The National Association of Realtors is attempting to regulate a change in the Coming Soon environment – see above. The way it is written, however, will just take us back to the days when off-market deals were done behind closed doors because they are permitting the ‘office exclusives’.
Coming Soons were the industry’s public admission that we do off-market deals, and to give you a chance to get your piece of them. But now the N.A.R. wants brokerages to pick a lane.
1. Comply with the new rule, and change the name of your off-market deals to ‘office exclusives’, where no one can see them.
2. Don’t do anything, and pretend that off-market deals aren’t happening at your shop.
3. Declare publicly that off-market deals are a vital part of your business, and keep marketing them as Coming Soons to the public, in spite of any changes in the N.A.R. rules. What are they going to do?
Numbers 1 & 2 above are the less-transparent choices, and the easier way to go for the agents who justify their off-market deals by saying the seller got what they wanted.
Number 3 is the fully-transparent admission of the truth – agents like to pad their wallets with off-market deals, and don’t see anything wrong with that.
Off-market deals aren’t going away, regardless of the rules. The existing rules already state that all listings are to be inputted onto the MLS within 48 hours, but it gets ignored and there is no policing or penalties.
It’s better for everyone involved – agents, buyers, and especially sellers – to put every listing onto the MLS to ensure full exposure so everyone can compete. Buyers would feel they had an equal chance to buy, sellers get top dollar, and all agents get a fair chance to earn a paycheck.
But N.A.R. and the industry’s upper management looks the other way. It will take a class-action lawsuit or new regulations from the federal government to bring real change.
This is the fourth installment of my essay on the future of real estate sales. I’ll send this along to Brad Inman, who is gathering thoughts for a leadership conference at the end of March, so they have my perspective from the street.
The unconscious desperation among agents is ripping apart the formal agreement between brokers to share listings. The environment is going the way of commercial brokers, where exposing listings to other agents is a last resort.
We see it happening – there is the occasional article – but without vigorous intervention by realtors themselves, the MLS will slowly disintegrate and be picked apart by outsiders.
Sadly, the sharing of listings is what is best for sellers, buyers, AND realtors, but the greed and desperation among agents gets in the way.
What Can Be Done? What Are The Choices?
Individual agents can adopt a full-transparency program, starting with publicly describing the specific services they offer, and their commission rates. If consumers took the time to educate themselves about the differences between agents, at least they would make better decisions than they do now. It’s unlikely that this will happen, because agents are lazy and won’t bother, unless forced to do so.
We can hope that N.A.R., C.A.R., big brokerages and other industry titans will address this specific problem, and implement changes to save the MLS and broker cooperation out of a commitment of doing what’s best for consumers. Probably the least likely of these five to actually happen.
We can have big leadership conferences where outsiders will speculate how the disrupters will pick us apart, piece by piece.
We can wait for the government to intervene.
We can do nothing, and watch the broker cooperation via the MLS – which is the best thing for everyone involved – die a slow but certain death.
We can hope that somebody will find an answer. But it would have to include ways to eliminate agent shenanigans, invigorate consumers, and be a forward-thinking solution that benefits all.
The inquiry might start with creating a national MLS, or electing a real estate czar, or encouraging agents to keep their word and quit cheating their own customers out of what’s best.
But what if a thing was the answer?
The solution is LIVE AUCTIONS.
We can easily incorporate them into our regular business as the process to select the winning bidder. All other selection processes used today are subject to the listing agent tilting the table – with a live auction, all participants will be watching, and able to determine the actual winning bidder.
Could there be shill bidders who run up the price? Yes, but let’s insist that every buyer is represented by a realtor – that way, at least the agent’s reputation is on the line.
Live auctions would keep listing agents and buyer-agents employed, though the fee structure may be in flux. But our commissions are already under attack, so let’s take a chance that consumers will agree to pay a reasonable fee for these live auctions, and the other additional benefits provided by realtors.
A live auction doesn’t have to be a showy, champagne-filled soiree with a fast-talking auctioneer. They can be as simple as gathering the buyers around the living room, in a rather informal setting.
I am offering the live-auction strategy to my sellers as the fairest and most effective way to select a buyer, and let the full transparency be the best way to reach top-dollar.
Here’s an example – catch the winning agent’s comments at the 9-minute mark:
When I first started this blog on a Saturday morning in September, 2005, I thought I needed to hurry up before every agent was blogging. Wouldn’t this be a great vehicle to educate consumers and demonstrate our expertise? Certainly, every agent will be doing it!
Instead, what blogging has exposed is that agents either have nothing to say, or transparency isn’t their friend. You rarely see much more than their recent successes – advertising of the properties they just listed or sold, with focus on how great the agent is.
Why doesn’t transparency catch on?
What do listing agents have to fear?
Exposing how sales are put together is like the proverbial sausage factory. Realtors don’t want you to know how the sausage is made.
