Good Boundaries When Choosing a Friend or Relative as Your Realtor

listing real estate agent in Hingham

Real Estate Education: Article 2 for Sellers & Buyers
This is the second real estate article in a series about purchasing or selling your home.

from South Shore Realtor Alice Pierce blog

Visit my website anytime for professional real estate services!

The Spring Real Estate Market of 2016 is fast approaching, and you have decided to sell your home in Hingham, or in a community on the South Shore of Boston. If you read my last article in this series, written with the home seller in mind, you might have started making your lists in the notebook designated specifically for the real estate sale to come. As you know, there are many paces ahead of you, so to make the journey go smoothly, choosing a Realtor is your next logical step.

Almost everybody knows a real estate agent, so by all appearances, finding a Realtor should be straightforward.. The fact is, there is more thought and effort when considering your options. Although I intended to write just one real estate article about choosing a real estate agent, when I thought about all of the different scenarios while working with friends or family members, it became increasingly more interesting. While researching this, I started to recall many of my own situations with friends and family over my 13 years of experience as a Hingham Realtor, and some experiences my colleagues have had. I quickly realized that this topic needed to stand alone.

Whether you are a home seller, buyer, or Realtor, we are a diverse group and have varying opinions on whether or not to work with friends and family. Every real estate transaction is unique and colored by the individuals involved, the particulars about the property itself, contract terms, financing options for the home buyer, closing costs, home inspections, and so forth. It is safe to say that no two transactions are alike so a formulaic approach to answer your question, “Should I use my friend or relative as my Realtor?” will not work. You are the only person that can make the decision to involve a friend or relative in the sale of your home.
No Matter What…

If you gather opinions on this matter, you will hear a lot of “shoulds” and “should nots,” when really it is a matter of personal comfort and opinion. Nobody out there has the right answer for you, because nobody is right or wrong. There are, however, factors to consider no matter who you are considering as your listing Realtor.

Buying or selling a home is one of life’s biggest decisions and can be stressful. A good Realtor, regardless of their relationship with you as a family member, friend or stranger, will provide buffers to any stressful moments. A true professional real estate agent will form a business relationship with you and use clear communication to avoid your feeling misunderstood, confused or surprised. When you begin to interview possible agents, use the same considerations for all possible listing real estate agents, no matter who they are to you. Whether it is Aunt Millie, Cousin Craig, best friend Barbara or a complete stranger, think carefully about the importance of your potential business relationship.

Choosing a top performer in real estate gives you the edge towards accomplishing your goal of listing, marketing and selling your home for the best possible price. To reach this level of professionalism, certain traits and skills are needed, and these are things you will notice when you interview your candidates. The first and perhaps most obvious thing is the length of time a person has been working full-time in their real estate career. Aside from all of the experience, knowledge and wisdom that time offers, longevity cultivates the important collegial connections. To be known, trusted and respected by other Realtors is an important link that you might not realize. The person who buys your house is likely to come from the network of real estate agents in your area.

Another common trait of successful Realtors is the motivation to learn and impart their knowledge to customers. Once you have the relevant information, your confidence will increase and you can proceed with making the best decisions possible. Within the relationship, make sure you can feel comfortable expressing your opinions and expectations without sugar coating anything. The last thing you want is to feel pulled to watch over or caretake the person you are counting on. Although all the final decisions are yours, relying on the expertise of a real estate agent can be a source of comfort. A give and take of control between your Realtor and all involved in the sale of your house makes for a winning team, so always be willing to share the reins.
There is a Realtor in Your Life, Somewhere

There are some real estate agents who insist on never working with family members or friends and just as many buyers and sellers who subscribe to this hard and fast rule. There is nothing wrong with keeping relatives and friends out of the loop altogether based on your own personal preferences, just like there is nothing wrong with forging ahead with a friend or relative. People say that leaving friends out of business dealings is a way to protect the treasures inherent in the friendship in the event the transaction has sticking points.

There are subtle differences between a family member and a friend when it comes to working together as Realtor and customer. Relatives will always be related, and sometimes friendships fade as people change and outgrow each other. You will not see your friend at family events, but your relative will always be there.

