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Nice Guy or Sucker?

Just got back from Inman Connect and have all these great ideas to take our business to the next level, to engage our foreign business more aggressively and can’t find enough hours in the day to start making more things happen.

But while strategizing (yeah, yeah – I analyze, study and always have a strategy), I realized that there are a couple of lingering questions that sit unanswered in our business. Of course I’m going to throw it out here for our genius readers to take a stab at it. I go back and forth with these and always end up in the same place. Don’t be afraid to call me a sucker if you feel the need, because it’s exactly how I feel at times.

When Rick and I decided to get into Real Estate Sales, we saw a need for nice, down-to-earth people in the industry. People that had good head on their shoulders and were willing to share their knowledge while remaining ethical and trustworthy – cake, no?

Nope – not so much cake. The same people that trusted us as an architect and accountant, no longer trusted us when we became Realtors (what’s the matter with THAT picture?).

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Anyways – we made a pact to always be nice, to always be helpful and to never place the “mighty dollar” before our relationships. Here’s where it gets good. What happens when you are constantly approached by neighbors and friends with real estate questions – preparing their home for sale, rental market, pricing their home, structural engineer, good inspector, how to deal with a difficult agent………but when it comes down to hiring a Realtor, they choose someone else!

We, as professionals, know that the more help you offer, the better the chances of getting the gig. But we also know that there’s a chance that we won’t. We also have a very matter of fact “you win some, you loose some” type of mentality and know when to say “…’s ALL good!”. But today, I felt horrible when I had to put a stop to a local lady that kept calling me for advice but in 3 different occasions this past year hired a different Realtor.

Maybe there’s a secret formula = one hint + one call – one slap ….. VOILA!!

(can substitute the slap for a stab or a kick).

Tell me what you do, how you maneuver around those questions innocently – if you dance or if you are just straight forward from the get-go. Do I look like a sucker to you? (let me have it….I can take it)

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Written By

Ines is all Miami, all the time. A Miami Beach Realtor® with Majestic properties, Ines authors,, and and is always on communication's leading edge. She goes out of her way to engage and be engaged, often using Mojitos to keep the mood light and give everything she does a Miami flavor. You can find her goofing off or instigating trouble at Twitter, Flickr, Facebook or LinkedIn.



  1. Mariana Wagner

    July 29, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Ines- We run into the same issues, too. I am not interested in the HARDSELL … and sometimes that is what is needed. I guess when someone comes along who needs a HARDSELL I am just not the right person for them.

    Regarding being used, abused and dumped (i.e. we help them with all kinds of things and they choose a different agent): It happens. But eventually, we started seeing the signs of client infidelity in the early stages and nip the relationship in the bud.

    I would much rather be the agent I am – one who consults and educates and risk losing some clients because of a lack of a HARDSELL.

  2. Matt Thomson

    July 29, 2008 at 9:49 am

    It’s a good thing that agents have different personalities, because clients do too. No one agent is a perfect fit for every client. I’d say stick to what works for you, stay nice, and answer questions…UNTIL you know you’re being used.
    In the case of the lady who has continued to use your help yet hire someone else, there’s 1 of 2 approaches I’d take:
    1. “I’m sorry, but you really need to ask your agent this question. As a Realtor, I’d feel horrible knowing my clients were going to another Realtor for advice, so I don’t want to do that to a colleague.” If they come back with “I’ve tried and they don’t know,” then a simple “Maybe you need to sit down with them and really ask the hard questions to find out if they’re the best agent to represent you in this instance.”
    OR (and I don’t like this one as much)
    2. “You know I’m always happy to help you, but this is what I do for a living. I appreciate that you seem to recognize my knowledge and my helpful attitude, but in the long run I do get paid for doing this, and you’ve chosen to hire someone else. I’m afraid that as long as you’re represented by another Realtor, I can no longer assit you in your real estate needs.”

    Nice guy is great, door mat doesn’t work.

  3. Mike Price

    July 29, 2008 at 9:52 am

    If it makes you feel any better, this problem is not exclusive to your line of consultation. I could sing the blues about being the nice guy that finished last, but I won’t change. I am always working on the balancing act and I may never get it exactly right. The return on my investment of providing free advice and being as transparent as possible (within reason) is a strategy that has a long term pay out. There is an 80+ yr old business man that sold his company in 1993. He carries a PDA with over 5,000 contacts in it. Those contacts are just as important to him as the 93 million he sold his business for. Mr. Hanes is my kind of guy….a nice guy. Nobody will ever call him a sucker.

  4. Irina Netchaev

    July 29, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Ines, I think all of us had experiences like that. Friends, neighbors come for advice, but then end up hiring another real estate agent. Keep your “nice” attitude. It’s important and it’s who YOU are.

