How many Real Estate Agents, would take a 40% cut in their commission to get a listing? How about 20%?
There is an old joke about a famous person (who shall remain nameless) who asks an incredibly beautiful woman he has gotten to know casually at the grocery store, where she works, if she will sleep with him for a million bucks (yes, even famous people do their own shopping). She already knows she likes this guy (and probably would have slept with him for free). Intrigued, she thinks long and hard about his offer. She thinks about how much this money would solve so many of her problems—including getting her out of her dead end job at the grocery—-and paying for her to go back to school. She asks if it would only be for the one time. The famous person said, “Yes—-just once.” So the woman consents and asks where they should meet. The famous person then asks her, “Would you sleep with me for a hundred bucks?” The woman looks at the man with shock and disgust and asks him, “What kind of person do you think I am?” The man replied, “We have already established what kind of person you are—we are merely haggling over the price.”
One of the important things home inspectors do is to set expectations about what a home inspection is and is not. I suspect that agents do the same thing in their own way. Perhaps, by telling the buyer what the inspection “should” cost, they think they are helping control that aspect of the big picture—-as the inspection is but one of many aspects they have to incorporate into the whole transaction. While I can appreciate all the things that have to get juggled for the transaction to happen, telling the buyer what the inspection is going to cost should not be one of them.
On more than one occasion I have had to deal with the following scenario. The call from the agent comes in to find out my availability and what the cost of the inspection will be. I proceed to list the criteria that I need to know in order to arrive at a price: age, square footage, number of bathrooms, garages, crawl spaces, attics, detached structures, number of kitchens, number of stories, location, rental property, etc. So I get the information and do some quick calculations and say, “$620.00.”
This is where the agent goes into a story about how this is too much money because the agent already told the buyer that it would be $350.00, that the buyer is really strapped for cash and will I do it for $350.00?
Now I know there are agents that see it as their job to get the best deals for their buyers and it is hard to fault them for that, but when I am asked to discount what I charge (knowing what I know about what goes into the inspection and producing the report) it kind of gets under my skin. Now I don’t ever get this scenario from agents that recommend me all the time—-they know that I am going to take care of our buyer and that I am worth every penny.
I know that I should just say, “Forget it—that is my price—take it or leave it.” It is my Tragic Flaw (one of them) that I sometimes compromise and ultimately agree to a price somewhere in-between. While it would probably be entertaining to know why I do this, the point is that I do—-there are prostitutes in all professions—-not just the oldest one. What ends up happening is that a tiny but annoying seed of anger gets planted and festers just below the surface—-like a bed bug in a “by-the-hour” motel. Pretty soon one of the Little Voices in the back of my head says, “YOU IDIOT—-why did you agree to do the inspection for less than you deserve?” The Tragic Flaw retorts back, “Shut up—-it is too late—-I didn’t have to agree to the price—but I did—-and now I am making the best of it.” At which time the Other Little Voice repeats, “YOU IDIOT—-why did you agree to do the inspection for less than you deserve?” And of course the Other Little Voice does not stop—-he just sits there arguing with Tragic Flaw—with neither side willing to check out of the room.
Ultimately I have to just let them duke it out while I go about doing the inspection and inspection report—-only stepping in to referee when things start to get bloody.
My recommendation to agents is to give some sort of “range” for the cost of the inspection—-if they are not comfortable with simply saying that they don’t know—-and recommend that the buyer ask the inspector, because prices can fluctuate wildly depending on the list of criteria mentioned earlier. Agents should also prepare the buyer for the reality that prices vary widely from inspector to inspector—-for lots of good reasons and bad reasons.
I really am looking forward to kicking Tragic Flaw to the curb.
The moral of this story is:
“When we are not starving, we don’t have to do what we would do if we were.”
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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