I like to pay for what I get, nothing more, nothing less.
Knowing what needs to be done hasn't always been easy, still sometimes need help even 20yrs in.
I don't just hire a plumber to come repair a broken sewer line, I make sure I get a camera down there first. To see whats happening for myself. I don't distrust others, I just like to know as much as I can. That means I am paying a bit more sometimes, some may call it a waste; I call it knowledge.
In that vein I don't understand signing an exclusive contract w/ a realtor (not even if they exclusive to me. I can't have my success based on another persons efforts, or lack there of.) I would prefer to hand a realtor some cash and say, "Go find me this." They know they aren't wasting their time, and thus will likely actually work.
I am a accredited inspector for residential and multifamily, but I still hire an inspector to look over deals I am buying, for myself. I am not perfect, so I want another expert to review my work. Its saved me dozens of times equaling thousands and thousands of dollars saved.
People tend to "hire an expert" but then don't gain any of the knowledge they could acquire via that relationship.
I dont' like the word "mentor" in this business, as I have stated many times, but "Consultant" is dandy. You know what you are paying for and what they are getting for helping. No mystery or bullsh*t. Just facts, knowledge, and a set fee.
Regarding exclusive contracts: It matters per situation. For buyer's I don't require them. I just ask that you are honest and straight up. With sellers I now require them no matter what - I don't help with anything until the contract is signed. I have learned from my own mistakes.
I am more old-school, believe people on their word and believe I give a fair deal. Trust and honesty in working relationships is a big deal to me, and used to give more chances though now I am less lenient.
I also no longer work on the hope/promise - it never comes to be. When I was new, I was more willing. I also don't work with you if you are working with another Realtor. I don't have time for games. If you don't want to work with me, just tell me. But, don't be on the sly with another Realtor, because I won't trust you any more. I don't want your money that much. If you tell me you are working with another Realtor, and whomever gives you the best deal then they "win", then go with them and don't bother me. I enjoy helping people that want it (like first-timers [plus the money is better).
On the seller side, if the seller has names of buyers that they would like to exclude from the contract before I start marketing I am OK with that. I don't start marketing any property until a contract is signed.
Sometimes sellers want to go another direction away from me. So be it - that is what they want. Usually some "Realtor friend" that didn't want to give them a good deal initially then promises the moon and then socks it to them as "this is the nature of real estate," and they end up with less net. Ironically, this is where a bunch of my referrals have come from, people that had lower nets when they went with different Realtors.
If you're a buyer, I require proof of funds or want to talk to your lender for pre-approval within the first week of working with you. Or if you don't look at any options that I present, then I stop searching on your behalf. I need feedback to get a better idea of what you want.
The only buyer issue I have had was with two brothers (future in-laws) that were newbie investors that I later realized just wanted to flip something to try it - they believed that there was no way to lose money "in this market". When I presented deals and comps, I was told that the numbers "never worked". I am conservative and don't like to waste money. These brothers were working with another Realtor unbeknownst to me that they knew from their church. That Realtor presented to them a "must make a cash decision now" property so these brothers bought, flipped, and then spent $35k in repairs, $25k more than there was room for. Being future family I considered the last deal a fluke. So I gave them another shot by offering to help them sell. I was too helpful in general conversation and lost out again. I couldn't help but laugh at myself, yet I also learned that I couldn't trust them. Makes my life easier when they ask, "Will you help me/us?" My answer, "Nope, good luck." Not worth it to me.
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