The Golden Rule of Realtors: Professionalism Wins the Day

The phrase “It takes two to tango” was coined as a song in the 1950s and popularized by President Ronald Reagan in 1982. Yet, the phrase applies every time residential real estate agents representing home buyers and home sellers begin negotiations. Whether selling a home in greater Fort Lauderdale, or anywhere in the country, for that matter, it’s a simple principle: Neither can come to contract terms or closing without the other in agreement.

Another phrase comes to mind when working with fellow real estate agents or brokers while representing my clients: The Golden Rule. I treat others as I would hope to be treated in kind. While “It takes [at least] two to tango” is an absolute in real estate transaction, the Golden Rule only applies if both sides believe in it.

Real estate transactions are life events that drive our moves and decisions. In this situation, the owner is moving on to The Next Thing, while for the buyer, the property in question is their Next Thing. The engine between them that makes this happen successfully is the Realtor. In order to complete the transaction – from listing to initial showing to negotiations to contract and finally, closing – each side, especially trusted broker vendors representing the sellers and the buyers, must cooperate in order to avoid difficult real estate closings.

Real Estate Negotiations Take ‘People Skills’

That’s not to say each transaction is some Pollyanna scenario. At Gary Lanham Group at Coldwell Banker Fort Lauderdale Beach Office, we have decades of combined experience in the area's real estate marketplace. More than that, we each come from varied industries where we’ve honed our sales, marketing, negotiating, and “people” skills. We realize some Realtors out there will see us as “competitors.” Sitting across the negotiating table, they may even see us as adversaries trying to get some advantage in the interests of the client/broker relationship.

That’s fine. We are negotiators hired by our clients – sellers or buyers – to represent their best interests. But that doesn’t mean we see the interaction as a confrontation. After every closing, we like to shake hands, congratulate buyer and seller alike, and hope they – or their agent – may call on us down the road for advice or assistance, or just to say Hello.

With the Golden Rule as an operating ethos, deals get done. Without it, suspicion may arise. People may feel they’re being taken advantage of, or “the other side” is playing games to earn some undue advantage.

Suffice it to say, at Gary Lanham Group, we’re proud of our reputation as moral, ethical, and professional real estate agents who not only look out for our client’s best interests. We will never “game the system” on their behalf to the obvious or unethical expense of the other party. It’s not how we’ve earned our reputation.

And the “Golden Rule” isn’t always followed.

Following the Golden Rule

So it was when we were representing sellers Henry and Christine, we saw the Golden Rule tested by the agent representing their home’s eventual buyers. The couple had lived in their immaculate Coral Ridge Isles home for some time. They were Baby Boomers who were ready to move on to the next stage of their lives.

Their home, a cozy three bedroom, two bathroom residence with a family room, had not been updated. But it was clean and well-kept and ideal for the right new buyer.

Henry and Christine found us after an exhaustive Internet review of our credentials.   They did their homework and knew our statistics. They also read our customer reviews and real estate rankings found on sites like Zillow.com, Realtor.com, YELP, HomeLight.com, Google+ and Facebook.

When I arrived to make my presentation, it was like walking into a meeting with long-lost friends. The home and couple made it warm and comfortable from the get-go. I never even opened the 50-page presentation we take to initial client meetings. The level of trust and understanding in the air was palpable. The sellers were knowledgeable; Henry works for the Broward Country Property Appraiser and Christine is a math scholar. Knowledgeable, personable, and having done their homework before I arrived, they were the perfect clients in waiting.

After a few minutes discussing their goals and objectives, we understood each other. They wanted to sell their home, and possibly rent for a year or so in the Fort Lauderdale area until making their next investment – hopefully after an over-heated local market had cooled down.

As an aside, that’s a very smart strategy for the right seller. In an over-heated market where home prices may be unreasonably high, sellers with the right realtor representation can reap top dollar, bank the money and rent locally, until the market subsides.

