We just had a seller call us who was comparing us to a different flat fee brokerage, one we happen to know has a not so good record with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). It seems a number of their past flat fee MLS listing sellers have been so unsatisfied that they complained to the BBB, and as a result their rating at the BBB is not so good. We know the big difference in track record and hope that home sellers comparing us do the essential research so they can avoid a bad situation.
Anyway, this seller was talking about some comparison points, and we mentioned how proud we are of our BBB Accreditation, A+ Rating, etc. and asked if he had looked at the BBB record for the other company. He said that when he talked to the other company, and asked about the BBB, they told him not to check it because “they were not affiliated with the BBB” and don’t participate in the program. This seller was disappointed, thinking it would be nice to compare BBB grades side to side, so he didn’t check the BBB website for the other company’s record. Fortunately, he was doing one key element of investigation flat fee brokers-calling, and he spoke to us.
I was shocked to hear this story, on many levels. Let’s set the record straight, as we did with this seller, who ended up selecting us for their flat fee listing:
The Better Business Bureau keeps records on all companies. Even those companies that don’t provide any information to them. I believe they get incorporation and business records from every state, so they have a list on nearly all businesses.
If a company doesn’t have a BBB record, you should do even more research. Even the newest companies tend to get a BBB record very quickly--we’ve seen 1-2 month old companies with a record. Businesses that aren’t registered with their state, are unlicensed, or who change their names frequently might not have a record, but that kind of company is very risky to do business with. Not only are they likely not operating legally, but those factors also indicate a company that can disappear in an instant. The flat fee listing fee you paid them is gone and the phone number disconnected. Fraud artists and criminal enterprises share those same characteristics as a way to keep from being found by their unsatisfied past customers, regulators, and authorities.
I was surprised that a consumer accepted that explanation as legitimate and did not investigate further. Perhaps since I have been a flat fee broker since the very beginning of flat fee, and had to explain a new concept, a new way of thinking, and been a new business back in 1998, I’m used to dealing with skeptical consumers. They want to check us out and I welcome their questions and investigations—we have nothing to hide, and a track record to be proud of. We have learned about lots of ways consumers can investigate a business before doing business as a way to make sure they don’t get ripped off. We encourage and educate consumers to investigate because we know there are some really bad flat fee brokers out there-we hear lots of bad flat fee stories.
A little background research goes a long way. For all established flat fee MLS brokers, you should be able to find reviews, complaint histories, comments, past customer references, and more. If you need help finding this information, we are happy to help. For companies that don’t have this established track record, viewable on independent websites that the broker can’t control or influence, ask yourself why.
For most people, the risk of tying up your property, slowing down a potential sale, or worse doesn’t justify going with a broker without fully established, longstanding, and transparent background.