    I look at it this way, I’d rather work with someone I like and enjoy being around then someone who uses and abuses. If a client feels comfortable working with someone else – all the power to them. They just are not going to get the type of high level, consultative service that I give to my clients. Their loss, not mine.

    That lady that keeps asking you questions, but has worked with 3 different agents sounds like a nightmare. Be very grateful that she did NOT hire you. OUCH!

  5. Susie Blackmon

    July 29, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Being fairly new to this side of the RE table, I don’t come with an arsenal of experience with which to expound. However, it has always been my intention to develop relationships over time in such a way that people will want to COME TO ME, rather than me chasing them. We have over 400 realtors in my county, and 1,250 listings with approximately 45-50 sales per month! I’ve been here a little over one and one-half years. Because our market is extremely slow, my experiences are somewhat curtailed at the present time, although I am happy to say that my listings (3) have all come from my website. I blog, and blog, and blog, and take pictures! I’d be less than honest if I didn’t add that I am amazed at the [lack of] business acumen and integrity that is prevalent, and I am certainly more aware of why we are less than respected. However, the cream always rises to the top… I have a feeling the Gen-Xers will want, and look for, those who are PROFESSIONALS, and the tides will change. I feel that by giving more, as you do, you will eventually reap the benefits, and in the meantime you can’t make a silk purse of of a sow’s ear, so perserverance is the key (I think!).

  6. Jason Farris

    July 29, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Great topic Ines!
    I like you (umm let me try that again) I, like you, often find myself in the same situation; giving advice, answering questions etc to find out later that these very people I have helped have chosen to go with another agent. After being caught off guard and disappointed one time too many I decided to take action. I went straight to the source of every instance I could recall and asked them straight forward ‘why’ they didn’t choose me. The responses i received were interesting… ‘we didn’t want you to know how upside down we were’, ‘i knew you would understand, where my kids soccer coach would guilt me 24/7’, ‘we didnt want to bother you on a Sunday & thought you would still get paid if we wrote up the offer with the agent holding the open house’, and my favorite ‘we knew you would be very aggressive selling our home and frankly we weren’t sure we really wanted to sell’.
    At the end of the day I came to realize that I need to do a better job at educating my clients (friends & family included) about the process and hope that they do whats best for them (maybe choosing me isn’t always the best solution), as that really is what its all about.. helping others help themselves. In Karma, Jason

  7. Matt Stigliano

    July 29, 2008 at 10:57 am

    Ines – I know what you’re saying. I make it my practice to be helpful and do what I can for the people I come in contact with. I think its the “right” thing to do. I often have people in the office telling me not to be so forthcoming with help and information. These are the same people that I see chasing leads all day long. While I see their point (closing the deal and “getting the gig” is good for business and the pocket), I am definitely more of a give and *eventually* you will get back. Now of course, I’m not foolish enough to think that everyone I give to will give back, but I do think that I’d rather be seen as the guy who helps, than the guy who keeps all the info to himself and only hands it over after I’ve gotten 10 million pieces of paper signed assuring me that we work together exclusively. I just don’t want to be that guy. Maybe I’m not jaded enough yet?

    I think Susie has a good point…the “tides will change.” There are a lot of things happening in Web 2.0 that I think will positively affect the world of real estate and how we do business. I also think that with the right attitude and work ethic, those of us that choose to “do the right thing” will succeed as some of the older schools of thought begin to drop out of the race. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing the ways people do business, I just know what I want to do.

  8. ines

    July 29, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Mariana – here’s a shoulder bump for you! (I am not at all surprised that you and I have the same outlook on our business)

    Matt – thanks for that! I actually used number 2 and this is what she had to say? “you mean to tell me you want to charge me for consulting?”…..I will leave it at that

    But I agree that number one is the way to go unless other measures are necessary

    Mike – it DOES make me feel better – to know that there are similar people with similar issues is definitely a sign that we are doing it right and we won’t let our values drop.

    Irina – in our first years of business, it was heartbreaking to learn friends did not trust us with their home sales. Now we know it has nothing to do with trust, but it’s still hard to swallow.

    Susie – you are absolutely right and look at the comments above to reinforce your statement. There are a couple of Big Dogs in my immediate farm area that get the most local business, but I can see that slowly, people’s perception of what’s necessary is changing – keep at it! you will see results.

  9. ines

    July 29, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Jason – education is key…..there are those friends that don’t want to put “friendship” in the way of business and I totally get that (maybe a referral would please everyone involved). I personally have dealt with tons of friends and our friendship has only gotten stronger after working with them. And how about all those customers that become friends. It’s a personable business and it’s up to us to set limits and educate, no doubt about it.

    Matt – what goes around comes around right? (both positively and negatively) – we should give and not expect anything in return……KARMA.

