Frances Katzen and Courtney Poulos spoke with moderator Dana Cadena about the importance of buyer representation, challenges to professionalism in the industry and more during an ICNY panel on Thursday.

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One thing was certainly made clear during an Inman Connect New York panel on Thursday featuring Douglas Elliman’s Frances Katzen and ACME Real Estate’s Courtney Poulos — any agent on the opposite side of a transaction with either of the real estate powerhouses had better make sure their i’s are dotted and their t’s are crossed.

The real estate pros discussed with moderator Dana Cadena the differences between how transactions are conducted in New York (where Katzen is based) versus California (where Poulos is based), the importance of buyer representation, challenges to professionalism in the industry and more.

Courtney Poulos | ACME Real Estate

For instance, Katzen shared, in New York, agents aren’t allowed to speak to the home appraiser, whereas Poulos regularly prepares data to provide to the appraiser. Poulos also always prepares her own contracts, but Katzen shared that in New York, an attorney always prepares the contract for the agent.

Regardless of who prepares the contract, however, both agents agreed that if an agent has not fully reviewed and understood every point of the contract they’re presenting their client with, they’re doing something seriously wrong. Poulos lamented the unprofessional behavior she’s witnessed from agents.

“How do people get their licenses without reading every single word of the contract they’re sending off to the client?” she wondered, as the Connect audience cheered in agreement.

“If you aren’t completely 100 percent confident in what you’re understanding,” Poulos continued, “you are toast.”

Dana Cadena | Lifestyle International Realty

Cadena likened such behavior to a doctor not reading a prescription they give out to a patient.

“That’s malpractice,” Cadena said.

Contracts matter, Poulos argued, because you never know when a transaction might go the wrong way and the “ambulance chasers” come out to make accusations or file a lawsuit.

That’s why relationships within the industry are so important, too, Poulos continued, both inside and outside of one’s brokerage.

“It’s a fine line we walk,” she said. “Who you work with really matters. Who your broker is really matters.”

Katzen chimed in, “And who’s taking the heat when it doesn’t come together.”

“Tell the truth always,” Katzen added. “That’s the hardest thing — is to stay true to it when in close proximity to someone who may want to say something else.”

Extending professional themes to the world of social media, Poulos was baffled by agents she’s seen on Instagram who just “willy-nilly” give themselves made-up professional titles, which can be extremely misleading to the public.

Frances Katzen | Douglas Elliman

“Being a CEO of a company is a very high liability,” Poulos noted, arguing that it’s not just some word to be thrown around on social media.

“Be wary of the naked one offering you a shirt,” Cadena cautioned.

As the industry transitions into using buyer-broker agreements more widely, Poulos, who has been using buyer-broker agreements for years, said that it’s important for agents to set expectations from the get-go.

“You define your value in your first meeting,” she said. “I’m a professional and my time is valuable. We’re an exclusive agency. I only work with people who want to work with me, and they want to work with me because I know my shit.”

Katzen said that many buyers don’t realize just how important it is for them to have representation in a transaction and to be on the lookout for things the buyer may not realize they need to consider, like radon leaks. She said not having buyer representation was “a liability.”

Taking the topic one step further, Poulos argued that because it is so important, the National Association of Realtors should be doing media campaigns on the topic to educate the public.

“NAR should be doing ads about the value of representation as opposed to the logo of the Realtor association,” she said.

Katzen agreed, saying, “[Buyers] think you turn a key and make 6 percent, and there’s nothing further from the truth.”

“When the market’s not so healthy, that’s when you see,” Katzen added, the value of buyer agents with expertise.

Email Lillian Dickerson

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