How Will We Be Remembered?

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So what’s a Realtor writing about ho,w we should be remembered?  Hey, everyone’s got an opinion right?  But seriously, I was watching ESPN tonight as players and people from State College were remembering Joe Paterno.  To put this in some context, like most anyone who is a college football fan, we either have memories of JoePa; memories of his players or all of the above.  Yet here is a man that did nothing to stop a sexual predator who raped young boys in the Penn State Football shower.  It raises the question, how do we behave and how do we judge how, as a people, we behave?

OK, so that’s pretty heavy stuff that has nothing to do with real estate, yet let me relate my last week…

Picture a home that is fantastic yet has come on the market as a short sale, totally under priced.  I’m talking stupid priced.  This home sold for $1.75 new, before upgrades, of which there were countless, and landscaping which was perfect.  Views, open space, the works… you get the idea.  And it came on the market at $875,000!  So naturally it goes multiple offer right?  Of course… Now picture me; a Realtor fighting to make a living every day.  I know the value of this property.  The goal I tell my clients is not to get it at the price offered but rather to get your offer accepted so you are in first position with the lender to reply to their counter offer.  It’s at least $200K below market so you just want to get in the game so to speak.  I have 3 clients in the market for this home – only one can get it.  There are also another 5 buyers who want it also.  Ugh.  The first buyer I have writes at my recommended sight unseen, all cash at full price.  The third writes higher; still well below market but 10% above the asking.  The middle buyer is a friend; a former neighbor and someone I know wants this home in the worst way.  Yet the other offers are for all cash and he can’t do that, but his best friend can.   He tells me, “I’ll write the higher offer with financing and my buddy will write another offer at a lower price all cash and “sell to me later.”  “Why not just write a strong offer with both you on the title?” I say.  “I’ll write it and we’ll come in strong”.  He says his buddy who is a broker says that he has to write with the listing agent if he is to get the deal.  “Uh, what”? I say?  “You are going to cut me out of the deal so you can try a plan that you think will result in you getting the house?”  “It’s the only way” he says.

So how do we judge this behavior?  Is it right for the buyer to work around the agent for his best interest?  Should the agent step side so the friend gets the home?  How close is the friend?  Isn’t it a business transaction?  What is ethically, morally right?  What should the parties do?

I led with the Joe Paterno story which is a story about a hallowed man in Happy Valley, who showed terrible, terrible judgment after years of exemplary service.  Do we assess his story without his moral and ethical lapse or do we condemn him for it?  Should the friend/client who does wrong by his friend/agent be judged as a bad guy or a person just doing what’s right for his family?

I relayed this story to another very successful local Realtor.  He said, we are supposed to care about our clients but they don’t have to care about us.

Unless you’ve been paid on commission only, it’s probably impossible to fathom what it means to both make a sale and lose one.  I remember once, after working a client for hours while selling new homes, I finally got the check.  I ran into the sales office, dropped to one knee, fist and elbow pulled down and shouted, “Yes”!  Someone from corporate who happened to be at my sales office at the time, just looked at me like I had lost my mind.  She was on salary; I was not, and she couldn’t grasp the magnitude of what had transpired.

The sales racket is not what it used to be.  Sure, there are still plenty  con men and women who will lie, swindle and cheat a rube whenever given the opportunity.  But there are more people like me: Hard working sales people, looking out for their client’s best interest and by and large doing a good job.  For Paterno, I believe he showed such poor judgment he will fall amongst the Al Campanis’ and Helen thomas’ of the world; perhaps not quite the Pope Pius XII of the world who, during the Nazi regime, turned a blind eye to the Jews and their plight, but none the less, Paterno will be viewed with a record tainted beyond repair.  Perhaps you will consider these stories as unrelated.  Perhaps you will side with the buyer who only wanted a home for his family.  But to a salesperson who lives and dies by his client’s loyalty and behavior, the line between ethical and cruel; decent and indecent are very clear.  Something to think about next time you deal with a salesperson.  Do as to others, as you’d have them do unto you… words and concepts we really should take under advisement, don’t you think?

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