Once an agent has a signed listing, how they procure a buyer is what makes the difference between a legitimate open-market sale, and an insider job. Even those agents who initially plan a legitimate open-market sale can get duped into an off-market quickie. How does that happen?
We operate in a desperate environment, and the most-desperate agents are making the market. Even the agents who AREN’T desperate, have to operate as if they ARE desperate, just to keep up. Unethical or illegal actions are commonplace, and with no enforcement whatsoever of the rules or laws, they continue unabated.
It’s always been like this, but after the fleecing of the banks during the short-sale/foreclosure era, we have become numb to the fraud perpetrated by realtors everywhere. Agents have brought their off-market fraud practices into the tight-inventory era, and expanded upon them.
Here are a few of the tricks being used by listing agents to deprive their own sellers of a top-dollar open-market sale. The most incredible part is that every agent implicates themselves by inputting these listings directly onto the MLS for all to see what happened:
Coming Soons that never come. Instead, the listing agent finds a buyer from just placing a ‘Coming Soon’ sign in the front yard, and once procured, they input the listing directly into the pending section of the MLS.
Sold Before Processing. We now see a few of these happen every day in North San Diego County’s coastal region. The listing agent takes advantage of the MLS loophole that states every listing to be inputted within 48 hours. It make take longer than that – but who will know or care when there is no enforcement of the rule – and office managers encourage the practice in order to keep both commissions in-house.
The listing agent prevents showings the first few days on the market.
The listing agent says house will be auctioned in three weeks, but then accepts an offer before then. Either auction the house, or don’t auction.
The listing agent provides lousy MLS input – bad or no photos, etc.
Instead of lowering the price publicly on a listing that has languished for months, the listing agent lowballs his seller with a buyer he has procured.
The listing agent gives the appearance of an open-market sale, but then plugs in his own buyer at the last minute.
The worst part about this situation is that we accept it.
Other agents who see these tricks happening on the MLS are subconsciously thinking that it must be permissible, so they set out to do it themselves. After all, who wouldn’t want to make two commissions, instead of one? It is a self-perpetuating cycle that no one is talking about, let alone doing something.
We are racing towards the end of broker cooperation as we’ve known it.
By joining the Association of Realtors, every agent has agreed in writing to share their listings with other agents, and adhere to a strict Code of Ethics – to cooperate with each other. But the opposite is happening – it is cool to NOT share listings, and round-trip the commission instead.
The disrupters are taking full advantage of the opportunity, and capitalizing on the greed of agents by designing vehicles to perpetuate this vicious cycle of self-serving off-market sales, in spite of seller and buyer fiduciary duties.
Examples of how this has evolved are the listings inputted as ‘Sold Before Processing’, but then the listing agent DIDN’T round-trip the commission; instead, a different agent represented the buyer. They don’t recognize the harm being done to their own seller by not exposing the home to every buyer and agent. Yes, I’m sure there is an occasional instance that warrants an off-market sale, but not as many as we see today.
Because we see all of these listings on the MLS without explanation, it makes unsuspecting agents believe it’s all legit. Our buyers see listings come and go in five seconds, and they get more desperate:
Even the real estate maverick (who has been promising to StopZillow and save real estate for months), rolled out his answer last night. Incredulously, it is a mobile app designed to funnel all buyers directly to the listing agent within minutes (I skipped the first 20 minutes of backslapping):
This is my series of blog posts to address the situation, and my final installment is coming next.
Redfin publishes their commission rate on their website, and it makes sense. All brokerages should make it easier for the consumer to evaluate the choices.
Here are my commission plans for home sellers:
Full Service – Expert (2% to 2.5%)
I handle all of the critical details that result in a signed contract. Preparing the house, guidance on attractive pricing, effective marketing, and implementing bidding-war strategies are the key categories. More details HERE.
The exact percentage is determined by price point, condition of home, and my involvement in the seller’s next move.
Kayla has been a realtor since March, 2014, and has been an active participant in our 122 sales since then. She possesses the best skill in a realtor – she is a natural salesperson – and I have been training her myself. For those who demand less commission but still want top-notch, quality representation, Kayla is an excellent choice.
Transaction Coordinating – Included in Both Above
For the last twenty years, Donna has been our expert in making sure your sale closes successfully with as little disruption as possible. To make sure everyone involved does their job correctly (escrow, title, lenders, and all other supporting cast), Donna tactfully tracks and encourages the 50+ people involved on every sale.
I don’t offer a limited service plan. The buyer-agents resent having to do both sides of the deal, and will penalize a seller along the way with lower offers, and heavy repair requests. Better to pay a reasonable commission to get adequate or expert representation.
