The Least Important Question You Can Ask in Real Estate

avatar.jpgI’m supposed to be watching Mission Impossible III but this post has been building in the brain for the past week.

Last weekend I took a sign call on my listing in Estrella Mountain Ranch. Knowing that it wasn’t in an area where there would be any random traffic, I asked if the caller lived in the area. Naturally, he did. We talked for awhile and the questions of commissions came up.

I told him what I charged but, since he was in the military, I told him to check out USAA’s Movers Advantage program. Use a Movers Advantage-recommended agent for your buy or sell and you get some cash back at the end. And I happen to be one of the agents in the program for my office.
Last week I spoke to him and his only question for me was posed like this … the person who sold me the house said she’d list it for 4% and my bank will do the same. What is your response to that?

My response was simple: I don’t list for 4%. (The lone exception being if I represent the seller and an unrepresented buyer makes the purchase.) For the service I offer and for the marketing plan I have in place, I feel my normal commission is justified. Not to mention the fact I’d already written off a large chunk of that commission to recommend the Movers’ Advantage program.

Perhaps the commission question isn’t the least important query someone can ask of a real estate agent. After all, it’s only fair for someone to know how much money they are spending (or, as Ardell argues, how much of the buyers’ money they are spending.) But to make that the first (much less only) question is stunning.

Think about what it says about a buyer …

  • No interest in how a home will be marketed
  • No concern for the level of service to be received
  • No concern for the level of communication
  • No thought of an agent’s track record, and whether listing the home will equate to a sale somewhere down the line
  • No interest in the agent’s responsiveness to the sellers’ needs

None of that possibly can matter to someone who only asks about commissions. Instead, they only can be worried about saving the most money (or the most of the buyers’ money in deference to Ardell) if and only if their agent happens to sell the home; if the home does not sell, they’ve saved one or two or three percent of zero and added the days on market albatross to their home’s list of features.

If anything other than potential cost does matter, this is the one question that should be saved until all of the other very important bases are covered.

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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