During that time, they can explore where they may want to move (Following the closing, The Gary Lanham helped the couple find their rental apartment).

Realtors Doing the Tango

So, we listed Henry and Christine’s home. In time, a buyer came along. Their agent was, let’s just say, not market savvy. She lacked experience and looked at the process with suspicion. To be honest, she was trying to protect her clients’ interests. As were we. But her lack of experience made the transaction more confrontational, and less of a negotiation.

We wrote into the contract that the home was being sold in “As Is” condition. That means any possible faults in the home already were reflected in the sales price. The buyer certainly would have the home inspected and any significant flaws could be cause for voiding the contract or further negotiations. The same is true at Walk Thru. Should they spot flaws or issues unseen previously, they can re-open negotiations. But for the most part, the home was being sold as presented.

The buyer’s agent had been passive and stand-offish on some days, but charged like a bull on other days. On the day of closing, she made additional demands. This is not a good sign. We wanted to avoid last-minute negotiations, which could have scuttled the entire deal.

We knew the buyer’s loan approval expired on the day of closing, so we weren’t about to let that happen.

One valid concern raised was an issue with the air conditioning. It worked fine during initial showings. At the walk-through, though, it wasn’t working. It was a warm day, and lacking ventilation, the residence – which was home to Henry, Christine, and their dog – smelled of pent-up dog.

Their agent demanded a hold-back of $5,000 from the deposit that had been placed in escrow at the time of the contract’s signing, which was based on the home passing inspection, or the contingency of the sale.

Taking Blame, Finding a Solution

I admit, shame on us on two fronts. We had a less-than-full-price offer from a seasoned Coldwell Banker agent whom we know well as a professional. Instead, even though I sensed her inexperience, I allowed myself to be convinced to take the full-price offer from the buyer’s agent. In the end, the deal was jeopardized by not going with the proven pro, even for slightly less money. I will not make that mistake again.

Every buyer visits the residence for sale with a house final walk-through checklist. We should have arrived early for the walk-through to protect seller's interest. We would have realized the air conditioner was not working, and postponed the buyer’s arrival, and it would have avoided last-minute real estate negotiation. But, we didn’t.

But we could not agree to their hold-back demands. They were unreasonable and would have wholly served only one side.

So we called our long-time, trusted air conditioning service company, Mintz Heating and Cooling in South Florida, for an emergency visit. A technician arrived within the hour. He diagnosed and replaced a small part of the air conditioner. In minutes, the home was cool and the odor of stale dog had cleared from the air. We scheduled a follow-up walk-through and the buyers and their agent were satisfied.

Achieving Great Results

With our adherence to the Golden Rule, and our deep knowledge of the South Florida contractor marketplace, we were able to quickly backfill the $5,000 roadblock the buyer’s agent was digging into our client’s path. We did this without any acrimony or hard feelings.

That’s how belief in the Golden Rule, and a long-time presence in the Broward County marketplace, benefits every client who comes our way. Not all South Florida Realtors are looking for a smooth transaction; some seek any angle to present an advantage for their clients, even if it could present problems at closing.

That’s not how we roll at the Gary Lanham Group. Since opening our doors, we’ve treated buyers, sellers – and their representative agents – with courtesy and respect. Whether the transaction is in Coral Ridge, Wilton Manors, Pompano Beach, or Imperial Point, the Gary Lanham Group at Coldwell Banker Fort Lauderdale Beach Office works with one guiding principle: to be your ethical real estate professional. Period.

Gary Lanham GroupGary Lanham Group exhibits the golden rule at Coldwell Banker Fort Lauderdale Beach Office is a boutique real estate organization offering sales, leasing, and brokerage services to the Greater Fort Lauderdale area. A listings agent matches home sellers with buyers and tenants with landlords. While Broward County is our universe, we focus on Coral Ridge Country Club, Oakland Park, Wilton Manors, Pompano Beach, and the surrounding areas. Call us today at (954) 695-6518 or visit www.GaryLanhamGroup.com.

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