Real estate agents or any professionals, take heed: Do you edit everything you send out? Do you read EVERY document the other side sends over involved with a sale? Do you read the contract (even better yet, have you EVER really read the contract in it’s entirety)?
In the real estate profession, as well as many others, there are those who are detail oriented, those who are completely sloppy, and just about all kinds of people somewhere in between. But it will never cease to amaze me when agents do not check their work product before sending it out. There is absolutely no excuse, as you are dealing with contracts that have legal ramifications.
If you represent somebody in a legal transaction, you better make sure you do the following – not only is the risk of a lawsuit great, but your entire reputation is on the line. As an agent, you are required to represent your clients to the best of your ability. If you cannot do so, you may need to seek another profession.
1. Read. This is so basic a requirement, yet it never ceases to amaze me how many agents do not read contracts, both before and after they have written them. First of all, if you have never read the required forms, you should! Once you have filled it in on behalf of a client, make sure you go over it with a fine tooth comb and fill in items you may have missed, change those that need changing, etc. If you forget to check or uncheck a box, it could cost your clients money, heartache, loss of a sale or subject them to a lawsuit. They are trusting you!
2. Explain. It is important to go over the contract with your clients before and after it is written. Explain to them what the terms mean, and make sure that you have conveyed their wishes properly.
3. Proof/edit. This instruction applies not just to a contract or other document you have written, but to everything you do. I am often dumbfounded by some of the marketing pieces I receive in the mail from real estate agents – typos, improper grammar, unfocused photos, blurry words…I would never send anything out like that! Even some big agents in my area do, and it usually makes me both laugh and feel angry…after all, it doesn’t raise the bar too high for the rest of us, does it?
4. Put all communications in writing. As a lawyer I know how important this is – even if your client is your family member. If you have a conversation with a client, make sure to send a message referencing what you discussed, and keep all communications in an email folder. If anything happens down the road, like a lawsuit, this is the only way you will be able to prove what was discussed.
5. Admit when you don’t know the answer, and get help or advice! It is ok to not know the answers sometimes – we all face this issue, and we are only human. Admit that you do not know and then find someone who does. This applies to tricky situations too, where you have to make a call. Getting the feedback of another whom you trust (like your broker, or if you are the broker, another trusted broker or attorney) could be a major difference in the outcome. The California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.) has a free legal hotline for members, as most associations do – take advantage of it.
6. Do your homework first. No matter what you do you need to investigate before submitting any offers, taking any listings, or venturing into a short sale or lender owned property. Contact your title representative and find out if title is clean and find out about liens on the property. Contact the listing agent and make sure s/he knows what they are doing if it is a distressed property. Pull up the assessor record. Don’t ever jump into something blindly without knowledge of what you may be getting into – it simply isn’t fair to your clients.
7. Always act professionally. This applies not only to your interactions with your clients, but also to fellow real estate agents and brokers. There are too many people in many industries who do not treat others in a professional manner. Eventually you will sink yourself with a bad rap if you can’t be a true professional. Real estate agents all know whom they don’t want to work with in their area…you don’t want to be that person.
As in any profession, there are always bad seeds who will tarnish things for the group as a whole, but if we all make sure that we do right by our clients, colleagues and by ourselves, we will not only make others happy, but we will also feel happier and have a productive career.