Conduit vs. Filter

One of the subtlest yet most important judgments Realtors regularly make is, “when do they tell their client about a deal development or given piece of news?”

The short answer?

It depends.

Specifically, it depends on three things:  1) the news; 2) the client; and 3) the Realtor.

So, rookie Realtors tend to act as conduits, passing along information “unprocessed” as they receive it.

By contrast, veteran agents usually behave more as filters (shock absorbers??)

As the agent in an agent-principal relationship, it is the Realtor’s job to act as their client’s advocate and champion, serving their best interests and keeping them continuously informed (the foregoing also happens to be the definition of fiduciary duty — got that, Wall Street??).

But that just begs the question:  are those interests best served by conveying every little bit of information as it develops, or organizing and analyzing that information, and distilling it for the client? (notice how to frame a question is to answer it).

First (& Second) Principles

A good first principle is, when in doubt, err on the side of telling the client, sooner, vs. opting to wait.

That way, the client can decide for themselves how important the information is.

A close second (good principle, that is) is:  establish with your client, at the beginning of the relationship, how much or little information they want to receive, how regularly, through which medium (email, work phone, cell phone, text, etc.)

That said, I have developed my own protocol about when I share information with clients, which I’d certainly guess dovetails with the practices of other, veteran agents.

Good News . . .

At one extreme, it’s always tempting to instantly relay good news.

Exhibit A would be a “heads up” about a pending offer.

What client wouldn’t want to receive that exciting news?

Which Realtor wouldn’t eagerly want to convey it?

Try, this one.

An offer is real when it’s in writing, and I have it in hand.

It’s a good offer (vs. a lowball vs. merely weak offer) once I’ve had a chance to review it.

If I had a $1 for every time a Buyer’s agent said that they intended to write, then either resurfaced two weeks later — or disappeared altogether — I would be nicely retired by now.

And my clients would be unnecessarily perturbed.

So, while I certainly keep clients informed about intensifying Buyer interest — after all, they’re hardly unaware when someone does a second or even third showing, assuming they’re still in the home — I typically keep mum about early stage probing and “pre-negotiating” by the Buyer’s agent.

 . . . . . and Bad

At the other extreme, the temptation is to sit on bad news.

Examples of that are when a Buyer’s financing hiccups (or worse), or a property doesn’t appraise.

Obviously, the client needs to know either piece of news punctually.

But, before I pick up the telephone (a more modern one than pictured above), I try to define the problem, and at least begin the process of brainstorming possible solutions.

That way, when I do speak to my client, I can present not just what happened, but provide context, frame their options, then help them choose the best possible response.

P.S.:  one of my favorite real estate jokes actually has nothing to do with real estate.

Rather, it highlights the fiduciary duty Realtors and other agents bear — and can potentially misuse.

A Spanish-speaking bank robber is apprehended by a posse, whose leader only speaks English.

So, the posse leader tells the bandit through an interpreter, “tell us where you hid the loot, or we’re going to hang you from that tree” (gesturing).

The frightened bandit quickly spills the beans, telling the interpreter, “I buried it under the big oak tree just west of town.”

The interpreter turns to the posse leader and says, “He says, ‘I’m never going to tell you — hang me!'”

Good one, huh?

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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