12 Realtors Rule

“I have to say, the other realtor we’re working with never goes over all this with us.” At Michelle’s curiosity driven request, R.M.’s ’50 cent tour’ was taking a jog north, into Riverwest. Michelle had spotted a coffee shop and she spoke into the void of the wait for their order.

“Other realtor?” R.M.’s eyebrows emphasized his question.

“We were out the other day, looking at properties with an agent from Driftwood Realty. Problem?”

“Let’s talk about it, upfront. Let me explain how it works.” They returned to the car, R.M. raising his steaming cup. “And if you don’t mind, I’d like to sit here while this cools a bit, before we start driving again. Once burned, twice shy.” The he-Shell groaned in sympathy. “In real estate, when you work with everybody, you work with nobody.”

“Cute. What does it mean?”Chapter 12 Realtors-Rule

“As in every business, there are rules to the game that don’t make a lot of sense to an outsider. Real estate is no exception. For instance, you can see any MLS property listed with any MLS agent. Doesn’t have to be with someone from the same real estate company that listed it.”

“You’re saying that one agent can show us everything we want, that we don’t have to see each company’s listings with one of their agents?


“Well, I’m the customer, and I can pick and choose who I want.”

“Hear me out. Think of it this way. I’ll use an analogy. A guy, let’s call him John, begins looking around online for a condo. Then he walks into a few places, talks to a few agents. At one open house, he meets an agent who seems to know what he’s talking about. Let’s assume he’s met me. I suggest to John that he preview a certain unit. Using the analogy, think of this as the first date.”

“First kiss?” Michelle teased.

“Not yet. John likes the unit but the building doesn’t impress him. I suggest some other developments he could compare and arrange our second date. He finds out I’m listening to what he likes and doesn’t like, not pushing him to buy.”

“Sounds fair.”

“John tells me he appreciates my input, not only about properties but about current market conditions. He asks to see additional places with me soon. We’re now working together.”

“Going steady?”

“We both understand through mutual consent, though we haven’t signed any contract, that we have some obligation to each other. I’ll continue to search for available properties and set up showings for John. He’ll view units with me, and only me, with the aim of eventually finding the one he wants to offer on. He’s a serious buyer.”

“Can the ring be far behind?”

“A proposal might be on the horizon, yes.”

“I get all this but what if this agent turns out to be a zero, or doesn’t even show me what I want. Are you saying that I’m not entitled to get somebody else, to use your analogy, and dump him?”

“Yes of course, but this is where it gets tricky. The next week John drives by an open house sign and drops in. Maybe he’s out with a friend. Whatever. He forgets – he’s not unhappy with me or anything, he just forgets – to tell the agent holding the open that he’s been working with me. Or forgets to show the agent my business card – the one I gave him to keep for these occasions.”

“Wait. No offense but why wouldn’t you already have shown John this place if you were so aware of what he wanted? Wouldn’t that mean you weren’t doing such a great job for him?”

“That might be true if John hadn’t already specifically told me he’d ruled out this development and that type of loft. Going by what he said he wanted, or didn’t want, I’d be equally guilty of wasting his time by taking him to see it.”

“Guess that’s true.”

“Another reason I offer this tour and show buyers as wide a range as possible at the beginning, before they focus their search.”

“Like you’re showing us now?”

On the condo tour

On the condo tour


“So if John changes his mind and buys that unit, what happens?”

“Then that lucky agent has ‘procuring cause.'”

“Eww. Sounds nasty.”

“It’s a legal term. The selling agent who first introduces John to the property he buys is more often than not entitled to the commission earned, not me, even if John tries to fix his oversight.”

“You’re totally dumped.”


“You’re right. It doesn’t make much sense. Well, it makes sense if I don’t care who gets paid. I wouldn’t care about the ‘zero’ realtor, anyway. Why is there that rule, though?”

“It protects realtors from each other and from buyers who don’t care. But it doesn’t protect a realtor from his own client who doesn’t understand or follow the system. I explain how it works, as I’m doing with you, but sometimes people miss the point that it’s best to work consistently with just one agent. Of course, it’s completely up to the buyer to choose that agent.”

“You mean, once they’re ‘engaged’?”

“You see, for John the outcome makes no difference. He’s the buyer and pays no commission. But I earn nothing even though I’ve been working in good faith with him. John feels badly about this but at this point there’s nothing to be done. ‘Them’s the rules.'” R.M. pulled out of the parking lot.

“That would totally suck for you, working for nothing.”

“If John had shown my card or mentioned me first, and then gone on to write on that unit, we’d have been fully engaged. But there’s another option for potential buyers, like you.”

“To avoid these breakups?”

“You sign a Buyer Agency contract, authorizing me to represent you. Otherwise, under Wisconsin law, I typically represent the seller.”

“Happy ever after?”

“I’ll give you a copy to review. I always hope that buyers live happily with their choice and that’s why I never rush a decision. In my experience, people don’t find a house on the web, write a check, and move in just like that. It’s more like ‘Caveat emptor.'”

“That’s some jargon I recognize. ‘Let the buyer beware.”‘