Buyer-Agent Commission (2% to 2.5%)
Sellers also want to offer enough money to the buyer’s agents to be competitive with other listings nearby. A house listed with a below-market commission for the buyer’s agents will still get shown, but it will be used to sell the house down the street. Offer a ‘bounty’ that incentivizes agents to give priority to selling your house.
In all cases above, no money is required up front, and commissions are only payable if a transaction closes. The commission rate charged by an agent is a direct reflection of how serious they are about helping you, and their effectiveness. I will pay for myself every time!
Typically, if you want to know what a realtor does to sell your house, you have them over to make a listing presentation in person. Because of antitrust laws that ‘promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers’, the commission rates charged by realtors are rarely seen in public.
Until the discounters came to town.
They advertise their rate because they want to appeal to the price-shoppers. Consumers who shop for the lowest rate are attracted to this ploy, and don’t ask enough questions about what they get for the money.
Because the real estate industry refuses to publish any minimum standards, the discounters can get away with statements like, ‘full service for less’. Today, you can ‘hire’ a realtor for $100 or less – but what do you get, and is it what you want and need?
Let’s start by outlining the levels of service available.
The Different Types of Realtor Service
Full Service – Expert
This is where you get a long-time veteran realtor – a full-timer who has closed hundreds of sales – to handle every aspect of your transaction. Any assistants involved have a similar level of experience, and together they produce a smooth, seamless sale at the absolute highest price possible.
Full Service – Trainee
Every agent learns on-the-job. Consumers deserve to know the differences, but because of the lack of transparency, there is no qualifying of how helpful an agent will be – you are taking a chance. Agents can claim to be in the Top 1%, and say their assistants are ‘experts’, but there are no official standards. As a result, team leaders are prone to hiring lower-cost employees with less experience to fill the gaps. Because it is a fast-paced and complicated business, the trainees struggle to deliver the same results as the real experts.
This is one service that is clearly defined here, because of everything the realtor doesn’t do for you. It is primarily for MLS entry only, where the realtors cash your check, input your listing onto the MLS system and hope you can figure out the rest on your own.
Consumers – and realtors themselves – would be well-served if the real estate industry had a definition of the services provided, and then had every agent publish the specifics of what they do to serve clients.
Zillow does allow agents to list their sales history, but there is no instruction for consumers to properly use the information. Their agent profiles are full of fluff, with at least half of them promising to deliver your ‘dreams’.
If every realtor published their actual services provided (with fees) and a detailed profile of every team member’s experience, then consumers could make an educated decision about who they are hiring.
Mortgage rates moved up significantly last week. Will rates continue to rise? Expect mortgage rates to go up this week closer to 3.1%. Freddie Mac will release the 30-year fixed mortgage rate tomorrow morning. Stay tuned.
Jim the Realtor is legit - I interviewed three brokers; he said list price should be $100,000 higher than the other two brokers; listed it with him and had all cash (no financing) offer in two days, five day contingency period, closing in two weeks - and it closed at his recommended list price. I could not recommend anyone more than I recommend Jim the Realtor.
When we moved to San Diego in 2005 we rented a big house on Mt. Soledad (La Jolla) with 180 degree ocean views for the same payment as a mortgage on a dump in Chula Vista. Clearly something was wrong. Yet, the media was full of the usual happy-talk nonsense, so I was glad to find Jim's blog. I've followed his honest assessments and data since.
We decided to sell and move to AZ at Thanksgiving. Dec. 1st we met with Jim to sell our home. We closed today (29 days later). Jim orchestrated a feeding frenzy -- we had 25 showings in 2-1/2 days, multiple offers, and sold for well over asking price. I'd say he earned his commission! We have owned and sold homes in 5 different States always using experienced, productive, full-time realtors. Jim outshines them all.
You don't decide to sell and close 29 days later over Christmas (with COVID lockdown) without some miracles. Donna was amazing at performing lots of those miracles and ensuring that everything was done right and on time. They are a terrific team with a very responsive and professional network.
Where do we begin..2020 has been a year for everyone. When COVID hit and shut down both my husband and my businesses, we were left with a mortgage and very little income coming in. We were stressed, scared and felt stuck. We made the hard decision to sell our home and move out of state. We contacted the Klinges' and spent a good hour going over what we hoped we could accomplish. Jim and Donna came over with comps in hand and suggestions on improvements to get our house ready for the market. It was overwhelming to think about, but Donna was there and one step ahead in every scenario. Basically we just approved what they suggested and Donna handled literally everything. We placed our house on the market and within the first day we had multiple offers well above asking price! We couldn't believe it. We were overjoyed! Jim countered the offers to weed through them, and everyone came back with way more. It was amazing, and we are ?? sure it was because of the staging and repairs the Klinges suggested we do.
