Rules, Commissions, or Advocacy: What does your agent care about?

Maybe this is an oversimplification, but it feels like our industry is filled with three types of people…Realtors, Salespeople, and Agents. And yes, this is my opinion, but I think a lot of my colleagues would agree.

What’s the difference? Well…

The Realtor

There is a technical meaning to the title of Realtor. This person is a member of the National Association of Realtors and is licensed either as a broker or real estate salesperson. There is an official code of ethics that Realtors should abide by. And a Realtor should know a whole bunch of complicated laws about agency, disclosure, and fair housing, to name just a few. They should also understand the protocol on how to proceed when those gray areas arise in real estate transactions—and we know how those gray areas always tend to rear their ugly heads!

Some Realtors are very good with protocol. Maybe too good. We’ve both been party to more than a few transactions where the cooperation broker, a Realtor, seems to pay far less attention to  the idea of market value analysis in favor of just dealing with protocol. The net result? A poor financial decision.

There’s definitely an important balance. A Realtor can’t ignore the technical aspects of the deal and just focus on numbers. Everything is important.

Please be clear: we don’t mean to hammer our fellow Realtors! We’re just pointing out that those who focus on the minutiae of protocol can risk missing the bigger picture. Clients don’t win when that happens.

The Salesperson

Some people are born for sales.

Attend any real estate sales seminar and you will hear their ideas on how to make more money. All the tools and strategies they offer are meant to enhance the earning potential of attendees. More likely than not, you’ll find that their strategies emphasize a mix of enhancing people skills, mastering basic scripts, and developing a firm commitment to finding new leads. It all comes down to this: Talk to more people and do a better job of addressing their needs, and more income will follow. Pretty simple.

But at whose expense?

When your real estate representative is a ‘salesperson,’ lead generation activities take over the day.Everything else gets put on the back burner—including closing issues, inspection problems, etc. Basically, they might ignore a client’s urgent needs in service to their own sales goals. No good, no way.

Not all Salespeople will act this way, but keep in mind that there’s the potential for this kind of mindset. If a salesperson is laser focused on his deal count and volume, it forces you to evaluate whatever advice you’re getting to make sure it’s going to benefit you the most.

That said, if you’re working with a salesperson who is very busy, that’s usually a good sign. Also, if an advisor has a level of detachment and objectivity, that may come because of their financial achievement. In fact, some of the best advice comes from those who don’t actually need your business – they just want it – so they’re not laying it on thick just to impress or attract you.

You always want to be skeptical of advice from a salesperson. But put it to the test! You may find that it’s very accurate when it comes behind a lot of experience.

The Agent

The ‘agent’ is a little bit salesperson, a little bit Realtor, and a whole lot of ‘advocate.’

Agents certainly want success and deals and volume, but they tend to be strong advocates for their clients. They understand the Realtor Code of Ethics without letting it obstruct the overall goal of making sure the client is the eventual winner..

Agents always want the best deals for their clients. They want them to make good decisions. They generally will speak up if they sense their clients getting in their own way. And they do all of this while upholding a strong sense of business ethics. And when they’re successful, again, they’re not in a desperate position to win your business.


We warned you that this article might be a bit controversial.

Yes, we are pro-agent. You find a good agent, you keep him or her for the duration of your life because you will probably find more than one occasion to ask for his/her help on all sorts of things. We have clients that will call for a recommendation for a plumber or a painter or more complicated issues, like protesting an increased assessment.

If you help enough people get what they want, you will always be taken care of. We really believe that, especially when talking about the real estate industry. There are a lot of talented agents in Richmond who can really help make a transaction as favorable as possible. Find the right one, and they will be an advisor for life.

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