Working for Family: Brilliant Business Idea or Disaster Waiting to Happen?

When new agents get into the business, their sphere of influence is usually friends and family.  Your friends and family already know you, like you and trust you… but does that mean you can work together?

It can be a double edged sword – Family is an easy sell on using your services but they may expect you to go above and beyond the scope of what you would normally do. Let’s examine the pros and cons in greater depth so that when the situation arises, you go into it with your eyes wide open.

Pros:  Some of the pros are obvious –

  • You don’t have to work very hard to establish a connection since, well, you are related!
  • Your family already trusts you – they know that you are going to look out for their best interests.
  • They are more likely to be forgiving with “rookie mistakes”
  • Your family will be honest about what they want
  • You don’t have to worry about small talk or awkward silences

Cons:  Even with family, there are downsides –

  • They may ask you to give the “family discount” on commissions
  • They may be frustrated if the house doesn’t sell fast enough or offers on properties aren’t accepted
  • They expect you to drop everything morning, afternoon, and night to meet their needs
  • It is harder to be objective and remove emotions from considerations and negotiations
  • Transactional issues may spill over into personal issues

How can you overcome some of the downsides of working with family?  I would argue you need to treat them the same way as you would any client – by setting expectations, communicating often and clearly, and explaining your role and the timeline of the transaction.  This is easier said than done, especially if you are hungry for business, so how do you have a meeting of the minds?

Be Honest:  When you have your buyer consultation meeting or your seller marketing meeting with your family member (YES, still have those!), tell them all that you are going to do for them.  Explain your role in the transaction and outline all that you will do.  If it feels too formal initially, let your family member know that you need to practice these skills for future sellers/buyers and you trust your family to be honest and provide feedback. They will humor you and it will be a good opportunity for you to lay out clearly and concisely the expectations through the transaction.

Be Objective:  When it comes time to write or review offers, try to remove the emotional aspect.  This will be hard because you may have almost an equal amount of emotional investment in the transaction as your family member.  Of course you want to protect their interests, but remember your role as the professional in the transaction. Don’t let emotions rule your negotiations or marketing efforts.

Working with family can be a positive, bonding experience, but it can be disastrous as well!  Be thoughtful in your approach, conscientious in your actions and motivations, and always communicate, communicate, communicate!

As always, just my two cents.


Susan Hansen

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