Risk and Reward: Buyers Going Agent Hopping

avatarthumbnailOne of the oft-unspoken truths but occasionally accepted truths about home buyers who start their real estate search on the Internet is this: buyers are searching for homes, not real estate agents.

Most buyers will end up working with the buyer who gets them access to the home. It serves as the reward for being in the right place at the right time. As David Knox, one of the better real estate trainers, has said repeatedly you don’t have to be the best to be successful. You just need to be there.

Arguments that there’s a difference between real estate agents, their knowledge and the service they provide generally are lost on the public at large. (By reading this blog, by the way, you no longer fall into that broad category. I don’t believe you’d be reading this blog, or any blog, if you simply were shopping for homes with no concern for who you end up working with down the line.)

It’s often difficult to sell the value of what we do because what we do is relatively similar from one transaction to the next, at least on the face of it. There’s much work that goes on virtually unnoticed behind-the-scenes.  But that doesn’t matter to many buyers.

Buyers want deals. This is what causes them to call listing agents on homes, believing there’s a built-in discount for purchasing a home through the listing agent because there is not a second half of the commission to be paid.

Technically this is true – many agents do have different commission rates if there’s an unrepresented buyer (NOTE: the buyer must be unrepresented, not seeking my representation in a Dual Agency scenario.) But it ignores the reality that many sellers focus more on sales price than net proceeds. The extra percentage or two a seller may save in these cases belongs in their pocket, at least in their minds.

Many have argued that the money “saved” on commissions “belongs” to the buyer because the seller already wrote it off of their net. Show me a seller who believes this, though. I’ve yet to find one.

Aside from those who prefer working with listing agents are buyers who hop from agent to agent for various reasons. Most often they don’t want to feel “tied down” to a certain agent, just in case they end up not liking them. Since they have done no homework to establish the agent’s credentials it’s understandable why they don’t want to be locked in to working with any one agent.

This leads to a dilemma on the part of many agents. Twice in the past three weeks I’ve met with prospective buyers and shown them homes. One of the two actually seems motivated to buy. But return calls aren’t coming for reasons I can’t quite figure out. Except that it was let slip by the buyers’ mom that they’ve viewed multiple homes with multiple agents over time.

There’s an agreement many agents use called a Buyer Broker agreement. This is the employment agreement that ties a client to an agent for a given period of time. I usually pull it out after I’ve shown a handful of homes, just enough for the buyer to get some sense that I really know what I’m doing (and also enough to give me the sense that I really want to work with them.)

Because of this, I’m left to try and determine in a quick phone conversation whether a prospective buyer a) is serious about buying and b) is serious about working with me. Some buyers believe we sit by the phone all day waiting for a call to show a home. When the call comes we’ll drop everything to get to the house in the hopes of getting rewarded for being in the right place at the right time.

It doesn’t work that way.

If I’m available, I’ll make the trip. Otherwise I’ll set an appointment for a time when I am not already working with other clients. Those who are simply hopping agents tend to head for the exits at this point, which is both unfortunate and necessary. I don’t think they’d be thrilled if it was work on their behalf I canceled to run across town to show a house to someone who will call another three agents tomorrow because they think we’re all alike.

We’re not. But you probably know this already. You read the blogs.


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 allphoenixrealestate.com.