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Friends, Family, and Freebies: The Real Estate Trap You Didn’t See Coming!

Real estate is a business built on trust, relationships, and reputation.

As new agents begin their journey in the industry, they are often faced with an intriguing dilemma: should they work for free for family or close friends? Let's delve deeper into what this entails, the pros and cons, and some best practices if you do decide to take this path.

What Does It Mean To Work For Free As An Agent?

When we talk about working for free in the realm of real estate, it often means providing services without receiving a commission. For example:

  • Listing a Home for Free: Rather than charging a commission, you list a property on behalf of a seller without expecting any payment.

  • Waiving Buyer Commission: Instead of retaining your buyer's agent commission, you might give it back to the buyer. This can be directed towards their down payment or you waive it altogether to make their offer more competitive in a tight market.

Why Think Twice About Working For Free?

Working for free can be a noble gesture, especially for loved ones, but it has its challenges:

  1. Value Perception: If you constantly provide your services for free, it might make others undervalue your profession. They might not fully appreciate the hours of work, negotiations, and expertise you bring to the table.

  2. Financial Strain: As a new agent, forgoing commissions can lead to financial stress. Real estate has its ebbs and flows; consistent income is crucial for stability. Don't work for free if you can't afford to.

  3. Resentment: It's not uncommon for feelings of resentment to build if you feel that your time and effort aren't appreciated, especially when dealing with challenging transactions.

  4. Setting Precedents: Once you've offered your services for free to one family member or friend, others may expect the same. This can be a tricky situation to navigate in the future.

  5. Legal and Ethical Concerns: Depending on local laws and regulations, there may be restrictions or implications on waiving commissions or contributing towards a buyer's downpayment.

Best Practices When Working For Free

If your heart is set on offering your services for free, here are some best practices to consider:

  1. Set Clear Expectations: Make sure all parties involved understand the arrangement. Document everything, even if it's for a family member or close friend, by using the standard agency agreement and putting "none" or "$0.00" for compensation.

  2. Limit Frequency: Consider offering discounted services or limited-time promotions, rather than consistently working for free.

  3. Barter or Trade: Instead of working for absolutely no compensation, consider bartering services. Maybe your cousin is a web designer who can revamp your agency's website in exchange for your real estate expertise.

  4. Charity Contributions: If you're waiving a fee, consider asking the party to donate a portion to a charity of their (or your) choice. This way, you're giving back to the community while offering a discount.

  5. Review Legal Implications: Always check with a legal expert or your brokerage about any potential ramifications of waiving your commission.

A Question for Our Students:

Have you ever worked for free or at a significantly reduced rate for a family member or friend? How did that experience shape your future business decisions? We'd love to hear your stories and lessons learned. Please share your thoughts in the comments below or with a colleague in an upcoming CE class!

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