Client to Agent: “What Would You Do?”

You break it, you own it.”

—The Pottery Barn Rule.

“You make it, you own it” (translation: if you make a decision for a client . . . you are responsible for the consequences).

—Real estate corollary, Ross Kaplan.

Whether it’s in the context of choosing a home, negotiating a deal, resolving an inspection issue ” or literally countless other scenarios that arise in residential real estate ” one of the most common questions Realtors field from their clients is, “what would you do?”

I’m a pretty direct, call-it-like-I-see-it guy (and Realtor), but I’ve learned not to answer that question.

That’s because I’m not the client.

It can be very easy to lose sight of, but it’s only the client’s wants, needs, budget, timetable, personal taste, etc. that matter.

After all, they’re the ones who’ll be living with the consequences of any decisions they make.

Context and Analysis (vs. Decision-Making)

Which isn’t to say I simply shrug my shoulders and say “I dunno” when clients ask me “what would you do?”

So, for example, in the context of multiple offers when I’m representing a Buyer, I equip my client with exhaustive data about the Comp’s for the home in question, my analysis of same, my sense of the owner and listing agent, suggested strategies, etc. etc.

I also serve as a sounding board for their decision-making process.

But ultimately, I don’t recommend what my client should offer.

Instead, once my client knows everything I do ” my job as their agent and fiduciary ” I typically counsel that “the right price is the price you can live with if you get the home ” and the price you can live with if you don’t.”

Scenario #2: “Which House is Better?”

Another variant of “what would you do?” is, “which house [of two or three finalists] would you buy?”

Same as before, I can certainly size up each home’s strengths and weaknesses, estimate its market value (within a range), etc.

However, the decision about which home to buy is so personal to the Seller that no Realtor can ” or should ” make it on behalf of their client.

It’s sort of like asking someone which cuisine is best.

Personally, I like Italian . . .

See also, ““Being Mortal”: Lessons for Doctors & Patients ” and Realtors & Clients.”

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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