Friday, February 10, 2006

Self interest vs self awareness

The idea that the level of self interest among people varies widely is less compelling to me than the idea that self awareness (of one's own self interest) varies widely. I want to write more about this but here's an example:

Yesterday I had a somewhat heated exchange with a real estate agent when I simply wanted to view a listing. She was pressing me for details on who would represent me and suggested if I didn't have anybody her brokerage could do it and her son would be my agent.

Right.... son is going to act in a totally unbiased way to help me lower the price on a house for which they'd be pulling in a 30k commission - and a LOWER commission if he gets the price down for me. I'm NOT suggesting he'd be dishonest or that this type of thing is not a normal part of the real estate game. It is, and I've yet to meet anybody in it that I think is *consciously* dishonest. But salespeople are almost NEVER introspective enough to see how their self interest colors their perception, thus they can honestly...act in a way that is broadly best considered somewhat dishonest.

What was incredible with her is that she didn't even seem all that interested in getting a serious offer out of me - rather in making sure I understood the commission should NOT be a negotiating point and that if I represented myself I would talk ONLY to her and NOT to the owners, MY OWN FUTURE NEIGHBORS! "I wasnt' aware of that law", I said, wondering how far she'd go with self serving suggestions. She admitted I could legally talk to them but said something like "it just isn't done".

Unfortunately I felt forced to get into details better left until later, I explained I wanted to represent myself and although she was not obligated to lower her commission (which the seller "pays" rather than me - though obviously as part of the total proceeds it's really NOT just the seller who is effectively involved in the commission) , I thought it would be a reasonable negotiating point. (yes, keeping total costs low is is in MY interest and I'm happy to admit it)

Whoops.... you would have thought I'd suggested she drown herself in the cute little pond on this property.

The irony is that she seemed more fiercely protective of the commision than interested in making the sale. I'm tempted to give her the benefit of the doubt though and assume she gets a lot of frivolous inquiries and therefore uses "does not like to use brokers" as an indicator of inexperience or insincerity (neither of which even remotely applies to me - I've bought several houses and I'm fairly savvy and serious about this property).

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