Common Sense, Trust and How Listings Really Work

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s start with a very basic concept.

As a real estate agent, I’m in the sales business. There are some who prefer to soft sell the whole thing, say they are in service because for some reason the concept of being in sales makes them feel a little bit, I don’t know, dirty. But this isn’t a service position – I don’t get paid for providing service. I get paid for results, for selling homes. That’s it and that’s all.

I mention that for two reasons. First, there’s yet another of the interminable debates going on in a real estate Facebook group where some agents are backtracking as quickly as they can from the notion that they ever give any thought to commissions they may receive – you know, the stuff that keeps the lights on. Second, I found myself in an interesting position this weekend with a seller who, though they had my marketing plan in writing, was uncomfortable using the same Arizona Association of REALTORS listing agreement as every other client of mine ever has used.

Including themselves, actually, six years ago.

You see, the basic listing agreement essentially gives the agent and brokerage permission to list and market a property. As this particular seller pointed out, there are few firm commitments in the listing agreement aside from installation of a lockbox.

That boiler plate, from a legal, contractual perspective, doesn’t even require you to list the property on the MLS!  It gives you the authority to do that, but doesn’t require it.

Which is true, as far as that goes. But that’s also where common sense needs to step in.

When I take a listing, the only party bearing the financial burden of marketing is me.

I’m paying for the sign to be installed. I’m paying for the color flyers. I’m paying for the professional photographer. I’m paying for the featured position on Trulia. I’m paying my assorted national and local dues to allow me MLS access so I can advertise listings in the MLS. I’m the one paying for the single property website. I’m the one paying for the Facebook ad.

Sure, if the home sells then I’ll make a profit. But that’s only if the home sells. Until that point in time, all the financial risk is on my head.

So, with that in mind … why would anyone believe I wouldn’t list a home for sale in the MLS, much less perform any other marketing chores.

Of course, I know the answer and it’s two-fold.

20130823234318294678000000-oFirst, I’m in an industry where the bare minimum is the norm for too many agents. Take a look at the picture to the right … that’s from an actual listing in the MLS. Let’s skip past the silliness of photographing a short hallway between the living and family rooms and go right to the larger point.

Is it too much to ask for the picture to be in focus?

I keep searching for the dark apparition in the photo since this looks more like client “evidence” on Ghost Hunters than it does a photo designed to attract a buyer’s interest in a property.

Second, these particular sellers were uncomfortable committing to a 90-day listing period. And, I am absolutely certain that buried in the desire to have a whole bunch of extra requirements added to the listing agreement, there was the thought process of pulling the plug after 60 days if the home didn’t sell even though we’re in a quickly slowing market and the home’s in a price range where it has been taking 45 days minimum to get a home sold unless it’s priced at a steep discount.

I could have added language many other agents use – yes, Mr. Seller, you can fire me but you need to put your reasons in writing and then I get three or five days to correct the situation and if corrected then we continue on with the listing – but that doesn’t tend to satisfy someone who wants to ability to pull the plug in an instant.

I also could have added language allowing the seller to instantly pull the plug … but I would have attached a non-refundable retainer to cover my up-front marketing expense because, at the end of the day, this is a business. And while I work to sell my homes as quickly as possible – I’m still hovering around the three-week mark for the year – not all are going to sell quickly, thus the longer listing and marketing period.

These folks probably wouldn’t have liked that either.

All all of that is well and good because, at the end of the day, these sellers and I were not a good fit because they’re lacking the one thing absolutely positively necessary in any of my business relationships.


If you don’t think I’m going to do what I say I’m going to do, don’t hire me. It’s really that simple.

If you are more concerned with the hows and wherefors of the sale versus the ultimate goal – the sale itself – there probably are better agents to work with because I tend to be results driven. As I have said on more than one occasion, the most ridiculous real estate tag line I’ve ever seen is “I don’t just sell your home, I market it!”

Guess what, Sparky … I don’t give a damn if you market my home. I just want it sold.  Unless I’m greatly misunderstanding the purpose here.

My marketing plan is out there for anyone to see. If you like what you see, call me. If not, that’s fine. I’ll still be here when that other agent hits all the checkmarks for aesthetics and still doesn’t sell your home.


Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at