Where's the Love for Buyers?

By Dave Fratello | February 22nd, 2012

To work, a market needs both sellers and buyers.

Sellers need buyers.

Buyers need sellers.

And in real estate, both parties generally need agents.

But the business of real estate agency does not treat both parties equally.

Agents seem to love sellers. Buyers, not so much. 

From years spent in and out of the market, and a few years here producing MBC, we've picked up the tension. We've written several times about how the industry seems to serve sellers to the detriment of buyers.

Buyers may be necessary, but they're annoying – that seems to be the prevailing view.

Yesterday, while touring a property well outside MB for a client, we heard a listing agent say it crisply:

"I hate buyers."

He noticed when your blog author shook his head in surprise.

"Seriously, I totally hate buyers." (A third iteration included a curse word.)

A nearby agent chimed in with a story about a buyer client who had sent him a nasty email, blaming the agent for going on vacation when a property of interest to the buyer came to market and made a deal. "Where the hell were you?" was the message from the client. The agent felt unjustly accused, noted that the client had been getting auto-emails for months and was "just sitting on his ass," then said something about how communication is a two-way street. He was still bristling over it. "The guy still hasn't bought," he said, with a twist of indignation.

We've also heard this little cliché a few times:

"Buyers are liars."

"I'm going to buy. Yeah. That's the ticket!"

Hate? Liars? Accusations of ass-sitting? What's going on here?

The tension seems to come from the apparent unreliability of buyers as clients to follow through and, well, buy. Buyers may say they want this or that, but they might turn out to be permanent "looky-loos," more like real estate hobbyists than active buyers. Or they might change their minds and move on to a different neighborhood, a different price range – even a new agent.

So from an agent's perspective, buyers are often fickle or dead ends.

By contrast, if you are an agent and you link up with a seller and list a property for sale, odds are much better that you will wind up with a deal, and some income. You are therefore less likely to be "wasting your time" when pursuing properties to list for sale or working to market them.

If there is one thing that is most upsetting to an agent, it is the waste of his or her time. 

Sellers may also be repeat customers, in a few ways. Help someone sell their property and you may wind up helping them buy one in quick succession. Ka-ching. And someone local who owns property is more likely to need to enlist your services again than someone from out of the area who may, or may not, actually buy locally.

That's just a part of the dynamic that skews the business, and the mindset, toward sellers.

Now, as you know, your blog author here has a real estate license and is actively representing a few buyers.

We find this work engaging and personal, a challenge that can be long-term, but is very fulfilling when you succeed. Words like "hate" and "liars" just haven't occurred to us. (Someone is saying, "C'mon Dave, you must be green. Drop the Pollyanna routine.")

Of course there are plenty of agents who take the buyers' perspective seriously and do great work. They may accept the received wisdom that time spent with buyers is less likely to convert to income than time spent with sellers, but they're OK with that.

But do be aware, there are some real cynics and punks out there who have bought into the "hate" and "liars" meme. If you're interviewing an agent, consider asking: Will you still love me if I sit on my ass for a few months?

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