| Selling

Wow. This is awkward. Despite being established real estate agents, we still remember what it felt like as newbies hoping someone we knew would send business our way. However, we know the answer to this question is a resounding “NO!” Hiring your friend when selling your home is never a good idea.

Although we’ve forged some truly meaningful friendships through our relationships with clients, hiring a real estate agent where the friendship came first is more complicated. Here we discuss why you shouldn’t go with your bestie to sell your home, why it’s best to go with someone who knows your area, and most importantly, how to let your friend down gently.  

Consider Their Actual Capabilities

Let’s start by asking how much you know about your best friend’s career success. While you might know all the intricate details about things like their relationships, their health woes, down-and-dirty details like their penchant for midnight 7-11 snack runs, and more, you don’t know what it’s like to actually work with your friend. For example, they might confide that their broker is constantly giving them a hard time, making you sympathetic and more inclined to toss them a bone by hiring them. But you need to ask yourself why their broker is on their back and why they aren’t getting more referrals. Real estate is driven by repeat business and referrals earned by building knowledge, fulfilling needs, and producing smooth transactions. If your friend’s broker is giving them a hard time, they might be doing something wrong and simply not cutting it. What’s keeping them from generating those referrals and getting the praise they feel they deserve from their broker? You don’t want to find out the hard way that they stink at their job! 

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Consider Their Actual Expertise

Let’s say your friend might be the real deal, an actual wheeler-and-dealer, driving clients around in their Range Rover, stuffing contracts into their Birkin bag, living in a primo home, and seemingly jettisoned toward epic earnings. Well, if their focus is those luxury home sales in Rosedale or The Bridal Path, that’s a far cry from your little condo in Etobicoke. While you might be thinking, wait, if they can sell a mansion, surely, they can sell my humble home, remember, it’s two very different markets. 

You want a real estate agent specializing in your area and home type, Birkin bag, Range Rover, luxe home or not.  Taking a high-end approach targeting their typical clients won’t get results because they’re not reaching the types of buyers interested in your simpler home. The result could be that your property sits on the market for ages, despite being a perfectly desirable home to the average Joe or Joanne.  

Consider the Potential of an Epic Fail

Next, consider what happens if they fail to sell your home. Regardless of the reason, you’re now sitting on a property that’s been listed for weeks, or worse, months. Stale listings spook buyers who wonder what’s wrong with your home. As a result, you’ll need to make the tough decision to take your home off the market. How does this impact your plans? What next? Guess what? You now have to fire your best friend. Oof. That’s not cool. How will you ever be able to do this? How will your friendship survive? How can you find a new real estate agent knowing you let your best friend down? Also, they let you down. Are you going to be okay with that? Sure, right now, you’re probably thinking, of course, I’m okay with that. After all, it’s not their fault your house doesn’t sell, right? Wrong. An experienced agent will do everything in their power to sell your home. If they fail, your bestie will be there to advise you to cut your losses, fire your lump of an agent, and then help you regroup so you’re poised to find a better rep — a referral from your well-connected BFF, perhaps? 

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Consider Being Taken for Granted

What if your bestie is busy and takes your listing for granted? They might be less likely to make themselves available because, after all, you’ve been friends since Grade 3, so you’ll understand if they put your sale on the back burner to take care of some “real” clients, right? But guess what? You are a real client. You have needs. You want your home sold just as much as the next guy. How will you deal with this? Can you tell your friend to pick up the slack and give your sale the attention it deserves? Are they one of those friends that have always taken you for granted? Or maybe it’s vice versa. Perhaps you’ll take them for granted and do things like keep hinting that they should drop or even waive their commission. These are all cringe-worthy situations where your friendship is once again at risk. And in the end, you both lose. 

Consider Receiving Way Too Biased Advice

So, your friend has always been your champion and protector. Now when selling your home, those instincts go into overdrive. Suddenly no offer is good enough. You’re willing to take the offers, but they keep saying, “No! You deserve better!” You believe them. You love them for it. But guess what? Your house will never sell with such biased advice. A neutral real estate agent also wants to protect your best interests, but not on that intimate personal level where they take it too far. The result is objective advice that gets your home sold. 

What does a day in the life of one of Toronto’s best real estate teams look like? Read our blog about a day in the life of The Christine Cowern Team right here.

