Busy market… who’s got time to complain, right?

By Dennis Wilson, Manager, Professional Standards

It’s logical to think that during a hectic market – and this year has been the busiest since 2005 – that REALTORS® don’t have time to launch complaints against one another, or that clients are just too focused on trying to buy or sell their next home. Well, not exactly.

Unfortunately, professional standards issues arise no matter what type of market we’re experiencing and certain circumstances, namely the shortage of inventory and stiff competition that we’re seeing now, can actually cause complaints to increase.

What does stay consistent however, be it a sellers’ or buyers’ market, is the number one contributing factor of complaints: A lack of good communication. And this is particularly prevalent when the market is humming.

Every day, I get phone calls or emails that sound like this:

“It’s been days, he/she hasn’t gotten back to me… I need to know the status of my offer.” From a REALTOR® about another REALTOR®.

“It’s been weeks and I haven’t heard anything from my REALTOR®…” From a client about their REALTOR®.

“The Broker said he couldn’t do anything for me; to call the Board…” From a client about their Brokerage.

What do I do when I hear (or read) these on a daily basis? The first step is I listen. It’s an old mantra, but valuable; good communication starts with seeking to understand before striving to be understood.

Secondly, I try to determine the cause of why the person is upset. What happened? What didn’t happen? What should have happened?

I’m sure you can tell right off the bat that the underlying issue with every one of these situations mentioned above is communication. In the first case, one REALTOR® hasn’t picked up the phone; likely feeling bad about the lack of good news, or it’s been awhile and they feel badly about the delay.

Second scenario, ditto. The REALTOR® either hasn’t connected with his/her client and is feeling stressed about that or possibly hasn’t explained the process of how things work.

The third situation arises when the client can’t reach their REALTOR®, so they call the Brokerage responsible, and the Broker refers them back to their REALTOR® or says call the Board… and around we go. In this case, it’s not just bad communication, it’s no communication.

For every one of these situations, there are also assumptions being made… possibly, by all parties.

REALTORS® often assume their clients understand the processes of buying or selling real estate, but that’s what you’re there for. If you haven’t thoroughly explained it to them, how would they know?

Clients assume that the listing Broker should be willing to help them because it is after all, their listing…and guess what? The client is right. The Brokerage is the company representing the client while the REALTOR® is the company’s agent. So, both parties have a responsibility to that client.

It all comes down to the necessity of good communication. Whether you’re the client, the listing or selling REALTOR® or listing or selling Broker, everyone needs to be kept informed every step of the way, particularly in a fast-paced market. Problems tend to occur when you’re at your busiest.

So, what do you do if there is a problem?

If you’re thinking of complaining about a fellow member… first, ask yourself, have you communicated clearly about your expectations? If not, try again. Next, seek the advice of your Broker. Formulate a plan, which will likely include you or your Broker calling their Broker to clearly communicate what’s going on and also includes a lot of listening.

Calling me, should be amongst your last steps.

Now, if I’ve just left you a message to indicate there has been a complaint against you… first thing, is don’t panic, it is likely due to a miscommunication. The majority of complaints I receive are resolvable through communication.

If you’d like to review the process of placing a complaint, responding to a complaint or arbitration, check out the links on my Professional Standards page on REALTOR Link®.

It’s classic, but if you stop and think about it, if we all took the time to communicate better – at work and at home too (I can say that after 40 years of marriage) – we’d avoid all kinds of uncomfortable, stressful situations and all be better off. In short, I can’t communicate enough about the power of good communication!