One colleague of mine stressed the point that, no matter how the sale of your house goes, you will always be in some kind of contact with a relative. In other words, there will always be holidays and family events where you will inevitably see this person. To him, it is simply not worth skewing the family dynamics. He recalls his first house, before he even though of real estate as a career, and hiring his sister-in-law to sell his home, and to help him find his next home, “I avoided having those head-on conversations, and it was not really a conscious decision,” he said. “It was more about protecting the dynamics within our families, and considering multiple family members. At least with a friend, it is usually just the two of you under consideration.”
How to Decide

There are many situations when a friend-real estate agent arrangement is ideal, providing your friend possesses the qualities of a good Realtor. Sometimes is is easier to hire your friend rather than sift through and interview multiple realtors. A Redfin Research study reported that in 2014, a survey of close to 300 sellers saw one third who evaluated only one Realtor to list their homes.

People choose Realtors close to them because trust has already been established, tested over time, and proven itself. Most of us trust family members and friends more than strangers. It is trust that gives you confidence and clarity in your proceedings, and a value that I hold high above almost everything else.

But it is risky to choose a Realtor just because of blood ties or having a tried and true friendship. Just because you are wonderful friends doesn’t mean that the qualities you enjoy make this person a top Realtor. You likely formed most of your friendships regardless of a friend’s career choice. If you ask yourself some questions, you can make a clear decision about whether or not to use your Realtor friend in the sale of your home.

A good real estate agent is somebody you trust to guide, educate and inform you, and also to intervene on your behalf when they see the need. This characteristic comes from having a free flowing communication between the two of you, no matter what type of information is discussed. Even when I deliver information that is less than desirable, I must be honest about everything, and at the same time realistically reassuring.

Think about how your friend or relative relates with people. Working with a real estate agent who relates comfortably with the many different Realtors in the area, is more important than it seems. Real estate is a naturally social, relational career. As a real estate agent I spend time with my colleagues at meetings, conferences, and workshops. Sometimes we tour listings together as a group and we rely on each other for fresh ideas and resources. As Realtors, our networking skills are critical to the growth of our business, and to the positive experiences of our clients.

Maybe you can pose some questions about your friend’s approach and experience to negotiations and bringing people together. I may have mentioned that many years ago I was a teacher in the Duxbury Public Schools. Working with other people as a team and negotiating with different groups prepared me for my next career as a Realtor.

Ask yourself, and perhaps your friend, if you can have an honest and open discussion about the feedback you need from a Realtor. A friend might be too empathically tied to you and protect you from a sound reality check. For example, you may not like hearing that your preferred listing price is too high, but it’s your friend’s responsibility to give you the objective truth with no sugar coating.

Privacy boundaries around finances and money matters is also a good thing to consider when your friend is a Realtor. Maybe you are a more private person who does not like to discuss money and finances with friends. Information about your budget or your thoughts about the amount you’re willing to accept for your home might be shared more comfortably with a real estate professional that you don’t know. If this is the case, let your friend know that you thought long and hard about your decision and that although you’d like to support him or her, you are a very private person and prefer to keep you business relationships and personal relationships separate.

Talking about commissions can also become awkward. You might think that having a family member or friend list your house is a way to save a little money because the commission is negotiable. This is a dangerous assumption, and one that has created tension between friends.

You probably know how long your friend has been working in the real estate field. If you are thinking that “someone” has to be a new Realtor’s first customer, think carefully because that first customer is not you. This doesn’t mean that your friend and new Realtor is out of the process altogether and there are some options to include them.

Ask your friend if he or she would be willing to co-list with someone in their office That way, they feel involved and you still receive expert guidance and professional care. You could also ask your friend or relative for a referral to another agent in their office. Another option is to ask your relative or friend to come meet with you just as he or she does with any other potential new customer. That way you will get the full run down regarding the listing process. It could also be helpful for this person to hone their skills. Be sure to let them know that you are interviewing other Realtors and that your decision will made after you have met with everyone.

Prevention can help diffuse misunderstandings. Having an honest, kind chat with your family member or friend avoids any hurt feelings when the cat is out of the bag about your house going on the real estate market. Always highlight the point that your relationship is far more important than any business deal, and the importance of keeping the two separate. The majority of Realtors reported feeling jilted when relatives or friends embarked on a real estate deal without them. Depending on the closeness of your relationship, it might make sense to speak with all the important people in your lives who just happen to be real estate agents.

The final decision comes down to confidence in your real estate agent, above and beyond all else. You want your agent to be competent, skilled, professional, personable and someone who will listen carefully to your concerns. The process of selling your home, and buying a new home, is a hands on journey where I make myself completely available, because it is the relationship that makes things go more smoothly.

As a listing real estate agent in Hingham and on the South Shore of Boston, I know there are many things that I offer my clients. I also feel very confident about what Coldwell Banker offers in terms of the level of marketing available.


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