I don’t know everything. You don’t know everything. Everyone is missing a gap in knowledge somewhere and being honest with a client is much more important than pretending to be a walking encyclopedia. Knowing where to find information and having the sense let a client know it might take a little time to verify, makes a huge difference. I’m thinking about the day and a specific conversation with a new agent, but I also just mailed in a check for Errors and Omission Insurance. I hope to avoid using the policy, but carrying a policy, even after so many years in the industry, is more important than you might think.
Several months ago, I met a client interested in an opinion of value. As a broker, I frequently spend time looking at properties…often unpaid, but the goodwill is a kind of profit. The property was worth quite a bit more than the owner originally assumed. Anyway, during the visit, I realized the boundary had a problem and he probably had an issue with two easements. One looked like an easement by prescription and one was worded in an odd way. Since I’m not an attorney and avoid going beyond the limit of my license, I referred him to an attorney and a surveyor. Knowing what a prescriptive easement might be and might look like made a difference, but I found more than one reason to send him to an attorney. Warning flags for me included multiple quit claim deeds without preparation by an attorney, the owner’s original purchase without title insurance or a survey, buildings I thought might be unpermitted, a neighbor expanding a very narrow unrecorded easement…and, if that weren’t enough, what looked like an error on an earlier deed. As a broker, I could only advise a visit with an attorney and explain why I felt he might need the added advice, but this owner needed professional help before selling. I spent a few hours doing some homework, but saved serious time and money by being thorough.
How much detail goes into each listing? It all depends, but the more I know, the less time I waste. I’d much rather spend the time before meeting a client and before listing a property….and would think the chance of liability drops if I take the time to prepare. I’ve lost a few listings over the years, oddly enough. One property had been a dry cleaner and disposed of waste on-site. I couldn’t, technically, prove the disposal, but I lost the listing to an agent unfamiliar with the history of the property. I can only hope the property sold with an environmental audit. An elderly woman wanted to sell, but an “out of state” relative decided to list at a price significantly below my opinion of market price. To this day, I don’t know why I lost the listing, but feel the property sold at 20 to 30% below market. Real Estate can be an odd adventure. We’re expected to know a little about everything….just enough to recommend the right professional, but knowing too much occasionally loses the client. I wouldn’t change a thing!