Hand Over That Suitcase Full of Money and Walk Away

Would a customer feel comfortable handing one of your agents a suitcase filled with cash? They should, and here’s why.

April 16, 2015

All too often, I hear about consumers who hire agents simply because they know the person, felt obligated, or worse, negotiated a discounted commission. We know how the story ends: horrible MLS photos from a mobile phone, no phone calls or e-mails returned by the agent, the consumer loses money on the purchase or sale — and sometimes there’s even a lawsuit. Poor representation hurts buyers and sellers, thus damaging our overall reputation as real estate professionals.

I cringe at the idea of an agent being hired for any reason other than legitimate professional criteria. Selling or purchasing a home is not only an extremely personal and emotional transaction, it’s also a significant business or financial decision. Yet because information such as sale prices, tax records, and other data are readily available on the Internet, many people tend to devalue the importance of working with a REALTOR®. Likewise, some real estate agents take an apathetic approach with their customers.

As brokers, it is vital that we strengthen the health and reputation of the real estate industry. We must hold not only ourselves but also our agents to the highest ethical and professional standards, and fully appreciate the responsibilities we are hired to perform.

The Suitcase Example

When a seller signs a listing contract on a $600,000 home, imagine a suitcase filled with 6,000 $100 bills. Now imagine the seller handing the suitcase over to the real estate agent and walking away. The scenario also works with buyers. Imagine an agent has submitted an offer on a $300,000 condo on behalf of his or her clients; again, imagine that suitcase full of money — potentially the client’s entire net worth — being handed to the agent.

I painted this picture to portray the significance of the job that real estate professionals do on a daily basis. We have the fiduciary responsibility to look out for clients’ best interests and treat their money as our own. But our responsibilities are downplayed through social media, reality TV, and the few rotten apples that give us a bad name.

Consumers should ask themselves: “Do I feel comfortable handing this person a suitcase full of cash?” Perhaps if they thought about the transaction along those lines, they would think twice about just hiring someone because they are licensed and happen to be their retired next-door neighbor. Likewise, agents should ask themselves: “What should I be doing to make this person comfortable handing me a suitcase full of cash?” Real estate practitioners need to be able to communicate to consumers the importance of choosing a REALTOR® and the potential risks of hiring the wrong person.

If we work together as an industry to change the way we perceive our duties and obligations, then the public will start to recognize the value of our roles and the significance of choosing a REALTOR®. Hold yourself, your office, and your agents to a higher standard and expect the clients to hold you accountable.

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Sammer Mudawar is the owner of RE/MAX Prestige located in Anaheim Hills and Costa Mesa in Orange County, Calif. You can learn more about RE/MAX Prestige by going to www.joinremaxprestige.com and consumers can visit his personal site at www.liveoc.net.