Real Estate

A birthday gift from Ty Russell

By From page HS3 | October 18, 2013

It was my mother’s 90th birthday and, as her eldest son, it became my responsibility to host a celebration party for Mom on this special occasion. She lives 2,500 miles away in The Villages, a senior community in Central Florida, and over the last few months, and with the help of one of her good friends, I planned a surprise gala event for 75 of her closest friends, bridge club members and family. Making arrangements long-distance for the event center, the caterer, florist and entertainment was manageable. The challenge was closing up my office for a week.

Working as a lone broker from my home office has some advantages. The commute is pretty short. I can work in my T-shirt and shorts until I have an appointment and I’m pretty productive, not being involved with the normal distractions of office chatter with other agents. But working alone can also be a disability, especially when attempting to leave town for a few days.

Technology has made possible instant 24/7 communications between agents and their clients. My iPhone won’t work flying at 34,000 feet or hiking in Yosemite Valley but generally there is no escaping the reach of cell phone towers and communication satellites. There are, however, limits as to what an agent can do when they’re three time zones removed from their clients. Showing homes is one.

There are many high-ticket items that folks will buy online but a house isn’t one of them.

Despite all the information available on the Internet, pictures and virtual tours, most folks want to see the house before actually putting an offer into play. They often drive by the home first, looking over the neighborhood and on occasion, when they discover a really special home, they reach for their smart phone and call their agent to schedule a previewing appointment.

After arriving in Tampa, I checked my iPhone for messages. To my surprise, there were three calls from Rich and Tammy. They had located the perfect home and wanted to see it immediately. With each message the intensity of their request increased. Having lost out on two other homes, they were desperate to see this new listing.

If I worked in an office with other agents, I could quickly call another agent and ask that they show my clients the home. I didn’t and so I would need to discuss my unavailable dilemma and think of an alternative. Tammy didn’t answer when I called back.

It was 9 p.m. East Coast time when they returned my call. The adrenalin rush from traveling all day slowly drained from my body as Tammy explained to me that since they were unable to contact me they had called the listing agent who showed them the property. They really wanted to make an offer and were sorry I could not help them.

In the real estate business, sellers are under contract. Their listing agents get paid when the property sells regardless of their agent’s time or efforts. Buyers, however, are usually not under contract and are free to move from one agent to another. A buyer’s agent only gets paid if they are the agent representing the buyer at closing. This is the primary reason most agents focus their attention on obtaining listings. A signed contract with a seller is money in the bank while there is no such assurance when working with buyers.

Of course, most buyers are not thinking about if, how and when their agent gets paid. A buyer’s primary focus is finding an exceptional home. They likely don’t understand how their agent gets compensated and most agents representing buyers fail to explain the process.

Like most agents, I have lost buyers for a verity of reasons to other agents and have acquired buyers that other agents have lost. Often when an agent discovers he/she has lost a buyer client, it’s usually our own fault. Perhaps we did not explain the relationship between agents and buyers or did not ask for their loyalty. Often a buyer’s circumstances will change and, unless we are paying close attention, our client is off with another agent.

So when Tammy called me in Florida to say the listing agent had shown them their special home that they wanted to buy, it was a blow to my ego but I accepted it as a fact of doing business and cursed myself for leaving the office or not having a back up agent I could work with.

The next day, while checking my messages, there was an unexpected call from Ty, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Placerville.

“Hey Ken, I understand you are in Florida attending your mom’s 90th birthday party. Congratulations. I showed your clients my new listing and they really liked the home. Now they want to make an offer. Do you want me to write it up for you or tell them to wait until you get back? Anything I can do to help you out let me know.”

Real estate sales is a fiercely competitive business. Most agents wouldn’t have given a second thought to snatching away another agent’s buyer given the opportunity. By capitalizing on the buyer’s urgency and my absence, Ty could have easily written the offer and opened escrow. He didn’t. We opened escrow with me representing the buyers. Thanks Ty.

Ken Calhoon is a real estate broker in El Dorado County. He can be reached at

Ken Calhoon

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