I always get frustrated when I see this on an MLS listing. Why does the listing agent have to present? Can’t I just show my client the property alone like the other 99% of all showings?
Usually this doesn’t turn out to be an issue.
But here is the story of one instance when it was an issue…
See the guy in the photo above? He’s giving us the infamous “wink and gun,” and if I didn’t know better, I’d bet he’s making that “click” noise with his cheek to mimic the loading of the gun, aka his finger and thumb…
This guy is such a swarthy salesman.
While I always hope and prey that I’ll never become a cliche salesperson like this guy above or like so many people in my industry, I have had my fair share of interactions with people just like them.
The most notable of these experiences came during the summer of 2005. To this day, I have still never witnessed anything quite like it.
But first, consider that the the practice of showing or inspecting houses and condos is almost an art form thanks to a little invention called the “Lock-Box.” Set the code, put a key inside, and you’ve got instant security. In the case of a condo, you can always leave the key with the concierge as well.
When a real estate agent shows properties to prospective clients, ninety-nine times out of one-hundred, the key is either inside a lockbox, or with the building security or concierge.
And in that one other instance, we get that ill-fated message from the cooperating brokerage: “Listing agent must be present for showing.”
I absolutely hate showing properties when the listing agent is present. I don’t feel like my clients take as long to look through the house or condo, nor do they feel at ease knowing that they can speak freely.
There are three main reasons why listing agents must be present for showings:
1) The house belongs to a famous person, is ridiculously expensive, or both. The listing agent has to be present to make sure the buyer and the agent are genuinely interested in the property and are not just trying to catch a glimpse of high society.
2) The listing agent couldn’t control his/her client, and the client was adamant (for no good reason) that the agent must be present for showings. This is usually when the agent sits in his/her car outside the house and waits for you to finish.
3) The listing agent is going to give you the worlds greatest sales pitch.
The story I’m going to tell unfortunately deals with reason #3.
You can usually tell right away whether you’re going to get a sales pitch or not. If the agent hands you the key with a polite smile and says, “Take your time,” then you can feel safe knowing this guy is no Zig Ziglar.
But when the listing agent tries to take control of YOUR showing and YOUR clients, you’re in for a long sales pitch.
Three summers past, I was showing a house on Ranleigh Avenue in the Yonge/Lawrence area to a 30’s-something couple who was looking for a house in the $800,000 – $1,000,000 range. On this particular day, only the wife was available to view the property, and what we thought would take us a few minutes ended up taking the better part of an hour.
I met Margaret in front of the house on Ranleigh and informed her that we’d have to wait for the listing agent to let us into the house. She asked if this was a normal practice, and I was honest and told her that it was not. She then said, “Well then we’d best be on guard, eh?”
Due to the risk of being sued, I can’t divulge the name of the listing agent’s office or his actual name, but let’s just say that he owned a one-man-shop where he named the company after himself. Let’s call him “Gary Gold” and we’ll call his company “Pure Gold Realty.”
It’s actually even more lame than that, if you can believe it.
Margaret and I patiently waited on the curb on a pleasant summer day, when we heard the engine of a Porsche revving from down the street. I knew right away that this had to be Gary.
Gary pulled his Porsche into the driveway with the top down and “Another Day in Paradise” by Phil Collins blaring at full volume. I’m not making this up; I could NEVER forget that song as he pulled into the drive.
He got out of the car with a “Hey Hey, Folks,” and extended his hand which I thought was meant to shake mine, but in actual fact he was reaching for the side-mirror to balance himself as he leaned over and took off his golf shoes!
The man showed up at the house fresh from the golf course, and was actually wearing golf shoes.
He said, “Just give me a sec to make myself look beautiful,” and I wondered how that was possible with obvious hair plugs and a give-away t-shirt that said “SuperBowl XXV: Baltimore vs. New York.” The man even had bad taste in SuperBowls!
So with slippers, hair plugs, golf shorts, and a two-dollar t-shirt, Gary Gold led us up the stairs of the house he was selling from behind his one-man-agency.
Gary opened the front door, and immediately stepped in between Margaret and myself to ensure that he could lead her through as he saw fit. He didn’t care that she was my client; he was going to do all the talking.
The first thing he said once we stepped inside was, “If I told you that you could find a bag with $200,000 in cash somewhere in this house, would you want to know where it is?”
Oh man, we were in for it now…
Margaret was already turned off, so I piped up and said, “Yes, Gary, I would love to know where it is.”
Gary made a huge motion with his arms as if to say “everywhere” and said, “It’s all around us. See what I’m saying? This house is priced at $200,000 less than it actually cost the owner to build it! If you had to recreate this house today, you’d spend $200,000 more than it’s actually priced at!”
