Despite Your Best Efforts…

Some deals are just going to fall through. Witness RE/MAX agent Tom Day: In his first year on the job, he was eyeing a $14,000 commission check when he needed it most — only to watch it slip through his fingers.

February 4, 2014

Try as you may, sometimes things just don’t work out. Any real estate deal you do has the potential to fall through. And though it never feels good when that happens, it can be particularly discouraging when you’re a rookie agent trying to find your way in the business. Don’t let it stop you from moving forward.

Tom Day, an agent with RE/MAX in Motion in Pompano Beach, Fla., got that reality check during one of his first attempted deals as a new agent in 2006. He was representing both the buyer and seller of a $235,000 home — which would have equaled a $14,000 commission check for him had the deal not gone awry.

“The buyer’s wife was really in love with [with the house], but I knew he was hesitant,” Day says. “He wanted to make her happy, but the price was at the very maximum of what they could afford.”

It was quite an effort on Day’s part to get the buyer to sign the contract. After already working the deal for weeks, he took the contract documents to the buyer’s office for him to sign. “It was evident he had cold feet and was hesitant to sign,” Day says. “I think I was there an hour or more talking it over before he finally signed.”

But even the best assurances that Day could offer the buyer wouldn’t be enough to seal the deal. The buyer had some “minor credit issues,” which Day worked with the lender to rectify. “It wouldn’t have been that hard [to fix], but he just gave up,” Day says of the buyer. “In the end, he just wasn’t comfortable spending that much money.”

The buyer pulling out at the last minute was a big blow to Day, especially after all the work he had put into marketing the listing. “I hired a professional photographer and put together some sharp marketing materials, held open houses, etcetera,” Day says.

The seller would eventually take his home off the market after a couple more months following the breakdown of the deal. And then Day, having lost out on a much-needed commission check, would have to scramble to make ends meet for himself.

“Times did get tough. It would have been a very good commission when I really needed it. It was like getting kicked in the stomach,” Day says. “I had to borrow money to stay afloat. But I didn’t quit and just kept at it. I was slightly ahead of the curve with websites, blogging, and social media, and I eventually had a decent stream of leads.”

Shortly after the deal fell through, Day’s market in Florida tanked. The housing crisis that was ushered in by 2007 ravaged home values, and foreclosure inventory began to flood the market. But he was able to turn his precarious predicament into a positive.

“I held things together by working more with buyers seeking the properties that started to become affordable again,” he says. “Even in a down market there are buyers and sellers. A little later, I managed to get REO listings from banks, and things really took off.”

Day learned the true meaning of that old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” But he implores newbies in the real estate business to be prepared for anything.

“Despite your best efforts, things will go wrong that are beyond your control, so be prepared,” he says. “Some deals just won’t stick. Factor that into your income projections. You need commissions to survive, but don’t let that be the driving force. Do things right, and the commissions will come.”

Graham Wood
Senior editor

Graham Wood is senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. He can be reached at