Due to unforeseen dishonesty from the buyers lender, we hit a big hurdle when trying to close. We had already moved out of state and were shocked when three days before closing the lender dropped a bombshell on the buyers and us. However, Jim and Donna handled it like veterans, not afraid to play hard ball and represent their clients. After a few phone calls with us, and several between Donna and the lender, they had a plan B-Z to make sure we were taken care of. In the end we closed with even more money than we ever thought possible and with very little work from us. The Klinges handled this entire "2020" worthy event with the utmost professionalism and did everything in their power to not only make this as smooth as possible for us, but we also walked away with more money from the sale of the house than we ever hoped for. After working with Jim and Donna, you don't ever use anyone else. They are hands down the best team to represent you in any scenario.
Working with Klinge Realty Group was a great experience! They are very responsive, professional and knowledgable about the real estate market! I would definitely recommend Klinge Realty Group.
Jim and Donna Klinge made the sale of our condo extraordinarily easy. They know the market and gave us sound advice backed by details and very considerable experience, reflected both in the initial pricing and subsequent negotiations. They work together as a team and are always available to talk. We had a few challenges with our property and they were able to coordinate the resolution to everything, including items that I would not think would ordinarily be their responsibility to handle. They made the whole process effortless on our part. They are folks with high integrity and we cannot recommend them highly enough.
Review for Member: Donna Klinge
I cannot believe there are no reviews of Donna yet, ugh!! She is the secret sauce of the Jim Klinge/Donna Klinge combo! I will touch on Jim here, but Donna is why I'm so totally loyal to these two (no offense to Jim :)).
I consider myself a rather savvy buyer/seller. I've bought/sold 7 times in about 15 years. On the buy side, Jim is the PERFECT combo of: completely digitally savvy (he will pull data all day long until you feel comfortable with your chosen house, area, school district, anticipated appreciation rate...anything!), he's super well respected and known in the area by other agents, an amazingly cool but strategic negotiator, is totally devoid of desperation for a sale/commission, and more.
Then once you get into contract phase, Donna literally handles every last and final detail in a concierge-like manner -- totally shielding you from the daily back and forth, noodling and annoyances of the buyer's requests. She solves it ALL; it's miraculous what that woman accomplishes over and above what is even expected in a buy/sell transaction.
On the sell side, Jim and Donna do the same, but even moreso. Donna in particular truly takes everything off your plate: she'll manage getting the house painted, the carpets replaced, she'll go on site (as she Jim both did for me when selling our rental properties) to work with the renters and make sure the house is ready to show -- freeing me to have to take time off of work to do so. They work with A+ integrity, too, so you know you are serving all parties fairly and lawfully throughout.
A home purchase/sale is the most considered you'll ever make. HIRE A SAVVY AGENT, not a friend!, and get what you need out of the transaction. Jim and Donna are our agents for life.
Jim and Donna Klinge are by far the most professional, personable and responsive realtors I have ever worked with. They provide VIP concierge level service in every area of the process of selling your home. My home was marketed so successfully that we received an offer the day after our first and only open house. Thanks to Jim's pricing and negotiating, our house is now the highest sold in our community. Jim's vast experience means he has worked with several realtors and knows the market all over north county. Donna is AMAZING in processing everything in the transaction. She scheduled trades people to work on the house in preparation for the sale as well as the repairs needed before closing. She communicated clearly every step of the way about what would be happening. She took the weight off my shoulders for the whole process. I will always use Jim and Donna for my future real estate needs and I whole heartedly recommend them to anyone buying or selling a home.
Jim and the team at Klinge Reality are without a doubt the best in the business! Not only was Jim helpful and extremely knowledgeable, he was patient and determined to help me find my first home. Jim and his team have been in the business for many years, and it shows. Jim is a wealth of knowledge and was my biggest proponent despite the temperature of the competitive market. I ended up getting the perfect property in my dream neighborhood all thanks to Jim. From the day my offer was accepted, Donna was a real lifesaver. She was extremely helpful, responsive, and knowledgeable when it came to every minute detail, and held my hand through the process. As a first time home buyer I had no idea what the process would entail, but Donna curtailed every concern I came across and made the escrow process feel seamless. Jim and Donna provided me the best home buying experience, and I am very grateful for all they did for me. It was truly a pleasure to work with Jim and Donna and I am already looking forward to the next time we work together!
Review for Member: Richard Morgan
Richard is an amazing realtor! He has high integrity and genuinely cares about his clients and their needs. Richard paid close attention to what I was seeking in a home and was very patient in our search to find it. I would highly recommend Richard and will use him for future transactions. Truly a different kind of realtor experience!
Could not be happier with my experience with Jim and his team. He helped me sell a very unique and challenging property. Throughout the entire process he was always available, honest, transparent, trustworthy, and always put my interests as a seller first. A (rare) true professional! During close of escrow Jim went above and beyond to complete the deal. It would not have been possible without his experience, fantastic team, and pure dedication. Highly recommended!
Thanks Jim and Donna Klinge!