If you took a behind-the-scenes peek at the things some brokers will do to get listings, you might do more than just scratch your head in wonder.
A “listing,” also known as a property that is for sale, is like the coveted holy grail of a broker’s existence. Listings are the lifeline of a broker’s success. Without listings there would be no sales, which means there would be no commissions, which means there would be no need for brokers.
The broker who controls a listing is comparable to a demigod. They totally rule the playing field. But just how far will some brokers go to get listings?
Without sounding like a cliché, the oldest trick in the book, no pun intended, is still sex.
Don’t look shocked. It took me awhile to believe this too, but there are brokers in our industry who trade sexual favors for listings.
One female broker I know would lure her victims, also referred to as “sellers,” to her house in the Hamptons under the guise of a weekend with some powerful investors. Once there, they would find out that they and this broker were the only two who showed up. Using her feminine wiles and various body parts, depending on how large the deal was, she would get him to sign her up as the exclusive agent, and, voila, the assignment was hers.
I once met a young male agent who targeted older owners, and not just of the female persuasion. Sometimes he used subtle tactics like a flirtatious site visit where he would feign carelessness and get himself locked in the basement or on the roof. He would let the seller play the hero by rescuing him from what he claimed was a near-death experience. He would then dote on the seller with random caresses and a sly wink of the eye suggesting how he would thank them. Other times he was as aggressive as a pit bull, yanking the listing from them as he yanked off their various articles of clothing.
While sex is the more titillating method used, it isn’t the only one.
Another agent I knew would have his mother call other brokers. She would pretend she was considering hiring them to sell her building if she could find something else to buy. Many a trusting agent would anxiously dump their inventory of off-market listings in her lap only to then find them listed by her son a month later.
One of the more clever agents I worked with would align himself with other industry professionals and then pay them a percentage of what he made for access to owners who were having legal issues or thinking of refinancing their property. Unfortunately for the seller, those other professionals made more money from referrals than their primary business and pushed their clients to contemplate selling even if that wasn’t in their best interest.
I can’t neglect to mention the broker who would wine and dine a competitor’s employees in exchange for passwords and access to their databases. I once had an assistant who was bribed by another agent for a copy of my client list. Luckily for me, my assistant had access only to my personal Christmas card list. My cousin Rose, who has a reputation for telling people exactly what she thinks in a very colorful way, made this agent reconsider sales as her profession.
It’s no secret that some brokers will lie, cheat and steal to get into listing heaven. Unfortunately for them, simply getting the listing doesn’t always guarantee a sale. I have yet to meet a broker who was able to use their bag of tricks to force an owner to sell their property when it didn’t ultimately make sense.
So how does an honest agent get listings without crossing the line? Remember The Boomerang Theory: What goes around comes back in your face. Align yourself with a reputable firm. Be sincere, truthful and humble. Nothing can replace experience and a solid reputation.
After all, sellers aren’t dumb. They can spot a phony a mile away. I know one prospective client who took advantage of every opportunity that came his way to “bag” willing brokers.
The funny part was, he didn’t really own anything.
Adelaide Polsinelli is a veteran real estate professional with more than 25 years of real estate brokerage experience. She is senior director at Eastern Consolidated.