Beware The Knock On Your Door…

This experience made me really angry, and not just because it involved a relative.

When a salesperson knocks on your door and promises you something that seems too good to be true, it likely is…

We’ve all done it before.

All Realtors have.

Even I did, a while back…

One of the most popular ways for Realtors to drum-up business is to let home-owners know that they ‘might’ have a buyer interested in purchasing their house or condo.  This could be in the form of a letter in the mailbox, or in the form of a knock on the front door.

Now, whether or not that Realtor actually does have a buyer made of skin and bones, is another story.

Call it what you will, but Realtors still do this, and it actually works.

I get 2-3 letters per month in my mailbox from Realtors (most of whom I’ve never heard of) that say, “I have a qualified buyer looking to purchase a condo in your building; please call me if you ever think of selling.”

Sometimes, I feel like calling them and saying, “There are six units for sale in the building right now – why don’t you check MLS and save yourself the postage?”

But that Realtor isn’t really looking for a property to sell to their buyer, who may or may not be fictitious; they’re looking to make contact with a home-owner, sit in the living room, talk, and possibly make a contact for today or tomorrow.

Some Realtors even go as far as to bring a friend or colleague along to pretend to be a qualified buyer!

A colleague of mine once called a competitor’s bluff on this.

My colleague’s seller-client asked him to come to the house one night when a door-knocking agent and her so-called “buyer” were coming back to peruse the property, only my colleague knew the agent – AND knew the agent’s assistant, who was posing as the buyer!  He didn’t let them off the hook though.  He asked the door-knocking agent, “Well I see you, and I see your assistant, Virginia, but where is your buyer?”  The sellers were not amused.

Earlier this week, I received an email from my Auntie Faye, who told me she had exciting news!

“David!!!!” she said, with multiple exclamation marks.  “This agent from our area came to our house over the weekend and said she could get us $900,000 for our house, no strings attached, no fixing the roof, no painting, no goddam open houses!  This is amazing!”

I already knew how this was going to play out, but I wanted to tread carefully because I love my dear Auntie Faye.  She bought this house in the late 1970’s, and she has a lot of equity in it that will serve her well into her retirement.

I told Auntie Faye that “If something is too good to be true, it just might be!”  She assured me that this agent promised “a big fat cheque,” and that she wanted me to investigate.  “I told her my nephew works for Bosley and he’d be involved, and she said she’d love to bring you an offer!”

I remained skeptical, but ultimately, $900,000 is more than the house is worth, and if Auntie Faye paid out a 2.5% commission to this agent for providing the buyer, and I wasn’t involved at all, it would save Auntie Faye 2.5% as my fee for listing the property, and she wouldn’t have to do anything.

As much as I would love to list the house, I know I can’t do better than $900,000 with a 2.5% savings, so I decided to call the agent.

I was very friendly, and said, “I understand you spoke to my Auntie Faye and that you have a buyer for her house at $900,000.  I just wanted to call and find out a little more about the buyer and the potential offer.”

There was a long pause, a drawn out sign, and finally, “Sorry…..who are you?  Do you work in real estate?”

Ah yes – the first rule of the sleazeball-handbook: take control, and belittle your competitor.

I replied, “Yes, you know I work in real estate because I just said, ‘It’s David Fleming from Bosley Real Estate,’ and because we have done several transactions together, and finally because my Auntie Faye emailed you two hours ago and said that you would be hearing from me.”

She played on like she wasn’t paying attention, and said, “Well….I don’t know what your aunt has told you, but we’re not exactly on the same page here.”

Her entire story began to unravel as I knew it would, only the frustrating part was that she didn’t give me an ounce of respect, nor did she ever acknowledge that she set my aunt up for a massive disappointment.

She began by saying, “Well I don’t think the house is worth $900,000,” and I asked her why she would tell my aunt she could obtain that price, if this was the case.  She threw numbers around, “Maybe $850,000, maybe $800,000, who knows.  I simply said that I might have a client interested in purchasing the property, and we played around with numbers.”

I told her flat-out: “I would love to see an offer of $900,000, and I would encourage my aunt to pay you 2.5% plus HST, and I would basically look over the offer, set her up with my real estate lawyer, and not take a fee.”

Sounds fair, right?

Amazingly, she replied, “Well, if I did provide a buyer to this transaction, I would be taking a 4.0% fee.”

