Why I Stopped Listing & Became a Buyer Broker

Sandwich Lease for Investors
Sandwich Lease for Investors. iStockPhoto

I had a Texas real estate license and worked the Lake Travis Austin market.  It was a bit like a vacation home market in that people bought homes on the water for the same reason people buy ski condos.  Most of my clients lived in their homes year-round however.

When I left there, I moved to Taos, NM, a mountain vacation and ski resort area.  Few of my clients lived there full time, as it is in the middle of nowhere pretty much.

 The median price of a vacation home was $434,250 then, so you can guess that most of my clients had money.  They could afford to pay that or more for a home they would use for three to five weeks each year.

Why tell you this?  The market was unique in that sellers did not need to sell and buyers did not need to buy.  A buyer simply wanted to look at not spending money on hotel rooms when they visited Taos every year over and over.  Sellers, on the other hand, would buy and then rarely have any emergency situation that would force a sale.

Sellers would for the most part over-price their homes for sale, thinking that if a sucker didn't come along, then they would simply use it next ski season as well.  They rarely listened to reason, and if I tried to inject market reality into their sale plans, they would simply call another real estate broker who would tell them what they wanted to hear, or just do what they wanted to do.

Around 2008 I realized something.  My last six listing appointments had resulted in no listings.  But, it wasn't because I couldn't get the listing.  It was because they wouldn't get realistic about listing price so I just passed on the listing.  The pattern was to list at a high price, wait out six months or a year, then try another broker.

 I wasn't into that.  Spending money to market their home for a listing's duration only to lose it was just not something I enjoyed doing.

I also realized something else, which may have been more relevant to remote vacation markets.  I felt that I had much more value to my buyer clients than sellers.  A seller had a product they wanted to sell, but not very badly.  They were quite happy to over price it, and they really didn't want much from me except putting it in the MLS, placing it on the Web, and showing the property.  None of those were particularly high value services.

My buyers on the other hand, were spending a significant amount of money for a home in an area they really knew little about.  Sure, they knew where the ski valley, hotels and restaurants were, but not the local stuff that homeowners really should know.  Because of that, they asked  a lot of questions and relied heavily upon my expertise and market knowledge.  I brought value to the table.

When mountain septic systems were as likely to be a buried Volkswagen as they were to be legal, there was a lot of valuable information I could provide.  From strange easements to really, a buried minivan with the windows half rolled up for a septic tank, this was a strange market.

 I found that giving my sign racks to a competitor and going to straight buyer brokerage lifted a weight off me.  I no longer had to dread arguing with an unrealistic seller, throwing away the listing or living with it until it expired.

It really doesn't matter what market you're in or whether or not sellers are unrealistic.  Look first at your prospective clients to see where the potential for income lies.  If it's a good market for listings, then you'll want to list because we all know that's the path to surefire success in our business.  But, if you really prefer to work with buyers and not spend the money and effort to market listings, then you can make a career of it.