Bozo Alert!In our Silicon Valley area there are gobs and gobs of real estate professionals – about 15,000 people are members of our local MLS.  In Los Gatos alone, there are probably about a thousand (for a town with about 30,000 residents, maybe 2/3 of them adults).  So definitely, if you live here, you do know Realtors.  You must.  In Silicon Valley, if you don’t know any real estate licensees, you don’t have any friends, as the saying goes.

So any licensee, like yours truly, knows and understands that when our friends (or even sometimes our family members) go to list a home for sale, or pick a buyer’s agent, we may not be the Realtor of choice.  At times, we get a nice email or call explaining (that is nice, and it is appreciated) why someone else was hired.  Other times,  we aren’t even called, texted or emailed, but instead find out “by accident”. That’s harder.  Lots, lots harder.

In all cases, though, it’s much easier to lose the listing (yes, that’s how we real estate agents feel about it) when the agent who is hired is a great agent, or at least a really good one.  The better agents are well liked in the real estate community: they know what they are doing, they work from strong ethics, are fair and honest to deal with, they work hard in representing their clients’ best interests, their egos aren’t super-sized, they don’t BS sellers with what they “want to hear” but tell them the truth (what they need to hear), and they don’t take stupid shortcuts to save a couple of hundred bucks in marketing…. This is not a comprehensive list, but you get the idea.

If a friend or loved one hires a great agent, I will say right away “good choice!” or  “we are great friends, she will take wonderful care of you!  or “fabulous agent, you’re in good hands!”   Not so good?  I will wish you all the success in the world, a speedy sale and fast and uneventful escrow.  I cannot tell you that you’re hired a super agent when I know better.  And I will not tell you what I wish I could, namely, you just hired someone who’s clueless or massively distrusted / disliked or whatever negative thing might be the case.  No can do. That would be a violation of the Realtor code of ethics.

Listed with a bozo – oh no!

Today I had an accidental find of the unhappy type.  A friend of mine, who was a past client too, had her San Jose condo on the market last year as a short sale but I hadn’t known it.  Those agents who listed it didn’t get the job done and her condominium was repossessed by the bank.  It eventually sold as an REO.    Them’s the facts.

We chatted a lot in the fall, this friend and I.  I hadn’t looked on the mls to see if her home was on the market (I don’t normally just go checking the multiple listing service to see if my friends’ homes are there!).  I knew that she was moving and asked her if she was going to sell or rent it out – she told me that she hadn’t decided yet.  I of course offered to help if she wanted comps, market data etc.  Nothing.  I figured she was overwhelmed.  Checked back a few times – more nothing.   This afternoon I was going to check in on her one last time to see if she’d decided when it occurred to me that maybe I ought to check the mls.  Whoa, there it was – an REO sale months and months ago.

I felt a little sick in my stomach.  This was a friend I’d helped over and over, even bringing her groceries at times (she is not able bodied) and sometimes  driving her places when she needed it.  Had I known that she was in financial straights and needed a short sale, I’d have connected her with a great person who does a lot of distressed listings. Instead, she hired a bozo agent who took the photos himself – they are dark and horrible.  Don’t people understand that the photographs online are your first open house?  The comments were less than compelling with phrases like “must see!” (whole lot of nothing) too.  I went from feeling a little sick to feeling very sick in my stomach.

Now I’m thinking back on the last year and remembering how often this person told me that I was very important to her.  I’m a sap for affection, so this didn’t hit me as especially odd, though there was certainly an increase in her verbalizing how she felt about my friendship.  At the time, I thought it was just that she was leaning on me more than she used to. But it occurs to me now that perhaps she was worried that I’d see her home listed online.    I wish she had just told me….  She’d have found me sympathetic and helpful and supportive.   Instead, I feel confused and hurt – I thought we were friends, and friends do share things, even the hard stuff.

Looking back, I wish I could have gone back a few months in time and said, “if you don’t want to hire me, please at least hire someone good!”  But it’s water under the bridge, isn’t it?  And when a home’s listed (or when a buyer’s agent is chosen), we cannot say anything to the client about their choice.  That’s strictly prohibited by our Realtor code of ethics.  (I do wish that there were a “Bozo Alert” though.) There’s no shortage of choice.  I do not feel like anyone (my husband excepted) is obligated to hire me, so there’s no entitlement sense here.

In sum, just this: please, please – hire someone good.  I’d like it to be me, but if it’s not me, please be picky.  Don’t be swept up by some fast-talking sales person who’s got more hot air than substance. Don’t hire someone who makes you feel great but cannot back it up with performance.  Read the mls description and comments.  Care if the photos are any good or not.  Take the time to interview 3 or 4 agents.  It’s worth it.

Please, I beg you: just don’t hire a bozo.