And thus the catch…
Gary then started lightly jogging through the living room and waved at us, “Follow me!”
He approached a step-ladder which was conspicuously placed against the wall, and he began to climb up it. He tapped the ceiling and it made a loud metallic sound. “You hear that? That’s the sound of steel! Who builds houses with steel? Nobody! Nobody does! They use plywood and two-by-fours! All the floors in this house are made with steel rods! Now THAT is value!”
Gary climbed down the ladder with all the energy of a man who had only played nine-holes of golf, and skipped the back-nine to actually try working for a change.
He led us into the kitchen where he did his best impression of Ron Popeil.
“What’s the biggest issue with kitchens today,” asked Gary rhetorically. “Space!” He then pulled a cutting board out of a nifty little partition in the granite counter, and propped it up with a built-in stand. He then took out a knife and actually began to pretend chopping onions. “Look at this: I’m cutting onions and I’m not using the counter, a cutting board, or the cutting board ON the counter!”
He quickly put the useless novelty back in its place and ran towards the windows.
“Ever want some fresh air and you don’t have the energy to crank the window open?” (I actually thought about whether or not it’s possible to be that lazy…). “Well these windows come with a push-button opener; electric windows! Enh? Eeennhh?? Alright!”
Somewhere in a poor, third-world country, a child is starving while simultaneously being bitten alive by malaria-carrying bugs; allthe while, we have push-button electric-windows!
“Follow me, folks!” he said as he ran towards the stairs.
“Hear that?” he asked rhetorically, again. “You can’t hear that; there’s nothing to hear! These stairs are made of concrete so there’s no squeaking from wooden planks! You could hit this bastard with a sledge-hammer and it wouldn’t even vibrate!” I began to question why you’d want to hit your stairs with a sledge-hammer, but I concluded that there would be no easy answers on this day.
He took us into the master-bedroom where I was hoping he would ask me to climb into bed with him, but alas, he didn’t…..instead, he climbed into the jacuzzi in the ensuite bathroom! “Look at this – I could fit myself and two or three of my best friends in here! This sucker is huge! The resale value on this jacuzzi is almost five-gees!”
I’d imagine times must be tough for homeowners when they start tearing out their bathtubs and hauling them to the local pawn shop! I’ve still never seen anybody re-sell a jacuzzi or bathtub, but I digress…
Gary went on for the better part of thirty minutes before he seemed out of breath and I wondered if he needed a nap.
I awaited the fireworks or some sort of circus-freak swallowing swords for the grand finale, but it never came. Gary’s presentation ended when he stood with us in the front foyer and said, “So? Whaddya think?”
Talk about an anti-climax.
Thankfully, before I could open my mouth to say anything remotely English-sounding, my client said, “Well, it’s a nice house. I’m sure somebody will eventually buy it and call it home.”
I thought that was rather kind, and very well put.
Gary then gave us the wink and double-gun, and said, “But I’d rather sell this house to you because you’re standing here right now!”
Was that as good as he could do? After the entire dog-and-pony-show, he actually told us that he wanted to sell this house to us since it would be the easiest thing for him? I was waiting for him to break out the oldest sales line in the book, “Soooo…should I draw up the paperwork?”
I actually felt bad for Gary when I left that day. It dawned on me that every single time an agent books a showing for that house, Gary gets all jazzed up on Red Bull and pop-rocks and puts on that ridiculous sales display for whoever is unfortunate enough to get caught in his web.
Two months later, the listing was pulled from the market, and the owners re-listed the house with Harvey Kalles. It still took 61 days to sell, but it went for almost $100,000 less than the price Gary was trying to sell it at.
So I guess that ole’ duffle-bag with cash was now worth $300,000, eh Gary? Something tells me he wouldn’t be in the mood to joke about it.
I hate when listing agents insist on being present for showings, but in the end, it’s their waste of time, not mine.
Some agents truly believe that their presence and sales pitch is going to add value and increase the chances of the buyer purchasing the house, but I completely disagree; in fact, I think buyers are turned off by sales pitches, and they tread with extreme caution when the listing agent is present. They are quiet, stand-offish, and they keep their hands in their pockets and never investigate, ie. they wouldn’t open doors to get a sense of cupboard space.
If agents really believe that a sales pitch like the one that Gary showed us would have even the most minute benefit, then they should brew up some kool-aid and drink it themselves.
Every time I’ve booked a showing since that fateful day, I’ve crossed my fingers and hoped I wouldn’t see the message: “Listing agent must be present for showing.“