Advising the Face of Real Estate Today

REal Estate Advisor

“Are you a real estate salesperson or a real estate advisor?”

I have asked this question hundreds of times to hundreds of agents across the Nation. And where the answer is variably different, in many cases it is still the same.

“I am here to advise my clients to make an informed, educated and advised decision that suits their budget, current and future needs.”

I take this answer at face value…  call me a cynic, call me jaded, but there’s a 600 lb gorilla in the room called “commission” that contradicts this statement for many.

As a RealtorR:

- I am compensated on the volume of transactions that “close”

- My “split”, or % of the gross commission awarded to me is determined by my production, or closed volume (i.e. the more I close the higher the % of gross commission I keep).

- So in order to pay MY mortgage, car payment, grocery bills, etc. I must actually CLOSE transactions.

The quagmire that is presented here:

1.  To be a true “advisor” and recommend AGAINST buying a home if it does not fit their budget, lifestyle, or current situation means that I am not going to make any money.

2.  To be a true “advisor” and recommend that someone spend less money than more money on a home means that I, in turn, make less money from the transaction.

3.  To be a true “advisor” and recommend that someone “hold off” on selling a home at the moment due to market conditions, net return/loss, etc. means that I am not going to make any money.

4.  To be a true “advisor” and recommend someone not purchase/sell a home at this time means that I have less volume “closed” working towards an advancement in commission split.

I believe that this is one of the glaring contradictions in the current real estate brokerage model, and one that I don’t have a concrete opinion on how to fix.  But that’s not what this post is about… There is raging online commentary on the commission/brokerage model of the future across the web, and this post isn’t intended to enter this arena.

Too many times have I heard the following:

“I’ve shown them 40 houses and they still won’t write a contract!  I just want them to buy something!”

“I don’t know what their problem is… we’ve seen everything and they still won’t write an offer!”

“I wish they would just buy something”

You are a real estate professional.  You have taken an oath to serve your clients and advise them to the best of your ability.  This “advising” is not limited to the negotiation of the property and searching of the MLS, you are in the truest form, a financial planner for their current and future home situation.   I apologize in advance for what is to follow, but the situation at hand absolutely sickens me.

Dan’s Story

In this video we meet Dan and his family that were lied to about the mortgage “teaser” rate that was applied to the purchase of their home.  Where 98% of the agents that I know would never partake in this type of scam, the emotion is real.  Dan is simply a voice and face of the American Home Buyer who had done everything right, budgeted, and saved to purchase a home for his family.

A Day in the Life

Most have dealt with or seen the aftermath of the Foreclosure process.  An empty house with boarded windows, appliances, basic fixtures, and even copper piping stripped from the house.  But put yourself in the above situation and think about “the day of”.  Then… think about the last client you worked with.  Would you wish this upon them?  After the countless hours of family talk, time together in the car, discussion of kids, pets and dreams, this could be their “next step”.

Wanda’s Story

Rather than vacate her foreclosed upon home, Ms. Wanda Dunn set fire to her family home before turning a gun upon herself and committing suicide.  Extreme… yes.  Commonplace… no.  But have you ever really wondered what someone faces for the future after foreclosure?  Aside from the emotional, personal and embarrassment factor of losing their home, they face the following to their credit score (courtesy of

Let’s make it a Party…

And how do some deal with the grim element of this problem?  What empathy and understanding do some brokerages employ to rectify an issue that out industry “to some level – let’s be clear…  SOME LEVEL” helped to create?  That’s right… we hire a bus, paint it accordingly, dish out some cocktails and make it a party.

Many reading this will respond with, “Those aren’t my clients”.  They might not be.  But they are the stories of middle/working class families of ranging ethnicity’s that we have turned a camera on.  But please don’t fool yourself as  it is happening.  Middle class or upper class, it is happening daily to clients just like yours.

There are exceptions to the rule just like anything else.  There are those that went to developers directly without direction from an agent.  There are those that took out huge lumps of equity to spend on cars, plasma TV’s and other luxuries.  But there are many stories, maybe one on your block, that haven’t made it to YouTube.

All points to what infuriates me more than anything else… the blind eye of our industry and our focus on the “expendable” client base.

