For REALTORS®, the business of residential real estate is almost always upbeat. It’s positive vibes only when guiding people who are buying or selling homes. Smiling is mandatory during interactions, as all agents want to make the journey result in a happy ending, with satisfied clients who will hopefully have long memories.
For buyers and sellers, it’s not quite the same mindset, as very often their life savings and financial futures are in play. Stress levels rise, and if things don’t go smoothly for whatever reason, they will want answers. If they’re not content with what they’re told, there can be trouble. Sometimes big trouble, with legal ramifications.
Therefore, there can be no shortcuts, iffy explanations or misrepresentation missteps during the process of getting a house under contract. REALTORS® are held to a higher standard trying to earn commissions than people selling cars, or most anything else.
We asked two successful pros about the pitfalls, dangers and risks that can turn what seems like a routine agent/client relationship into a harrowing one. And not just from the buyer/seller perspective. Often there can be situations where the REALTORⓡ needs to find their way out of the relationship.
What are common situations agents need to avoid?
“Attempting to give advice on matters outside of their expertise as real estate sales people,” said Angie Mezza-Smith, senior managing broker for HomeSmart Georgia.
That simple sentence is a mouthful. Clients will feel free to ask all sorts of questions on all sorts of topics. Mortgages, contracts or anything one can imagine. Few agents have all the answers. A simple, ‘Let me find the answer to that and get right back to you,’ is the honest and best response. Tax and legal advice are also no-no’s for agents to be disbursing. They are for attorneys and accountants to handle.
“Avoid getting into ugly battles with fellow real estate agents,” Michelle Ballard, a HomeSmart agent in the Atlanta Metropolitan Area, said. “Be kind to every agent you meet or do a transaction with. You never know when you will see them again. They could possibly list a house that your clients love and you could potentially miss getting the house if you were unprofessional in the past with the listing agent.”
What potential problems can be headed off before too much time is wasted?
“Getting the client pre-qualified with a loan officer you trust,” said Mezza-Smith.
“I always ask for a preapproval from my clients,” notes Ballard. “In 2023, your client’s offer will likely not be accepted without one. It also allows you to make an offer the moment they find a house they love and you won’t need to worry about it being 10 p.m. with no pre-approval letter. I will not take anyone out to see homes without one, I wouldn’t even show a family member homes without one now.
“I learned my lesson very early on in my career that it not only shows your potential clients can afford the homes they are looking at, but you will also see how serious they are. People that are not serious or truly can’t buy a home will not take the time to get a pre-approval letter. The family member that did not get the pre-approval letter never moved. I would have wasted countless hours showing them houses and done hours of research for nothing because they were not serious about moving.”
What should newer agents know that only experience can teach them?
“They need to build up a strong database of contacts and continuously keep in touch with their sphere of influence,” asserted Mezza-Smith.
“Go with your gut and do not rush to a decision when a problem arises,” stressed Ballard. “Take your time to think about something prior to calling your client or another agent. Another wise agent told me this and it has been very beneficial.”
What kinds of problems can become legal issues for agents?
“Failing to disclose material defects,” said Mezza-Smith. “This is required, even if they are not asked for such disclosure, and even if the seller does not want to disclose defects or the property is being sold in ‘As Is’ condition.”
“I always make sure to go over the disclosures with my clients and tell them to disclose anything they know about the house that has been an issue in the past,” said Ballard. “If they tell me the issue, I also make sure it is in the disclosure.”
Other thoughts on turning negative situations into positive ones?
“Real estate transactions can be highly emotional for everyone concerned,” said Mezza-Smith. “When someone is anxious or upset, it is important to make them feel heard and understood before attempting to resolve the conflict or trying to come up with a compromised solution.”
“I always do my best to go above and beyond for clients,” said Ballard. “Sometimes your clients do not get a house they offered on or their closing is unexpectedly extended. You need to be positive and let them know you have done this many times in the past and it always works out…because it does.”