Haven’t you ever been told to keep friendship and business apart? Real estate could be the ultimate test for friendships because money and greed bring out the true character of a human being.
The United States of America is the third largest country in the world by surface area, and currently in the third place by population - more than 331 million people. 32% of us are going to purchase real estate in the next 5 years, according to NerdWallet. Americans sell about 6 million homes every year. So do you really have an objective reason to be upset if your friend or relative didn’t hire you as their real estate agent? You are not alone among the 1.3 million REALTORS® who have had this experience. Nobody opens a business to cater only to their own family and close friends. There are millions of home buyers and sellers looking for someone like you right now. Do you have the right qualities?
One day, Jane invited her friend Susan to see her house and get a quote from her. She inspected every single corner of the house, and at the end, Susan said she needed two to three weeks to conduct a market study and price the house correctly. A few days later, Jane invited another well-known agent locally whose face was all over the town. No sooner had he stepped in that he presented her with a market research and a fair price for her house. When Jane called Susan three weeks later, she said she still needed time to finish her pricing, and eventually suggested a higher price. Susan didn’t get to represent Jane, but they remained friends.
Don’t expect your friends and family to become your customers! Don’t divide your friends depending on the number of purchases or the amount they spend with you regularly. Friends are there to listen to our problems and advise us, to give us a good laugh, and to celebrate our milestones. However, communication is extremely important. You might find out that you have not been hired as your friend’s real estate agent because:
- He/She needed to separate friendship from business
- He/She wants to keep his/her finances private
- You don’t know the market
- You don’t have enough experience
- You’re specialized in a different niche (link with branding/marketing - feel out of your league)
Even if you have everything it takes to be an outstanding real estate agent, there is one more dangerous feeling that finds a way in our minds from time to time: envy. That’s right! Your friend might envy you for your “easy job” (although we all know how hard it is to be a real estate agent, especially in your first years), your social life, your possessions or well-placed investments. Resentments are like a wall between you and your friend or acquaintance and she might feel that she can’t trust you or that she can’t be 100% honest with you. So, she prefers to work with a stranger. Don’t take it to heart, though. It’s completely normal.
The need to separate friendship from business
If your friendship with someone depends on whether they choose you or not for their real estate transactions then we have to find another name for that kind of relationship. Quit pretending! However, when one of your friends doesn’t choose you to list their house and pocket a nice commission out of it, you better appreciate that! It means that your friends feel that it’s not worth the risk of ruining your good friendship in case the sale doesn’t go as expected. They might not work with you, but they probably recommend your services to everyone. Don’t jump to the wrong conclusion!
The need for privacy
First of all, your friends might not want you to know the reason why they have to sell the house. It could be a short sale to prevent foreclosure, or they might have to move on the other coast for a better job. Don’t be mad at them! Help them to move without stress and help them pack or clean once their belongings have been loaded in the trucks. Or maybe you could help them make a few improvements that could increase the curb appeal. Share your knowledge with them, if you really care about your friendship, and you feel that it’s reciprocal.
Secondly, if your friends are better off, they might want to keep their personal finances for themselves. Or maybe they need privacy and don’t want all their friends to know the next day how much money entered their bank account. In the US it’s like in Brazil, where better off people are expected to help their friends and relatives who are less well-off. Having to say no to friends requesting money as soon as they find out you’ve just sold a house is extremely delicate. So respect their decision.
Last, but not least, your friends might not want you to be the first who finds out about their family problems. In real estate, divorce should be handled with care.
You don’t know the market
Here is a reason more likely to be invoked when your friend lives in another city. Real estate agents specialize in one or a few cities and they know every corner and every road by heart. They know the value of each house, they can compare properties and so on, so they are very reliable in their cities. Outside of them, things change completely, the client structure is different (maybe there are more Millennials than Gen X), interest rates are lower or higher, property taxes could be different. There are so many variables to take into consideration that it’s not worth the time to learn everything for only one transaction. So, instead of putting pressure on you, your friend decides to hire a local real estate agent. Consider it a blessing! You have more time to focus on the sales in your market.
You don’t have enough experience
You know that every child gets to an age when he or she wants to prove that he/she can do the same things that adults do, impersonating their mom or dad, or their favorite superhero. They’re adorable! But they will fight back if you dare to say they can’t or shouldn’t do so and so. The same happens with rookie real estate agents - they want to be perceived as having years of experience. Well, experience takes time. You will get there! You’ve been born late, that’s all! So, even if your friend won’t tell you directly what made him choose a different real estate agent, just look at the date on your real estate license. It’s true that you need to close sales to gain experience, but most young agents are lucky if they get to close more than four-five sales in the first year and cover their business expenses. Be patient!
You’re specialized in a different niche
Now that you’ve bragged about the commercial properties you’ve leased or sold recently, why do you raise your eyebrows when your friend sells her condo without you? It was obvious that you were more into bigger projects and commercial real estate than residential properties. She didn’t even bother to ask you! Or maybe you prefer real estate auctions, distressed properties or special needs housing. You have nothing to worry about. The better you are in your niche, the more reputable you become. Your friend will still be proud of you. And you should be proud of yourself, too!
He/She was embarrassed to negotiate commission
Although there are real estate agents who earn a salary, most agents still earn a commission. That commission is not their net income - it’s their income before taxes. So, in the end, they take home a lot less. Make sure you discuss this aspect with your friends before having to represent one of them. However, your friends might be afraid to bring this up during a negotiation, so would rather work with another REALTOR®. Besides, you might have a higher commission than your competition. If you work independently, make sure you adjust your commission schedule in a way that doesn’t make you lose business. There’s little you can do about it when you work for a broker.
It hurts to put this in words, but friends sometimes expect us to do our job for free. It happens from retailers such as florists or bakers to real estate agents and attorneys. They suddenly forget that you have student debt to pay off or a pile of bills that wait to be dealt with. Sometimes, saying no to a friend will make you part ways. But in the end, it’s up to you. Do you care more about your friends? Or do you care more about your dream job?