By Ross Wilson
“Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops.” – Cary Grant
Why do you invest so much time and expense staying connected with people in your business network? Because you want the ideal real estate practice, where people remember to contact you for real estate service. Right? Why would they call you and not the neighbourhood “specialist” or another agent who happened to serendipitously cross their path? Two reasons – familiarity and trust. By diligently staying in regular contact, you hope to establish and maintain a familiar, durable and trusting relationship. Simply expressed, your goal is to be their friend in the business.
Here’s the thing, though, about family and close friends. You obviously share at least semi-regular contact, so familiarity and trust are hopefully ingrained. You’d presuppose they’d seek your services, if for no other reason than your close relationship. Naturally, they’d anticipate extra-special care while having a great time working together, and trust that the potentially stressful process of home relocation would be secure and more relaxed. Since they must pay somebody anyway, you’d expect they’d agree to your usual fee. After all, keeping the wealth in the family rather than paying a stranger makes perfect sense. Unfortunately, as you might attest, this isn’t always how things turn out.
In many cases, they suffer from the belief that you should perform your skilled services – surprise – for a reduced fee or even free of charge. Why? Because you’re family! They conveniently ignore the fact that unlike them, you don’t enjoy the benefit of a regular weekly paycheque. They fail to appreciate that the sometimes-considerable investment of time, money and expertise puts food on your family’s table, a roof overhead and fuel in your car. They fail to grasp that for you, time is money. While you’re labouring for them and critically, not for other paying clients, they’re at work earning their daily bread. To a somewhat lesser extent, it’s not unlike their volunteering to help build your new sundeck, unless of course, they happen to be a carpenter by trade. In such a case, to avoid a double standard, you should probably offer to pay them for their skilled assistance, or at least barter services.
To impress a new stranger prospect, you don your best clothes and professional (hopefully genuine) behaviour and strive to get to know them, to gain their trust and bond as quickly as possible. Since relatives already know you, you’d think the process would be easier, but it ain’t necessarily so. There’s usually no need to convince them to trust you personally, but professionally may be an entirely different matter.
When it comes to serving loved ones, particularly for the first time, you may still have to jump through a few credibility hoops to earn their professional trust. It won’t necessarily be easier just because of your personal long-term blood relationship, which could actually become a hindrance when crossing over from auntie to agent. Though serving family may be more relaxed, keep in mind they’re still clients for whom you’ve undertaken a solemn responsibility, including associated agency risks.
Representing relatives can be more stressful because, I suppose, of the dynamics of long-term relationships. It could be argued that you should be charging a higher than normal commission rate since they’ll probably expect a superior level of service because you’re related. Since they’re comfortable with you, don’t you think they’d contact you with questions, concerns or complaints more often than a non-related client – and at any hour of the day or night?
If your sibling believes you’re failing them, you can watch any chances of a commission fly out the window. And since emotions are difficult to avoid in family situations, maintaining professional decorum can prove problematic. Firing can be as easy as hiring. Compounding the problem is the resulting family gossip, ridicule, conflict and enduring hard feelings within a potentially polarized family. Rumours can travel like a grass fire and family won’t be vanishing after the business relationship is over.
When offered family business, it can be a tough call whether to hold or fold. In my next column, I’ll offer more on the subject for your consideration. Or if you can’t wait, check out my book, The Happy Agent.