In a post on Agent Genius the other day, a contributor wrote about the “11 Things A New Agent Should Know”.  It wasn’t necessarily a bad post, or the first that struck me in such a way, but it was timely and set me off.

Of the “11 Things a New Agent Should Know” there was not one mention, not an inkling, to market knowledge and further education.  “Stay Positive”, “Be Yourself”, “Don’t be Afraid to be Wrong”, were the major points to be made.  Not one, “Get to Every Training you Can”, “Learn about REO Properties or How to Avoid Foreclosure”, “Educate Yourself on Current Financing” or “Budgeting for Home Purchase”.  Stay positive and don’t be afraid to be wrong… everything else will work itself out.

There is a group within the industry that I believe should be allowed to call themselves a Real Estate Advisor, and I am proud to say that I know many of them.  They represent a group that is both educated and empathetic… a group that puts their clients’ needs above their own.  These are the future of the industry in my uptopian-style rosy-glass future.

The two things I will end with are below:

1.  To Consumers – you deserve the best.  You deserve an advisor.  This is the largest purchase you will probably ever make and $250,000 is still a quarter of a million dollars.  Take your time and make an educated desicion.

2.  To Agents – strive to be or become a real estate advisor.  Take your job as serious as it truly is and understand that you are in charge of their financial future.  Don’t be good be great.

Matt Dollinger

The You Factor


  1. Lisa M Foster says:

    Tear jerker. Great post.

  2. Matt-
    I’m glad you put the question out there because it does not get discussed enough. The only way I can truly advise my clients as to what is in their best interest is if I actually try to put myself in their shoes and advise accordingly. There is no faking it! Provided I take a long-term view of my career and rely on referrals from uber satisfied clients to generate future business, then both my clients objectives and my own can be achieved.

  3. Matt – As the AgentGenius contributor in question, I thought I should comment.

    I agree with you that education was missing from that list. And after your comment on the post, you can see I heartily agree with you.

    I’ve written a lot about education and my thoughts on it. I think the education requirements to become an agent are too low. I benefited from them, but even then it’s not good enough for me. In my first year as an agent I took MCE course that were not required of me. Why? To learn something more. I only needed SAE courses, which I already had half of the necessary requirement (from a class that I thought was an absolute joke). I took the other half online because I (much to my dismay) forgot to do them in a timely fashion. A 30 hour course taken in an afternoon at home. What did I learn? I learned about the behavior of Pharaoh ants (which was an aside in the material and not part of the course work). I had hoped for better.

    I skipped the “education” on the post as I have spoken about it many times. If anyone reads my stuff there or anywhere else, they’ll know I’m a proponent of more education – book wise or absorption wise.

    As for your post in general, it is true for the most part. You hear “I’m here for my clients” but at the water cooler it’s a different story. I can’t say I haven’t been frustrated by a slow client or one who doesn’t understand what I try to teach them. But isn’t that a bit of human nature creeping in? I work hard for my clients and expect them to work just as hard for me. I strive to make their lives better and they should too. Sometimes those goals are out of sync, but I want them to be the same.

    In my career I’ve advised a client to get out of the market because they weren’t going to net what they needed out of the sale (they had false expectations), had one client shake my hand as I pulled the sign from their yard because we were up against a builder and the builder was winning (the client is now renting his home as we await the builder’s final closeout), and advised a buyer to terminate a contract because we thought he was being shipped overseas (and it would have caused a whole mess of problems for him – we had already put the contract together when he first heard the whispers).

    Money is great and without it, I can’t feed my family. You’re right about that. But if money were everything to me, I’d still be in my old career. The lucrative world of money-for-nothing rock and roll. I loved touring the world and showing up to work in a pair of shorts with a beer in my hand, but the fact is I wanted something more out of my life. I found it and even though it hasn’t been easy getting my feet off the ground at times, I am more determined than ever and have found ways to continue with something that I love to do and feel excited about.

    I appreciate the link (and the comments on my post). Know that although we all need money to survive, we’re out there trying to do as much as we can to help our clients and keep ourselves alive too. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

  4. Matt,

    First of all thanks for the comment. I hope that you understood, and as I tried to point out, that I wasn’t necessarily bashing you or your post… just that it was THE post that hit me at the right time. Thanks for contributing and, as you have indicated, for looking out for those that have placed their trust in you.


