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Warning: Don’t Hire Your Friends to Sell Your House

Sep 29, 2017


We used to be friends.

But it all fell apart.

All because they wanted to sell their house.

“Jeff, buddy.” It was my good friend, “The wife and I want to sell our house. Can we hire you?”

My mind was screaming, No! Don’t do it! This is how friendships die!!  

Despite myself, I said, “Yes, of course!”

It really is how friendships die, you know.

Working for friends is a bad idea.

Buying from and selling to friends is a bad idea.

The experience that followed my dumb decision to work for friends is a good example of what not to do and why.

You might not believe this – I certainly had a hard time believing it - but it only took a few days for years of friendship to unravel.

We had a discussion about separating our friendship and business relationship and mutually agreed we could do so, so their house was listed, did an open house, and were a few days into marketing that was gaining traction when I got "the call" . I was in my car on my way home from an appointment to pick up my wife to meet them for supper as we often did. The phone conversation that followed began with a rather unusual question from the wife.  

“Hello?” I asked.

“Why are you screwing with our lives?!”  

“Uh… Wuh?”...  I was stunned. Not only by her sudden and uncalled-for attack, but I also had no hot clue what she was talking about. 

She went on to say “I saw a sold sign on a house that would have been perfect for us. We were looking for something JUST like that, and you didn’t even TELL us about it! Why are you screwing with our lives?!”

“Listen,” I explained, “One of three things has happened. Either the property was listed and sold right away, it is not listed for sale on the Multiple Listing Service, or I screwed up. I’ll find out which one it is. We’ll see you at dinner.”

“I can’t talk to you anymore.” She said, and passed the phone to her husband, who immediately spoke.

“She’s too mad. We can’t go for dinner right now.” Click.

Remember, these were not some crazy, unreasonable people. These were our friends. The same couple we had gone to dinner with for years. We’d laughed together, swapped stories, and supported each other in the hard stuff.

That one little miscommunication could torpedo all that and make them treat me this way was mind blowing.

Still driving, I dialed the number of the agent whose name they said was on the sign, to see if I could find out what was going on.

“Yes,” she said, “I just signed the listing! I put the sign in the ground and got a phone call less than a couple of hours,  it sold to someone who called me. I just put the sold sign up today and it sold in record time!”

“Did it ever get publicly listed as for sale?”  

“Not yet.”

The house had sold before it had even gotten to market. Ah, I replied. 

Still driving, I phoned back and explained to the husband how it had happened.  The explanation did nothing to resolve their resentment about having missed out on a house.

I decided to tell them that I want to transfer their listing to another agent which they agreed with and they continued to believe I was completely at fault. We haven’t spoken since.

The moral of the story is this: don’t hire friends or family.  Usiness and friendships should never be merged. 

It rarely turns out well.

Most of the time – and I’ve seen a lot in my over 25 years of professional real estate experience  – it can end up badly. Ruined relationships, dead deals, lively lawsuits, and strained Christmas gatherings ever after.