That’s where I actually LOL’d.  She continued, “I’d be investing my time as a buyer agent and as a seller agent, and I would want to be compensated.”

I curiously asked, “How, exactly, would you be involved on the seller‘s side?”

And she set me up for her answer, “Well, you don’t work this area, now, do you?”

I said, “I work all over Toronto; from Dufferin to Victoria Park, and 401 to the waterfront.”  She said, “Well I only work this area,” as if that made her qualified to get in between family members, as per her obvious expectations.  I stopped short of saying, “Well that’s too bad, because there have been a lot of developments in real estate since you got your licence 72 years ago, and you’re really missing out by only working in a small pocket of the city!”

But I didn’t.

I know this may be hard for some of you to believe, because of how I express myself in these blogs, but when dealing with other Realtors, I always bite my tongue, I always take the high road, and I never burn a bridge.

And you know what?  It sucks.

It especially sucked when this sleazy agent said, “Well I figured I would list your aunt’s house for sale and pay you a referral.”

I couldn’t understand where she was coming from.  My aunt is my aunt, and we’d been working together for two years to try and time the sale of her house according to her family and work requirements.  Just because this woman knocked on the door on a Sunday afternoon didn’t give her any real claim here.

Then she started to actually bad-mouth the property: “That house has no finished basement, hasn’t been renovated in 20 years, has electric heating, a funky backyard, only one-car parking, and very little curb appeal.  It could be worth $750,000, who knows.  Trust me on this – I work that area.”

I couldn’t believe it.  She actually knocked on my aunt’s door, gave her some BS about bringing a buyer and a $900,000 cheque, and now she was pointing out the house’s faults.  I told her that I would worry about these issues if and when I listed the house on the open market.

But the best was yet to come!

She said, “Alright, so if you’re going to list your aunt’s house for sale, then why don’t you just pay me a referral?”

I asked, “For what?”

Really?  For what?  Why would I pay her a referral fee?  What was I missing here?  It’s like the runner-up on American Idol saying to the winner, “So…..just send me a piece of your recording contract, and that’ll be great.”

She said, “Well I’ve invested a considerable amount of time and effort here, and I don’t work for free.  Maybe you’d do your aunt’s deal for free, but I wouldn’t do that for anybody!”

So basically, she spent 25 minutes in my aunt’s living room on a Sunday afternoon, and for that, she felt she deserved $5,000?

Before I hung up, I reminded her, “It was you that knocked on my aunt’s door; not the other way around.”

After all was said and done, I knew that this ridiculous woman hung up the phone, and thought to herself, “I can’t believe this.”  Her entitlement was what astounded me the most, and she acted as if I had some how wronged her, even though what she was doing could easily be classified as a “scam.”

Many Realtors promise to bring in a buyer, spend time getting to know the seller, and when the buyer never materializes, they say, “Well I know your house better than anybody, and we’ve got a great working relationship, so let’s put this house on the open market and get it sold!”

Not a bad little tactic, and you likely get a price reduction right off the hop, with another one scheduled 30 days after the house doesn’t sell.

Promise the sky, deliver the ground.

I’m so frustrated by this, and it’s not just because this was a relative.  I just don’t understand how an agent can spend her weekend duping people with tactics as old as “The Nigerian Bank Scam,” and then feel hard-done-by when they don’t squeeze out a referral fee for doing absolutely nothing.  NOTHING!  I still don’t understand what she was thinking!  Can you imagine somebody saying, “Well, that woman did drink iced-tea with us in her pearl-necklace, so we probably owe her….something.”

Nothing shocks me anymore, or shall I say, everything shocks me these days.

The worst part about this: telling my Auntie Faye that there is no Santa Claus.

Now anything less than $900,000 without going to market seems like a crime…

16 Comments

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  1. Paul says:

    It’s unfortunate that there are in fact these types of realtors out there, and that it can colour the perception of many, and tar us all with the same brush. I’ve had the good fortune to work with so many realtors who are honest, ethical people, really great people, who truly care about people on both sides of the transaction.
    There’s nothing wrong with door knocking, and asking if someone is thinking of making a move, with the intention of providing great service and netting the seller as much money as possible. If you don’t actually have a buyer looking, don’t say it – that’s just wrong.