  5. Matthew,

    Fantastic post – thanks for the two very important messages at the end. – Jeff

  6. Matt, once again thanks for the post, I took your ideas and used them as a springboard for my new post.

    This is an important conversation and one both Consumers and Agents need to be having. Thanks for sharing and giving me so much good stuff! Jeff

  7. Finally, someone is writing about what I’ve been saying to my fellow agents for the last few years.

    I’m not a salesperson. I counsel my clients on their options and assist them in making one of the biggest financial transactions in their lives. Along the way, most of them will buy or sell a home.

    I have counseled many clients to not buy, or not sell. I have one family that I talked out of 3 homes. They never did buy a home from me and are now moving out of the area. I convinced two of my clients last year that they needed to become landlords when we were going to have to drop the price on the properties so low that it was too big of a loss to justify. Last week I got a good offer on one of my listings, only to find out that the day before the sellers had found out that the job they were moving for was not as stable as they thought. Given that they were going to take a $75,000 loss to sell, I told them to pass on the offer and take the house off the market until they knew for sure if her new out-of-town job was secure.

    I love my brokerage and the high level of education, but wish that the concept of doing what is best for the client, even if it means you don’t make a sale, was talked about as often as we discuss how to generate more leads.

  8. Matt, you make some excellent points regarding the need for training and professional education (beyond the minimum CE requirements). And yes there are those agents in this industry, as there are in every industry, who’s ethics may be called into question. But there is another side to your discussion that is not even touched on: and that is the decision that is made by the client.
    My previous career was telecommunication sales – for over 25 years and extremely successful in that field. Consultative selling (advising,if you will) was the gold standard. Those techniques and skills transfer very well to the real estate space. But let me point to a major difference: in that field, client decisions were based on sound financial analysis, cost justification, and need fulfillment.
    Real estate is an emotional buy, usually overshadowing any other criteria. The buyer makes the final decision. We can advise all we want, but in the end the choice is theirs. The decision is theirs, and sadly, at times the consequences of poor decisions are theirs.
    We all have stories of poor choices made in spite of the best advice given (and have probably made some of our own). The true advisers in this business will prosper by doing right for their clients. But, in the end, we can’t make choices for the clients. peace

  9. Matt – Sorry it took me awhile to get back to the post. I definitely didn’t take it as an attack or anything like that, but I did feel the need to make sure others understood that although I didn’t mention education, I certainly am not against it!

    I actually love the “I read a post and needed to write something because of it” sort of posts. I think the interaction between bloggers on varying topics is an excellent way to not only sharpen your skills, but to potentially learn something new from the comment-post. My ideas and opinions aren’t (and shouldn’t be) set it stone. If they are, then you can strike the “education” line from anything I’ve written. Having everything in stone destroys the ability to learn.

    Thanks again for the mention and I look forward to reading more!

  10. It’s about time! Thank you for putting that into words and ultimately out there.

    I think back on all the justification I heard for selling homes or loans. It’s not about selling, it is about advising. In the securities business there’s a thing called Rule 405. It’s an SEC rule. It essentially says that you cannot put your client into an investment that is not in line with their risk tolerance and investment goals. Too bad real estate doesn’t have something like that.

    I’ve only been licensed for a year. I’ve been in the business on the title side since 1976. My advice has always been and continues to be, if you can afford the payment and it won’t break the bank, do it. And stay out of those designer loans. It wouldn’t have helped all of those people who lost their jobs or took huge pay cuts, but it would have stopped a ton of these foreclosures. Now that I’m selling, I am very picky about which LO I let my clients use. If they bring their own guy I throw down the gauntlet early so that they know there will be no funny business in one of my transactions.

    In the last year, my best sells have been the ones I haven’t made. On numerous occasions I’ve told a client “I hate this house for you.” They’ll want to look at it and I’m already outside. I have to slow down, go back inside and explain to them what I picked up immediately that would make the home a bad investment for them. Nine times out of ten it’s the amount of work in relation to my client’s ability to actually fix it, either professionally or DIY. That’s our responsibility to our client, to advise them fully as to what they’re getting in to. If we don’t, we don’t deserve to be in this business.

  11. Great comments about salesperson v. advisor. In the long run advisors make more money, because they generate the most important thing in the world for success – referrals and repeat business.