  10. Matt Stigliano

    July 29, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Ines – I was going to use the word “karma” in there somewhere, but wound up not. Well put.

  11. Ken Brand

    July 29, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    So, my 3cents worth.

    Penny One – You’re doing the right thing, helping out, connecting, etc., don’t change that.

    Penny two – At the conclusion of you helpful advice, etc., I would include some wrap up convo with something like this, of course tailor it to your personality. They as a question, you answer, wait for it, they say ‘thanks”, you spring into subtle but direct, hug it out specific dialogue mode: “Your welcome. Thanks for asking…hey let me ask you a question if you don’t mind? I’m always doing field surveys, here’s my question, “If a neighbor or a co-worker was thinking about selling or buying a home and they asked you for a the name of a Realtor, who’s the first person you think of, who would you recommend?” If they say you, sweet. Next I’d ask, “Of all your _______ who do you think will be moving next”. They give you a name, ask, “May I call them”. Then if you’re creative or even more bold, I would ask, ” How about you, if you decided to make a move, would you be open minded to interviewing me for the job?” Something like that.

    Penny three – yeah, it’s a bit odd, a bit aggressive for some, but you know what, they are asking you for real estate advice because they view you as savvy, go for the gusto. I believe in Karma too, I also believe in the law of reciprocity, and I know those who don’t ask, don’t get. Last we all know that “hope” is a crappy strategy.

  12. ines

    July 29, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Ken – thanks for the laugh 😉 – “hope” is a crappy strategy and although many of us don’t like the hard sale, but I do think there could be a happy medium where you can ask the questions after the fact. I personally addressed this particular lady that way and she apologized and said her husband made the decisions.

    It’s a great discussion because those of us that are not aggressive sales people, have issues with being straight forward…..but I do think that it’s important to recognize the difference between being aggressive and just “hoping”, as you very well put it.

  13. Will

    July 29, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    You know the old saying: Why buy the cow when the milk comes free.

    I love Matt Thompson’s answer. Bingo. And I ‘ve used similar wording before. It’s refreshing to take a stance that you have value and your service and knowledge has value that, while sharing and giving teasers away for free is good, demands a certain level of respect and compensation.

    My favourite is people calling me (whom I’ve never met or talked to before) to discuss a deal they are in (with another agent) at the moment and wondering if they made the right decision. Ha! What do they want me to say? This is all I can say: “Gee, you should have come to me sooner… talk to your agent and keep coming back to the site. Hope you like it and tell your friends about me.”

  14. Jay Thompson

    July 29, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    I like to think I’m a nice guy, and I give FREELY of my time. Too freely, but it’s hard to change ones fundamental personality.

    I am the polar opposite of hard sell.

    I *have* gotten better recently though in telling people that I can’t help them if they are working with another agent. I just stumble through it. Most people seem to accept it. More than once, someone has come to us after firing their agent because they found us, our site, and/or the blog helpful in some way.

    It is *really* hard to tell someone “no more free advice”, but it is sometimes necessary. DO NOT feel bad about it. (which is easier said than done)

  15. ines

    July 29, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Will, we’ve been getting a lot of calls and e-mails lately of people finding miamism and saying “I wish I would have known you 6 months ago” – we just have to keep hitting it and it’s those people that will make the difference when the time comes.

    Jay – I have to learn to get better without the shock of “I have to feed my children” type of answer or “do you see ‘will work for free’ anywhere around me?” – I guess we have to keep being ourselves and know our boundaries and be able to do it gracefully. (definitely easier said than done)

  16. Vicki Moore

    July 29, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    My response is that I’d really like to help but cannot not interfere with the fiduciary relationship between them and their agent. I just refer them back to that agent. What does your agent say?

    Besides I want to get kissed first. There’s no point in getting sued for advice you gave when you didn’t even sell the property.

    I’m certainly not a hard sell type and question that all the time – maybe I’d make more/do better if I was. Thing is I can’t and won’t. Don’t wanna.

  17. Vicki Moore

    July 29, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Oh! I didn’t answer the question. Nice guy. Definitely nice guy – not sucker. I met you and know that you’re a real, true-hearted person. 🙂

  18. Dan Connolly

    July 29, 2008 at 4:29 pm

    I’m not sure how long you have been in the business, but the people who aren’t using you are probably worried that you don’t have enough experience yet. These people, if you give them good advice and remain friendly will convert to clients later as time passes. But even when you have been in business for a long time people will still use the person they perceive as the neighborhood expert. I have people who let me sell them their new house but list with the neighborhood prima donna.

    Another thing is that some people have a rule against working with friends in a business capacity.

    In general I would give the advice and not worry about it. It will come back to you in the long run. If you are really frustrated you might go ahead and ask, “I am curious, why did you hire Agent X?”

