Note: Opinions expressed in “Commentary” do not necessarily reflect the position of the National Association of REALTORS® or REALTOR® Magazine.
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Are You Referring To Me?
Many agents and brokers don’t treat the referral process
with the professional respect it requires.
There’s a reason referrals make up more
than half of my business. Agents want to
work with me on referrals because I treat
them like business partners, keeping
them in the loop as to what’s happening
with their referred client—and, of course,
their referral fee. No referring agent or
broker will ever have to ask me, “How’s it
going?” I wonder why there aren’t more
real estate professionals like me.
Anyone who refers a client wants clear
communication about where the process
is going. I update referring agents weekly.
They’ll know when an offer is being
written and when a contract is signed,
as well as what day we’re opening and
closing escrow. In essence, I consider
agents who trusted me with a referral
to be working alongside me through the
deal. So I communicate with them as
such; a little information goes a long way.
Need for Clarity
I’m also clear about my referral fee: 30
percent of the commission. And I’m
proactive about letting referring brokers
know that I will set up their referral check
to be paid directly from the closing company. They won’t have to wonder
why they haven’t received payment.
Unfortunately, I often have a very
different experience when I refer my
clients to other agents and brokers. From
the get-go, it can even be hard to get
anyone to respond to the question, “Do
you want a referral?” Similar to when
consumers complain that practitioners
do not respond to their online inquiries,
I get silence 80 percent of the time when
I reach out to other agents seeking help
for my client. When it comes to collecting
referral fees, I typically have to ask for
payment or bug an office manager for the
status of a check.
The way some agents and brokers
handle the referral process is appalling.
I once referred my best friend, who lives
in the Midwest, to an agent who became
incommunicado with both of us soon
after taking the referral. When the agent
answered questions via e-mail, it was with
one- or two-word responses. She would
disappear and go on vacation at the drop
of a hat. I began to follow up weekly.
My friend’s doubts deepened after
she signed a contract and couldn’t get
the agent to address key problems
found in the home inspection, such as a
nonoperational furnace. Hearing about
the agent’s poor follow-through skills
from my friend was embarrassing. While
my friend signed a contract six weeks
after I made the referral, it took another
seven weeks after the closing for me to
receive the $1,500 referral check.
So who’s at fault for such referral
troubles: the agent or the broker?
Payment is the responsibility of the
broker. It’s up to the referring broker to
explain how and when you’ll get paid. But
communication throughout the referral
process is an agent issue—assuming you
made the referral to an agent. Real estate
professionals who don’t treat referrals
with urgency and importance stand
to leave a lot of money on the table in
fees. I get referrals from big Los Angeles
“brokers to the stars” at large, well-known
brokerages because of how attentive I
am to their needs. There are brokers and
agents in my own county who typically
compete with me but also send me
referrals. I make it easy and pleasant for
them to do so.
A lot of money is at stake in referral
partnerships, and we as an industry
need to be better in our handling of
them. The way to excel with referrals is
deceptively simple. Those of us who do it
well stand out: We communicate better,
are gracious and act professionally
throughout the experience, and always
offer a “thank you” for the business.
Only one person in my 26 years in real
estate has ever thanked me for a referral
in a quick e-mail. Keep the golden rule in
mind when dealing with referrals: Treat
everyone as you wish to be treated. None
of us is entitled to anything.
Kimberly Dotseth is the
broker-owner of Blend Real
Estate in San Diego and was
named the Greater San Diego
Association of REALTORS®
Broker of the Year in 2011. [blendrealestate@