Consider the Worry of Offending You

You’ve been entertaining your friend at your home for dinners, celebrations, holidays, and more for over a decade. They’ve always praised your home, your “eclectic” décor, your DIY German schmear technique in the kitchen, and your cuddly dog to show they appreciate your hospitality and generosity. Now, when they need to sell your home, they don’t have the heart to tell you that your schmear is schmessy, your furniture is a nightmare, your house smells like dog, and you need to wash the bathroom already. This is not easy. This might even be impossible for your friend, and the result is that your home can’t be prepped and staged to the level it needs to get the best price. And speaking of price. They might not have the heart to tell you your home isn’t worth as much as you think. The result? They list your home based on your “assessment,” and your home doesn’t sell because it’s way overpriced. 

Now, on the flip side, you might also worry about offending them. What if you question their tactics or disagree with their recommended listing price? Can you speak up? Can you voice your concerns? You might have a relationship where you’ve been frank with each other over the years, but even if you do, this situation is a very different context. You’re questioning their ability instead of their taste in clothes or ordering their sixth drink on an empty stomach. It’s not as easy as you think, so your business relationship will fail, and your friendship might not survive these hard tests.

Is It Ever Okay to Hire a Friend to Sell Your Home?

Yes, if you met your real estate friend via a past home sale or purchase, then you’ve already worked together and know they specialize in your neighbourhood, have been selling real estate for years, and have rave online reviews and testimonials, including your own. But honestly, when you consider some of the possible scenarios above, it probably is best for the sake of your relationship not to. So how do you approach the fact that you’re selling your home but aren’t hiring them? Two simple sentences: 

  1. I’ve decided to sell my house.  
  2. I value our friendship too much to risk it by working together, but I would love it if you could recommend an agent you trust. 

You establish you love them too much to risk your friendship and trust them to recommend someone with the right type of experience in the biz. And we believe that a truly good, experienced agent knows better than to do business with friends or family, so your relationship will be stronger than ever. 

What Not To Do When You Don’t Hire Your Best Friend

IOHO (in our humble opinion), if you go with another agent, avoid constantly asking your friend for advice. One or two questions aren’t so bad. But if you use your friend as a sounding board to question every move your agent makes, you’ll strain your relationship. 

What About Your Novice Real Estate Agent Friends?

This is a lot more awkward. First, chances are this friend needs your business. Second, this friend might offer to sell your home. So, this is going to be tough. The thing is, you still have to tell them you’re selling your home and that you value your friendship too much to risk working together. But in this case, there is a higher chance they will protest and start pitching themselves. They might not be able to stop themselves — maybe reduce or even waive their full commission — tell you it would be a big help to build their client base. You look into their big sad eyes and feel you need to give in, but you can’t. It just isn’t worth it. 

If you find the pressure too much, you can suggest they co-list your property. In this case, they work alongside a real estate agent of your choosing and split the commission. However, you might have trouble finding an agent willing to do this. Also, it would be on the condition that your friend plays second fiddle to the agent you choose. So, all in all, this might still feel cringe and end up even worse than had you hired them straight up. 

Just be gentle and firm, letting them know you wouldn’t work with any of your friends as a matter of principle. BTW, make sure this is true! If you bought your car from Claire, rented your apartment through Sam, and have your hair done by Pierre, this excuse ain’t gonna cut it! In this case, let them know you feel uncomfortable sharing your private financial information with friends and prefer to go with another agent. 

What About Hiring a Friend of a Friend of a Cousin’s Wife?

Yeah. This is also a tough one. However, because there are several “degrees of separation” in this situation, you can thank the person for the referral and look into the agent. You might find they actually are a kickass realtor with a proven track record in your neighbourhood. Since we agents depend on referrals to build our business, this isn’t unheard of and can often work out great. We always advise sellers to ask for recommendations when looking for a real estate agent. Since this is a recommendation, if the agent’s reputation is stellar, it really isn’t hurting anyone if you meet with them and see if it’s a good fit. 

The Bottom Line

We get it feels counter-intuitive to choose not to do business with one of the few people in the world you trust entirely. But, when it comes to real estate, you want an experienced team that knows your market and won’t let a personal relationship get in the way! You’ll sell quickly, make a better profit, and preserve your friendship. That said, as agents who often develop long-term friendships with clients, our skills do come in handy when it comes time to sell! 

Call The Christine Cowern Team at 416.291.7372 or email us at hello@christinecowern.com with any questions about Toronto real estate. We’d love to work with you!