  2. Garnet Onslow says:

    Rreal estate agents should not be soliciting door to door. There are way to many elderly homeowners who can easily be coworst into opening their home to these STRANGERS. This practice should be frowned upon. Scam artists love the easy mined senior to apply their trade

    1. Lucy​ says:

      I don’t think door to door sales are the root issue. It’s a lack of integrity on the part of the sales person regardless of what they are selling, real estate, vacuums, or barbeques. Door to door sales is great as long as the person isn’t a scam artist and is genuinely offering their services.

  3. Sarah says:

    Hi There!!

    Love your blog. I’ve been an agent in toronto for the past two years and have witnessed some crazy stories such as these! you seem like such an honest agent and I really hope to do a deal with you one day!!

  4. Lori says:

    This happened to me last night. The Vancouver street is hot and mine is the only affordable house (as it’s only a half duplex) on the block.

    It was a kid fronting a very well known agent who manages to get all the listings. He has a reputation for getting good prices for sellers. If you’re a buyer, steer clear.

    I’ve had so many bad experiences with realtors. It’s a pity the ethics involved are so poor. Once we sold our house to an agent who demanded more money because the buyers were competing and had to pay over the listed price. He basically extorted us to close the deal. Finding an talented and ethical agent is not easy because s/he has to play in a very duplicitous field.

  5. nancie says:

    Full disclosure is a term used all the time in real estate especially in regards to a seller listing their property. It would be so refreshing to see/hear realtors do the same with their sales tactics! To say that you have a buyer for a property to get your foot in the door is a lie. This is done all the time and organized real estate looks the other way.

    Thank you David for fully disclosing the practice.

  6. Tim says:

    That’s realtors for you. Had one knock on my door tonight. At dinner time. Said he had a buyer specifically looking at mine or my neighbors house. What a toad.

  7. David Ursino says:

    Great blog David.
    I actually blogged about the same issue (here: http://www.davidursino.com/video-blogs/general/item/vaughan-real-estate-video-blog-123)

    I can’t believe some agents still use this shady tactic to try and get listings. It can only lead to dissatisfaction.

    My blog was initially posted on a separate blog and was eventually pulled. The reason: they had received too many complaint calls from agents saying I was revealing their secrets and I was bad mouthing agents. Couldn’t believe it!

  8. Alex says:

    I thought referral fees were illegal?

  9. Ralph Cramdown says:

    “Bring me a satisfactory buyer, I’ll pay your broker 3%, this offer expires in 24 hours.”

    How hard is that? It’s always possible that the agent IS serious, and those magic words indicate that YOU’RE serious, too, and that money talks and BS walks. Educate your readers, David. I remember watching an HGTV episode a while back, First Time Sellers, I suppose. Their listing was to expire that day, the agent said there was an offer coming in tomorrow, but she wouldn’t/couldn’t present it unless they relisted for another four months! Natch, they signed the new listing agreement.

    1. @ Ralph

      She didn’t listen to anything reasonable. I told her – bring me this $900,000 offer, and then we’ll talk, but she immediately starting talking about how the house was worth $750,000 and there were all kinds of repairs needed.

      She was never serious. She was just kicking tires…er, knocking on doors.

    2. Devore says:

      It’s the only reasonable thing to answer with: bring me this serious, qualified buyer, and we’ll talk. If they do, you’re in business, if they don’t, you know they were just fishing for a listing.

  10. JC says:

    Yes, I love those “I have buyers who want to buy in your complex” flyers. Especially when
    a) you’ve never heard of them and
    b) You’ve got a listing there… and they’ve never been to an open house or booked an appointment to as much as show/inspect/rearrange the furniture* in the place you HAVE for sale.

    *one agent had the nerve to rearrange the furniture in my OWN home when it was listed for sale. I was the listing agent. I came home to the furniture on the main floor being totally rearranged. She didn’t seem to see the issue with this. Nor did her Broker.

  11. Vincent says:

    I dont know how you have the patience when dealing with these agents. But I guess blogging about it helps.

  12. Graham says:

    Excellent Friday post.

    Reminds me of that letter I e-mailed you months ago from a local realtor who apparently had many interested buyers for my 1966 built, shitty one-bedroom Yonge and Eglinton rental unit.

  13. Moonbeam! says:

    David — can you warn your readers that talking to an agent at an open house or phoning one on a For Sale sign or inviting one into their home for a ‘free estimate’ will make that agent will feel entitled! New buyers or sellers should only contact their own agent, not discuss a property with another agent…I don’t think this is clear to people new to real estate.

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