Happy couple having a business meeting with a financial advisor. They are looking at a laptop computer or digital tablet. They are an ethnic couple. They looking worried and upset.

When you make a promise – keep it

by Paul Cowhig, Advisor, Professional Standards

When you don’t keep your promises, it makes us all look bad. One of the top complaints I hear from the public, one way or another, is about REALTORS® not keeping their promises to clients.

Does this sound familiar?

It’s usually something said in the context of getting the consumer/client to make a decision. You’re an hour and a half into a listing presentation and you say, “Sign the 6-month listing and, if you’re not happy after a month or two, I’ll cancel it.” Then, after you’ve invested time and money, you’re suddenly not so willing. So you don’t cancel, or for the first time you now mention the 60 day hold over clause. Or you say it’s really up to my Broker and they’re unwilling or ‘not available’, or some other poor excuse.

Or let’s say you’re trying to close a sale that’s a bit on the low side and you say, “If you take this offer, I’ll reduce my commission xx amount when you buy.” Then you ’forget’, and the deal closes without a reduction of commission, and you’re nowhere to be found. Suddenly you’re unavailable until enough time goes by for the client to give up and go away, muttering to themselves about being stupid enough to have believed a REALTOR®.

Then they tell all their friends. They tell people they meet in the dog park, the grocery store checkout line or at the bus stop. Everyone has to hear about it because telling their tale of woe to anyone who will listen is the only satisfaction they can get at that point. And when the story is about a dishonest REALTOR®, everyone perks up their ears.

Your words and actions can follow you

I get that this is a very tough business. It’s not easy out there and the public has very little appreciation of what we do and what we go through to make their dreams come true. But please think about this.

What you do in one situation is how people think you do everything. If you say you’ll do something, you must follow through or you’re a liar. That’s harsh I know but think about it for a minute from the client/consumer side.

You say you’ll do something in order to get them to agree to do something they don’t really want to do. You’re essentially promising to protect them from harm or loss as a result. You’re proposing a compromise, “You do this, and I’ll do that.” There’s two parts. With the above examples they’ve done their part and now you must do your part, or you have essentially lied to them.

Doing it better

I’m going to make two suggestions. First, don’t make promises you are not 100% prepared to keep. Don’t say things you don’t really mean just to get someone to agree to do something. Ever. That’s something a true professional would never do. Second, if you do make a promise to do something, put it in writing. It will avoid confusion and it will help you to keep your word because it’s right there in black and white.

Standards of Business Practice Article 6 reads;

6. Written Transaction Agreements ARTICLE INTERPRETATION

REALTORS® shall ensure that agreements regarding real estate transactions are in writing in clear and understandable language, expressing the specific terms, conditions, obligations and commitments of the parties to the agreement.

Sometimes we need to act very deliberately to help us stay on track. Putting our promises in writing does that. It assures all parties that there will be no questions later as to what was agreed to. It means you can’t say later, “Oh…well that’s not really what I meant.” Council rules address this in the Professional Standards Manual below when they talk about the risk of confusion as a result of verbal agreements.

Such uncertainty can result in misunderstandings; the Council, therefore, is of the view that it is in the best interests of both the client and the brokerage to enter into a written service agreement.

Don’t ever forget that one of your primary duties is to act in the best interests of your client. Your written agreement, besides the obvious items, should include things such as:

  • what services the brokerage has agreed to provide or not provide to the client
  • what instructions are provided by the client
  • what authority the client has given to the brokerage
  • what other services are available and whether there may be additional or lower charges in certain cases
  • cancellation privileges other than what is already in the contract

When you put your promises in writing, it’s better for everyone. You, the client, and the entire industry. It’s what professionals do.