“Here’s the thing. I’m only willing to give you the listing if you give my Aunt Lauren a referral fee”
Nechama Norman with Batsheva Berman
Cathy Hayes was introduced to me through a friend whose home I sold. Cathy told me that she and her husband Tim were relocating to Utah and she wanted me to sell their home.
From our brief conversation, it was clear that Tim was the one who made all the major decisions, so I asked to meet with both of them. She told me Tim worked very full time, but found a slot for me on Thursday night.
I then asked her if she’d like me to find her a buyer’s agent in Utah. While many real estate agents are only licensed in their specific country/state, we often refer to each other. I have family members who have moved to cities all across America, and I spend many hours interviewing agents, until I find someone who I feel is solid and competent, at which point I refer them. I offered to do that for Cathy, but she told me that she had an aunt, Lauren, who is a real estate agent in Utah, and she’d be finding them a home.
Thursday morning, Cathy called. “I know we’re supposed to meet tonight,” she said, “but here’s the thing. I’m only willing to give you the listing if you give my Aunt Lauren a referral fee.”
I was taken aback. I’m happy to give a referral fee if someone actually referred me, but in this case, her aunt had had nothing to do with any of our interactions. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure I wanted to lose the client over this. Pushing off a final decision, I told Cathy we’d discuss this when I sat with them.
I showed up at 9 p.m. sharp and was ushered into the den. Tim Hayes was a stocky man in a well-cut suit. It was quickly apparent that he was a savvy businessman. He asked me many astute questions, then said he’d be happy to work with me.
“Great!” I said. “Let’s sign a contract.”
That was when Cathy piped up, “If we sign, Nicky is going to give Lauren a referral fee.”
Tim was horrified. “Lauren! What does Lauren have to do with this?” he exploded.
“What do you mean?” Cathy retorted. “She’s helping us so much. I’m driving her crazy, trying to find the perfect house in Utah. She’s been looking at so many houses for us and sending us all those pictures. She deserves this referral!”
“You get a referral commission for making a referral,” her husband said through gritted teeth. “She didn’t make a referral. Why didn’t you ask me before you insisted on such a ridiculous request?”
“How should I ask you? You’re never home. And you ignore my calls.”
“Well, if you didn’t call me 12 times a day, if you didn’t hound me, I wouldn’t ignore you.”
They sat there, slinging mud at each other, while I wished I could disappear. Finally, I tried to step in. “We don’t need to finalize this right now,” I told them. “Would you like me to come back a different time?”
They both ignored me, while they continued dredging up old hurts. I realized I could either let this situation continue to deteriorate or I could help Cathy save face, and restore the peace.
“It’s fine,” I said loudly, trying to make myself heard over the shouting. “It sounds like Lauren has been doing a lot for you. I’m happy to give her a referral fee.”
Tim shook his head in disgust, but the fight wound down and they signed a contract.
That night I got a text from Cathy: By the way, my husband says I was right.
And I smiled.
Managing family dynamics is a big aspect of work as a real estate agent. A few years ago I was working with Leroy and Maggie, a couple with a large, close-knit family. Their married kids and grandchildren filled the home at all hours.
The house was also incredibly cluttered with mementos and knick-knacks. I knew something was going to have to change if we wanted to sell this home; people would see the clutter and flee. One room in particular was a nightmare — I couldn’t even see the floor.
“Do you think you could clean this room?” I asked Maggie.
“Oh, that’s Peter’s room,” she told me. “I keep telling him he’s gotta clean up, but he completely ignores me.” She shrugged. “I think that room is hopeless.”
“No, it’s not,” I told her. “Let me speak with him. He won’t say no to me.”
Maggie threw me a dubious look. “You?”
“Yep, but there’s one condition: you can’t say a single word.”
A short while Peter came home. He was no cute little kid; he towered above me and must have weighed close to 300 pounds. I took a deep breath, then approached him.
“Hi, Peter,” I said. “Here’s the deal. As you know, your parents are selling this place, so we have to clean up. I don’t want you fighting with your mom about this — and I’m sure you don’t want to either. I’d do it myself, but I respect your stuff, I don’t want to put anything in the wrong place. Can I tell you what has to happen so we can get this room looking presentable?”
“Sure, ma’am,” he replied.
He followed me like an obedient puppy. I pointed to item after item, he tossed some stuff, put away other items, moved things around. Maggie stood near the door, mouth agape. I gave her a warning glance: Don’t say a word. Thanking him profusely for all the help he was offering, I kept going through the room with him. Two hours later, every surface was clear.
“Great work,” I told Peter, before heading downstairs with Maggie.
Maggie was incredulous. “I feel like I should pay you right now,” she said. “Forget selling my house — you got my son to clean his room and that’s enough!”
to be continued…
*All names and details have been changed
Nechama “Nicky” Norman is a licensed real estate agent servicing greater Lakewood, New Jersey. She focuses on residential property and loves to educate people about buying and selling by hosting seller events.
Couples often find themselves with mountains of belongings from adult children who moved out years earlier, and never got around to clearing out their stuff. The easiest — albeit somewhat pricey — solution is to divvy it all into boxes, and have it shipped to them. (Just don’t tell them this came from me.)
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 810)
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