    Really though if they are listed with another agent it is really an ethical violation to advise them. I personally think it’s a stupid self serving rule made up by NAR (think Doctors and second opinions) but you can always take that angle.

  19. ines

    July 29, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Vicki – I just wish I had that perfect answer when it happens….I will have to rehearse 🙂 and thank you…’re not a sucker either!

    Dan – not to do with experience (but could be the reason for others), we have established ourselves a neighborhood experts but I can certainly see the point with friends not wanting to work with us in a business capacity (then don’t ask me for my help). The last time I asked why, the answer was price…..they ended up selling 8 months later for less than we had originally told them to list for OUCH!
    (thanks for the French btw) 😉

  20. Bill Lublin

    July 29, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    I find it hard to believe that anyone would choose another real estate professional after meeting you , but what can I say.

    Your situation is so common that it has generated great responses from all of those who have written earlier, and I would agree that you can’t always be “the” agent, even if we think you’re the best agent. Everyone knows more then one person, and sometimes their reasons for making the choices aren’t obvious to us, but doing the right thing will be its own reward. That being said you still need to be aware of people abusing your skill and knowledge.

    And while no one wants to be agressive, there is nothing wrong with being assertive, and pilitely letting them know that your clients pay you for the information they’re asking for, and you wouldn;t want to betray their confidence by providing the information for free to people who did not choose you as their representative.

  21. Drew

    July 29, 2008 at 7:56 pm

    you guys are killing me! Can’t wait to see how much weight I lose from this comment. My thumbs on my iPhone are working! Always entertaining. Tnx

  22. ines

    July 29, 2008 at 8:09 pm

    Bill, you are such a cool guy. Love love love the answer

    your clients pay you for the information they’re asking for, and you wouldn;t want to betray their confidence by providing the information for free to people who did not choose you as their representative

    After this post… better believe I will be equipped with an arsenal of great answers.

  23. ines

    July 29, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    Hey Drew, I know how you feel with all the thumb typing – but remember, if you need real estate information… better be clear about your intentions …..we have a MEAN group here! 😉

  24. Jamie Geiger

    July 30, 2008 at 12:47 am

    I like many, give freely, but am adopting a bit of a tougher skin, because I have no choice, gas is expensive and have to really look what is best for me and my family. I the case you outlined, I guess, I would ask, in a most not defensive manner-“I appreciate that you value my opinion, but you have not hired me as your listing agent, and I must respect the client/agent relationship/fiduciary and unless I am your LA, I can not give you any advice” Maybe that will send this person into “light-bulb” mode, and think- I need to hire this agent.

  25. Mack in Atlanta

    July 30, 2008 at 6:44 am

    Here is another name for giving free advise “Trulia Vioices”. While something may come from it at sometime, I haven’t seen anything yet.

  26. ines

    July 30, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Jamie – I think after reading everyone’s feedback that it has to do with what you feel comfortable with and to recognize when you are being taken advantage of.

    Mack – I guess that’s a fair analogy as well as the advice we give in our own blogs. What I now do with Trulia Voices is that I include a link to my blog that deals with the question at hand (it’s the beauty of having a large library of blog posts to refer back to).

  27. Thomas Johnson

    July 30, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    Them: “Tom, What do you think my house is wort….”
    Me: ” Let’s set an appointment and see what we have.” Out comes the Palm-name email phone time of appt.

    I tell stories of situations, perhaps like theirs, perhaps not. The story can delight or amaze, but surely hammer your competence in the toughest market we have seen in a while, with a velvet fist. CNN says the market sucks- Really? We just are not participating in that market, as a matter of fact, we just listed;sold;leased for a wonderful family who had to ….. and we were able to …. and they are now moved into….because we were able to… and this is what we did to make it happen. When can you meet to see if we can … for your family…

    The second you convert the discussion into a business conversation the better off we are. If it’s just friendly chit chat the conversation will revert to chit chat. If it’s a real discussion you will know. Then follow up. Apply it consistently and they will expect that the most aggressive agent they know, you will be trying to do business with them because that is what we do and it would be pure negligence on our part to allow them to be represented by anyone else. Just like David Beckham, with the transaction on the line we should want the ball because that will be the best outcome for our client.

  28. ines

    July 31, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Tom – please don’t take offense, but the discussion is not about proving our worth or knowing how to sell and much less about knowing how to turn a conversation into “real business conversation” – I think most of us prove our worth on a daily basis – the question is about how to handle those people that decide to keep asking for our opinion and expertise but ultimately don’t use our services.

    For example – “tom, I plan to sell my house in the next few months and would like to do a pre-inspection of the property – can you recommend a service that can do that and maybe a painter and handyman to help me spruce up the house?”

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