Entry by Jennifer Allan

Is "Stop Working for Free" Really The Message We Want To Promote?


Hey ACREs!

I haven't been around here much, but after a conversation with Mollie last week, was inspired to pop my head back in, post something controversial, and then vanish (tomorrow) to the beautiful beaches of Destin. (Yummy).

As I explained to Mollie, one of the reasons I haven't been in these here parts lately is because the tone of some of the conversations I've been following on the Exchange seems to be leaning toward the idea that the primary reason to be a Consultant is so that you can "Stop Working for Free!"

And as appealing as that sounds, it's not my understanding of the intended message of the ACRE philosophy. Oh, sure, I realize that it's a seductive sales pitch (after all, who wants to work for free?), but to my twisted way of thinking, it weakens the integrity of the ACRE philosophy by focusing more on what's "right" for the agent versus what's good for the consumer (which by default, is what's right for the agent).

Back in early February, I posted a related blog at Active Rain that was graciously featured. Here's a link to it if you're interested in the 100+ comments, but the blog in its entirety follows...

Would love YOUR thoughts and comments!

Real Estate Agents ask... "Why Should We Work for Free?" Answer... WE DON'T!

My friends... let's stop complaining about "working for free." Let's stop proclaiming that we need to better protect ourselves from the home-buying and -selling public who live to abuse our willingness to do work "without any guarantee of compensation."

There's a big difference!


Our willingness to work on a contingent basis - that is - to not be be paid until or unless we perform, is precisely WHY real estate fees are what they are. We are able to charge a lot of money to do what we do, far more than we could charge if we were paid by the working hour or by the job, upfront.

Working by contingency is risky. And when something is risky, it means, by definition, that there's risk involved (duh). In our industry, the risk is that we may not be paid for our efforts. No, we don't much care for that outcome, but it's the chance we're willing to take to be able to charge the hefty fees we do when we're successful.

If you don't want to work on a contingent basis, you're welcome to find a different model that better suits your personality. There ARE other models out there - Mollie Wasserman's ACRE program is a great one, and there are hybrids where you reduce your fee in exchange for a retainer or upfront marketing fee.

But if you, like most of us, enjoy the challenge of shooting for the sweetest possible payday, stop worrying so much about those "wasted" hours! As long as you were doing something that taught you more about your real estate market and/or put you in front of a warm body to impress with your wonderfulness, you weren't working for free. You were just building up credits toward that next sweeeeet payday!

Rant over.


Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for posting. It's funny the different perceptions that people can have.

I understand your point and it is a subtle one. For me, the idea of getting a retainer upfront is sweet, however, I do not think it has nor will affect my "putting the customer first" philosophy. It's kind of like saying, put the people first and the money will follow.

What I have found when I presented using the ACRE model is that my ability to act as a true fiduciary was increased, since I wasn't tied to an outcome. At the core of the model is full transparency and choices - including a full commission.

I guess my point is, the "stop working for free" slogan, as it were, is designed to be a gentle push towards using the consulting model where the customer can always come first. :)

I worked with a retainer of sorts for years and loved it. So did my clients. I don't have any problem with charging upfront fees; I just don't agree with the statement "Working for Free" as applied to a contingency-based compensation model.

I'm all for the consulting model! But I'm more excited about it as a vehicle to offer the consumer options and to help them understand how a contingency model works, rather than an internal battle cry for frustrated real estate agents.


Okie dokie, we are in essence saying the same thing :)

I've long been a believer that there is a HUGE price for "free"...both for the consumer and for the agent. It has so permeated our industry and CONSUMER PERCEPTION of both our role and of our contribution to their end objectives that it has severely tainted both!

From the consumer perspective, our "working for free" tells them that what we contribute has no value. And since "momma always said there ain't no such thing as a free lunch" it further causes them to be suspect of our motives. AS WELL THEY SHOULD!

Much as I love the notion "provide great service first...the money will follow"...IT AIN'T NECESSARILY SO! Too many times I know agents have provided great service...educating, protecting, advising the client...only to discover that IT'S HUMAN NATURE for them to do what they "perceive" is best (cheapest) for themselves whether it respects the contribution the agent made to their welfare or not! Meanwhile, often a fast talkin' "slick willie" with only A SALE on their mind gets the commission check when all was said and done. "The money will follow" is an ideal...often not borne out by reality.

In the meantime, some really outstanding agents, holding their fiduciary responsibility to their client in high regard and performing outstanding service, extending themselves well and beyond the call of duty, simply get burned out...tired of doing everything they were supposed to do and more, only to wind up struggling to pay their bills. They were WORTH MORE THAN A "CONTINGENCY" FEE based on a specific outcome...an outcome they can only partly influence, but over which they have no final control! When you work for no money...you are in fact working for free. Or, more to the point, you're working for A PROMISE AND A PRAYER. Unfortunately, neither pays the mortgage or puts food on the table.

It's going to be interesting over the next few years to see how this all shakes out. In our area, many, many high producing offices have closed their doors. Many others are waiting out their leases with plans to significantly "downscale" their facilities investments, encouraging more and more agents to work from home. The easy access to so much information is dramatically changing the rules...and the role of the real estate agent. As Mollie has so often pointed out, we are no longer the SOURCE of the information...we are in fact the INTERPRETERS of that information. We're no longer the "go to" party to access properties...we are simply ONE of the sources for that access. It has yet to be seen whether the commission model is even going to survive...many articles have recently appeared on Inman challenging the likelihood it will still exist in 2020. Frankly, I think we'll see dramatic change long before that!

Great topic, Jennifer. Thank you for bringing it up!

This page contains a single entry by Jennifer Allan published on April 12, 2010 1:12 PM.

Baby Steps Toward Consulting was the previous entry in this blog.

Taking a Cue from Financial Services is the next entry in this blog.

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