Buyer beware comes from a latin phrase (“caveat emptor”) that has been a rule for hundreds of years. The phrase is actually part of a longer statement: “Caveat emptor, quia ignorare non debuit quod jus alienum emit,” which is translated as “Let a purchaser beware, for he ought not to be ignorant of the nature of the property which he is buying from another party.” The phrase is still relevant today. As a buyer, you are responsible for your own decisions, including your offer on a property, the price, the due diligence, and even the real estate agent you hire to represent you. Even with all the consumer protections in the law, the reality is the clause “Buyer Beware” is still relevant today.
I talked with a buyer recently who called about a listing in the MLS, and after I answered some questions, he thanked me and then said “I’m working with an agent who showed me a few houses, so I kind of feel obligated to work with her, and I don’t want to hurt her feelings.”
I appreciate loyalty as much as the next guy, but no one deserves your unconditional loyalty just because. This is a major life decision for you, and it is perhaps the largest investment you will make for the rest of your life. Buyer beware.
Buyer Beware Feelings
Seriously, forget about hurting someone’s feelings if they haven’t earned your loyalty. There’s a lot more at stake here. This is your money–a lot of it–and your decisions will affect you the rest of your life. Don’t you owe it to yourself and your spouse to find the most knowledgeable, experienced, professional, competent, and honest real estate agent? Of course you do. Remember, this is about you, not any real estate agent or their feelings. In fact, this is totally about you and your best interests.
Loyalty is not a given–like trust, it needs to be earned.
If you have not signed a buyer’s agency agreement (I do not recommend signing one), you are free to hire any agent you want, and if you want to hire a more experienced agent, be courageous and let your other agent know that it’s been great, but you’ve decided to hire someone else. Be kind, but don’t let fear of hurting someone’s feelings hinder you from making the best decisions for your own life.
“Buyer beware” means you are paying attention to the risks of making the wrong decisions. The decision to hire a more experienced professional is one decision, and while it may be a little uncomfortable to fire one agent and hire another, it’s your life, isn’t it? The home you buy and the decisions that are made throughout that process will have lifetime implications for you. I wish more buyers were tuned into the meaning of buyer beware.
There are many great agents out there, and I enjoy working with many of them, but let’s be honest: Real estate agents are not all the same. Not by a long shot. Who you hire makes no difference to the real estate industry or anyone else, but it could make all the difference to you. I’ll say it again. Buyer beware.
If you had a consultation with a brain surgeon, and then learned later that there is another brain surgeon who has far more experience with complicated brain surgeries and who is nationally recognized as an expert, and who charges no more than the first one, tell me you wouldn’t go with the second one. You wouldn’t spend much time worrying about hurting the first surgeon’s feelings, right?
Buying a home isn’t brain surgery, but surely you are not going to trust an inexperienced agent with hundreds of thousands of your dollars and your retirement future because you worry about hurting someone’s feelings! By the way, be very careful about false loyalties. People often feel “obligated” to hire a Realtor in their Church or in their local club or a relative who is licensed. Stop it! None of those are reasons to risk your own future out of some unjustified notion of obligation or false loyalty. You don’t owe any of those people anything, and you certainly don’t owe them your loyalty because you might hurt their feelings if you don’t hire them. If one of them is the most qualified agent, then by all means, hire that person. But if not, find one who is.
Do your due diligence and hire the best real estate agent you can find, and if in the process of working with that agent, you discover he or she isn’t the right person, find the right person. This is your life, and you don’t owe any agent a duty of loyalty if they haven’t proven to you that they have the competence, experience, knowledge, professionalism, and integrity. This is about you, not your agent.
Buyer Beware Loyalty
Having said all of that, you should determine fairly quickly whether your agent has earned your loyalty. If you work with an agent for months by email and telephone, that alone doesn’t necessarily earn your undying loyalty if along the way they have proven they do not have the qualifications you want. If you arrive and they show you some houses, but you discover your agent does not meet the standards you want, you’re still free to make the best decisions for you and your family. Remember, throughout this entire process your agent is still earning your trust. You are free to hire another agent when they breach that trust or when they demonstrate they do not have the knowledge, competence, professionalism, experience, or integrity that you deserve in an agent. I’ll repeat myself, but it needs to be said again: This is your life. As a buyer, you should heed the wisdom of the centuries: buyer beware.
If you want to work with an agent with whom you feel you have a kindred spirit, or someone with a personality you enjoy, that’s great. By all means, I think that is important. Find an agent like that, but don’t compromise knowledge, experience, professionalism, and integrity. Those should be foundational. But once having established those credentials, there’s nothing wrong with wanting an agent who is friendly and enjoyable to work with. Competence with humility would be very admirable in your agent. Add a little sense of humor, and you might have found a great agent.
Now if your agent has demonstrated they are all that you need and want, you do owe your agent loyalty. That’s the difference. Loyalty is not a matter of safeguarding your agent’s feelings. It is an objective matter in which an agent proves to you that they deserve your loyalty. “Loyalty is not a given–like trust, it is earned.” When you’ve found that kind of agent, you won’t have to worry about Buyer Beware. You will be well represented.
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