of our own (it's in the Code of Ethics). We are charged with acting as your Agent, which means at your direction and consent—as long as what you ask is legal. When we make a commitment to work with you we are choosing you over countless other clients in a market area. It's not ethical to create a competitive situation for our own clients. It's not right or fair either.
There are days when we may forget that our “jargon” isn’t your “jargon.” That plain English and explanations might be necessary, but we all have our expertise in our professional fields—just like you do. When you don’t tell us “I don’t understand” but instead stop communicating or walk away, we are left feeling rejected, confused and befuddled. We worked so hard for you and we will never get that time or money back, we will most likely never know why either. More importantly we will never get to enjoy seeing your excitement when you get the keys to your piece of the American Dream.
The Value of a REALTOR®
Our industry has failed to make our value clear. It's become convoluted in the mindless media message of “real estate sales are sales” at best it is a misnomer. We don’t sell real estate, we consult and facilitate the purchase of real property and the improvements (the house and structure) on that property. We transact real estate. We facilitate the American dream of homeownership.
It is not always an enjoyable experience. It can be fraught with drama, nail-biting cliff hangers, and tremendous amounts of nervous anticipation—sounds like the plot for a great suspense thriller. We know this, we experience every day of our careers. Sometimes we might forget to warn you about this, to tell you the possible twists and turns that might happen. We are not only your REALTOR® but we are your therapist. We have to talk you off the cliff of “buyers remorse,” to help carry you forward to that goal. If you turn and run then, you will regret it the next day, I know this because I have seen it countless times. We recognize the look of excitement in your eyes when you first stepped into the place you want to call your new home. We are market experts and can make that dream come true, but you have to trust us to do out job.
It's not just about completing some paperwork and calling it a day. Our job as a REALTOR® is to make the process SEEM easy, effortless and carefree. If you think it is effortless to buy real estate then we have succeeded in doing our job. That success brings comes at a price —the blatant and rampant disrespect for the professional qualifications and experience that goes with the name REALTOR®.
Sometimes, after the closing, you might feel neglected or forgotten. We don't want that, ever. We want you to feel special and unique, like you are our only client during the transaction, and we want that to carry over after the closing. Some of us choose to use services to help us do this, services like HappyGrasshopper.com that allows me to send message to important people, like you, and make it easier to keep in touch. I am here, even if you don't hear from me. We are always here for you, our business relationship doesn't end after a closing, we still have a responsibility to protect your interest and privacy.
Who likes to discuss money?
This is our fault, to some degree. We spend so much time fighting to prove our value, that the message of what that value is becomes lost. We don’t teach you, we don't explain or share our purpose—our why. We need to let you, the consumer, know enough about how the industry works to appreciate our guidance. You think it's about getting you to sign a contract so we can collect some cash. Who likes to discuss money? You see the big picture and think we are "overcompensated” and a bunch of “Rich REALTORS®.” It might be helpful for us to open the financial books, to share the secret doctrine of the industry. A REALTOR® could possibly be the smallest cog in the wheel and compensated relative to that position.
Our value as a REALTOR® is many-fold, to many to list here. To put it simply —it's making sure that the largest purchase of your life will also be the smartest purchase of your life. Helping you navigate the process from weighing your options, to writing the contract, to protecting your interests and making sure you don't breach that contract, always protecting your interests and investment. Through the inspections, negotiations, and then the final walk-through, to the closing table, and beyond your REALTOR® is there for you. To be your advocate and your expert, without compromising our obligations to protect your interest, confidence and our obligation to be your Agent. We are your eyes and ears in the process. We are REALTORS® and real estate professionals, all of us.
I'm a real estate professional but most importantly I am a REALTOR® meaning I took an oath to go above and beyond the rules of most states that govern real estate sales, I follow a higher standard with the REALTOR® Code of Ethics that is over 100 years old. I have spent 15 years helping people buy/sell/lease real estate, I have spent countless hours and thousands of gallons of gas driving around to show people houses who then decide to call someone else to buy a house. It is time to realize what a REALTOR® offers and the valuable partnership that exists between the consumer and their REALTOR®.
Not every REALTOR® will be the right fit for a consumer. We all (mostly) have recognize this, and consumers need to freely communicate this. It's a partnership of the most important fiduciary kind, a symbiotic relationship that makes the American dream come true. We're Professionals, we're experts, we want to help, we're consumer advocates, we're passionate about truth and justice. We are REALTORS® and we want to help you.
Thank you for your trust, your time and the opportunity to serve your needs. We are grateful to have the opportunity to prove our value to you. If it don't see the effort, if the process is seamless and painless—we did our job properly—the job of a REALTOR®.
Why an Open Letter to Real Estate Consumers by a REALTOR®? Because you should know why we do what we do, and why we love it.