How Well Do You Know Your ‘Client?’
Subhi J. Gharbieh
By Subhi J. Gharbieh
Many times agents are quick to use the “client” title for someone they are working with or representing in a real estate transaction. There are so many people out there nowadays trying to scam others, and it happens every day in our industry. My friendly advice to real estate professionals: Get to know the person you are representing before you call them your client.
A practitioner sends me an email one Friday, letting me know that her client from Waco, Texas is interested in viewing a $3.5 million listing I have in Plano, a suburb outside of Dallas. She said that this client owns a sports merchandising company and that he was only in town for the weekend. She wanted to bring him in that next morning, on Saturday. As any luxury home owner would, my client requested that I make sure that any potential buyers were qualified to purchase a home within this price range. So I simply asked the agent for a pre-approval letter, or some document to show that this buyer was well qualified. I would hate for my client to have to leave their home for a few hours on a Saturday morning for someone who has no real interest in purchasing their home.
The agent soon called me back and said that her “client” does not wish to share any of his information, and that if we wanted to “sell” the house, we would let him view it. A thought came to mind when she said that: “What if this is a high profile celebrity, professional athlete, CEO or such, I cannot let this buyer slip away. ” So I quickly asked her for her clients name, and she hesitantly gave it to me. For confidentiality purposes- we’re going to call him ” Mr. Joe Blow.”
Not knowing where to start, I simply Google searched “Joe Blow Waco Texas.” I pulled up Joe’s company website, a decent looking site, but in my opinion, not very impressive for someone interested in buying a 3+ million dollar home. Soon after, I pulled up property records for Mr. Blow. He had under his name, a home that had an estimated tax value of $125,000. I performed a Google map search, looking at a birds eye view of the property and it looked to be in a very distressed neighborhood. That really raised an eyebrow.
I went on to do another search with a website called Pipl.com, a people directory. The results from this search were shocking. I found a local Waco discussion board where Mr. Blow’s name came up several times. They had pictures of him posted on the site, and very negative words about him. He apparently ran a “take over your car payment” business, where he would simply buy your car for whatever you had left on the note. This thread had over a hundred comments, all saying negative things about how Joe was a liar, a thief, a scammer, and a very bad person. That alone was enough for me to decline the showing. It got really interesting so I kept on searching, wanting to know more about this man. My next finding was a dating website, where four different women posted his picture with his name, and detailed information. They all posted horrible things about Joe, that he was a fake person, and a liar. That he acted like he was a millionaire, but he was really broke. How he promised to take them out to a fancy restaurant, but took them to McDonalds. Good stuff, really good stuff.
The fun was finally over, I copied the URLs of all the pages I found and pasted them in an email to send to the buyer’s agent, informing her that I was going to decline the showing. Before I sent the email, I called the agent and asked her one simple question: “Do you mind me asking how long you have been working with your Client?” She confidently answered, “about a month.” I then smiled, thanked her, and hung up the phone. I sent the email I had written up, and within 30 minutes, I received a call from none other than that agent. She asked me how I found all that information about her client in such a short amount of time. Long story short, she thanked me for giving her a background check on her “client” and said that she was no longer going to be working him.
I patted myself on the back on a job well done as a private investigator, and got right back to my real job, selling real estate.
Every real estate transaction is different, especially with the higher-end of the market. Some deals happen so quick that you still don’t know how to pronounce your client’s name. Some take so long that you develop a lifelong friendship with your client. Just make sure that, with whatever time you have to spend with them, get to know them as much as you can. They will only respect and appreciate you more, when you genuinely put forth that effort to get to know them.