When asked about their real estate agent, consumers logically list characteristics such as savvy, sharp, and knowledgeable. Some may even describe their agent as efficient, or someone who made the process easy for them. These descriptions usually attest to the agent’s business acumen and typically focus on the agent’s ability to market a home and/or negotiate a contract. However, one trait that is often overlooked is “authenticity.”
And it’s not just in the real estate industry. Authenticity just isn’t the trait that most seem to care about in a sales person. The reason may seem obvious; for most consumers and salespeople, it’s about money. So what role, you may be asking, does authenticity have in real estate sales?
In a recent article, Don Kottick wrote about the need for authentic leaders in the real estate industry (8 examples of authentic leadership in real estate; inman.com; March 17, 2015). Kottick talked about authentic leaders as creating their “legitimacy” through honest relationships. These are individuals who “remain true to themselves;” they are positive, truthful, empathetic, “introspective and aware of their own strengths and weaknesses.” Kottick reminds us that authenticity doesn’t come from what’s learned at business school, but what is gained through life’s journey.
Keeping that in mind, we agents are in an advantaged position. As real estate transactions tend to be associated with life events, we often experience these events as well; sharing in the promise of a new family, the joy of a new baby, the sadness of the loss of a loved one, and even the ambivalence of a divorce. And we spend a good amount of time with our clients, regardless if it is in person and/or on the phone. We become acquainted with who our clients are; we learn their vulnerabilities, and sometimes (whether they know it or not) we also become aware of their “dirty laundry.” Being in such a position, we become trusted advisers if not treated as part of the family (at least for the duration of the transaction).
The nature of the real estate transaction, and our involvement with our clients, put us (real estate agents) in a fiduciary role. Regardless of our feelings (positive or negative) toward our clients, or our personal and financial situation – we are to look out for our clients’ best interests. Unfortunately, many in the industry have forgotten that.
Similar issues about agent competency and ethics were discussed last year in The National Association of Realtors® DANGER report. And although concerns about agent competency and ethics have been discussed for years, the media glommed onto such quotes as “the real estate industry is saddled with a large number of part-time, untrained, unethical, and/or incompetent agents…” as if to say “we told you so.” But the truth is that competency does not guarantee ethical behavior, and vice versa. Additionally, competency and ethics do not assure a positive buying and selling experience for the consumer. The answers, like the issues, are complex; and advancement in the subject is debatable.
Don Kottick’s point, that authenticity is a foundation upon which agent competency and ethics is built upon, is overlooked by many industry leaders, brokers, office managers and agents. Considering authenticity, competence, and ethics together may not only facilitate an environment that creates a meaningful transaction for the agent and consumer; it may also be a response to treating consumers fairly, and putting clients’ best interests first.
Dan Krell is a Realtor® with RE/MAX All Pro in Rockville, MD. You can access more information at www.DanKrell.com.