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It’s the Strong That Survive – Right?

It’s been an odd few weeks in the real estate biz for me, and honestly, it’s been disappointing.

Only the Best Survive – Right?

Several years ago, I attended a seminar hosted by Tom Ferry of At the time, I was a coach for him and I remember him asking an audience of several hundred active agents if they were noticing the change in the industry and the housing market.   He also pointed out that some agents might not survive the upcoming shift.

I remember hearing the hoots and hollers. There was a collective thrill that those of us not serious about the business, would move on. And, I remember consciously wondering how many of those cheering the upcoming change, would still be in real estate in 2 or 3 years.

Today, I know that some of them are not. I watched excellent professionals leave the business. It wasn’t just that we lost those that weren’t committed to the industry, we lost those that were reliant on a consistent real estate income and simply could not sustain themselves in a stagnant market. Thankfully the market has improved, but we did loose some GOOD agents along the way.

The Bad Behavior

Sadly, in recent weeks, I’ve been disappointed with some of my fellow agents. I’ve submitted offers to agents that don’t return calls (even to confirm receipt of an offer), and I’ve had offers submitted on my own listings only to find the agent go dark on us.

Last week I submitted an offer on a property in excellent condition.  My buyer had 10% down, FHA financing, $35,000 over asking, fully underwritten loan approval subject to appraisal, and they were non-contingent.

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Sadly, we were not the only offer.  My clients lost it to a cash buyer whose offer was less.  While I understand the rationale and potential concerns with FHA financing, what I found baffling was the interaction with the agent.

She did not take any phone calls – only emails.  Her email is also blocked until you go through a spam clearance.  When I finally did have the brief opportunity to speak to her, 24 hours after submitting my offer, I tried to share with her my client’s excitement about the property and my long standing experience with their lender.  She quickly cut me off, “This is why I don’t take phone calls.  I’m not interested in any of that.”

This agent clearly does not care about her rapport with me.  She certainly isn’t moved by the emotional purchase of a home by an enthusiastic and hopeful buyer.

Real Estate is More than Numbers

I realize we are dealing with banks.  Numbers will dictate a transaction, which is fair.  But it’s imperative to treat these transactions with the dignity they deserve.  There is a family, a couple, an individual that often is impacted in dramatic ways by what we do. It’s a responsibility that we each should hold dear to us.

For an agent to submit an offer and then simply not return phone calls is astonishing to me.  For an agent to be given an offer (regardless of how many one has) and to act cavalierly as a recipient of those offers is a shame.

A Story to Remember

I once heard Steve Games speak (he used to be one of the owners of Prudential California Realty which he subsequently sold to a Warren Buffet company a few years ago).  In a moving and eloquent speech, he shared with us the first sale he ever made as an agent.  (Forgive me Mr. Games for paraphrasing this story.)

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His first sale was to a first time buyer.  When they were settled into their modest new home, they invited Games over for a BBQ.  As he looked down at the grill, he noticed a few hamburgers and one steak.  As the client served him that steak, the magnitude of his deeper meaning to this family set in – he had facilitated the accomplishment of a dream for this family.  He was so moved by that simple expression of gratitude that Games has shared that story with countless agents many years later.

Lest we forget…

I hope that the change in real estate ultimately leaves us with professionals – full or part time – but those that really see the heart behind each and every transaction.  Each city is a small town community of agents.  It’s about the clients we represent.

It’s about the relationships to one another.

Written By

Linsey Planeta is the Broker Owner of Belterra Fine Homes in Orange County, California. Linsey rants regularly on her blog, OC Real Estate Voice. She also provides sellers with tips on how to get their home sold on Why Didn't My Home Sell? She has been an active Real Estate Coach and Instructor and loves working with agents so that they may look at their business with fresh eyes, renewed purpose, and defined systems. Linsey can be found in her office or you can also find her on Twitter@Linsey.



  1. Patrick Harfst

    June 17, 2009 at 5:53 am

    Thanks for putting into words the very essence of what this profession is all about – helping families! So sad that some do not get it, and rather than leaving the business, they stay and foul the nest for the rest of us…

  2. Thomas Johnson

    June 17, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Consider this: The banks couldn’t enter Real Estate via Congress, so they are now entering Real Estate by owning the inventory. If a third of the inventory is REO, the banks are as big as all the Realogy brokers. How long before they create a new outsource brokerage REOlogy and sell franchises? I could suggest some brand names like Cemetery 21…

  3. Benn Rosales

    June 17, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    @agent21 lol now that’s a power move!

  4. Paula Henry

    June 18, 2009 at 3:25 am

    Linsey – We have agents here representing REO companies who will only accept an offer by email along with all the downloaded disclosures, then tell you they will call you when they know anything. You do not receive an answer if you call; only instructions for submitting an offer.

    If people have no passion, they should leave the business; unfortunately as the industry has changed, so has the behavior of those who have never represented a first time home buyer.

    I recently submitted an offer for a first time home buyer and the first thing the agent said was, tell me it’s a cash offer; I need a cash offer. And that seems to be the norm.

  5. Claude Labbe

    June 19, 2009 at 2:52 am

    It does seem the bar has been reset lower in the recent past; that only makes it easier for the true professional to be even more different. Some clients will notice over time that their Realtor has a better approach than others, some won’t notice as much. And yes, other agents will notice also.

    It’s the way to be, and over time, reputations will be made. In the meantime, I need to go send a few more emails to those agents who aren’t returning calls.

  6. Ruthmarie Hicks

    June 19, 2009 at 6:19 am

    Interesting about the preamble regarding the hoots and hollers of those hoping for a “cleaning out” of non-serious agents. I’ve seen a lot of that on Active Rain. Long time agents looking forward to scarfing up more business after these “losers” had been forced out of the business. Careful what you wish – you just might get it! I wrote a couple of blogs on that forum that if you are saluting the failure of other agents then YOU are the failure. I was laughed out, ridiculed and because I was relatively new – told to pretty much “step aside” and let the “true professionals” do the work. Many of these agents have disappeared. Maybe to their own blogs – but my guess is that quite a few of them ended up leaving the business. They made an assumption: that because they were long time agents with deep roots in the business that THEY would survive and newbies like me would soon be history.

    As for quality surviving – cream tends to rise to the top – but so does sludge. Assuming that the “clear out” would be totally meritorious is extremely naive – if not downright foolish. Some were just cunning enough to survive – they were always about the money and never about the client. They survive because they are always thinking about “number 1.” Others simply had more resources ($$$) to ride out the downturn. Some had alternative careers with flexible hours to help them through the storm. I’ve been very disappointed in the quality of many of the survivors in my market.

  7. tomferry

    June 30, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Linsey … I hope you can hear me clapping for this post from my office!

    This is great what you wrote, “I hope that the change in real estate ultimately leaves us with professionals – full or part time – but those that really see the heart behind each and every transaction. Each city is a small town community of agents. It’s about the clients we represent.

    It’s about the relationships to one another.”

    You nailed it with this one! We are directly responsible for impacting our local community and economy by the work we do as PROFESSIONALS!

    Thank you!

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