This one happens all the time. We get a call from a real estate agent who is inquiring about one of the businesses we have listed on behalf of a buyer, or is looking for potential buyers for a business one of their clients wants to sell. Perhaps they are a trusted agent for a client, and the client asked that they inquire on their behalf. We even have potential buyers and sellers call and request that we use their real estate agent for their part of the transaction.
We tell them how business transactions work. A real estate agent who refers a client to us will get a referral fee when the deal closes, all they have to do is get us the client’s contact info.
Sometimes an agent refuses to divulge their client’s information, demanding instead that we work with them on the deal. We refuse, so the agent moves on to a different broker to see if they can talk someone into working with them. Their clients don’t get access to business information or potential buyers, and are likely unaware that any of this is going on.
Why won’t business brokers work with real estate agents? Why do they require a referral of the clients instead?
It’s very simple. Real estate agents are very good at what they do – they sell property and homes. What they are not good at and likely know little to nothing about is selling businesses. You can liken the difference between a business broker and a real estate agent to the difference between a plastic surgeon and your general family physician. You would probably be very uncomfortable having your family doctor do reconstructive facial surgery – along the same lines a business broker specializes in the buying and selling of businesses. We would never try to help someone buy a house, it’s just not what we do.
What can happen if a real estate agent tries to help you buy or sell a business? Since they don’t know the ins and outs of the business transaction process, there is a good chance you will never see a closing table.
If you are a seller, a real estate agent will likely treat your business listing like a listing for a house. They will take pictures, gather some cursory financial information and then post this information on the MLS listing system. This is a complete disaster in the making. The most important part of selling an existing business is maintaining confidentiality. Without confidentiality, you stand to lose customers, employees, vendors and money. The only people who should know that your business is for sale are those who have signed the appropriate non-disclosure documents – not anyone with an internet connection who can search the MLS. A business broker knows how to confidentiality market your business, and they are also well-versed in negotiating leases, licensing and permitting concerns and will have relationships with other brokers and buyers who are currently in the market looking for a business like yours.
If you are a buyer, a real estate agent isn’t going to have access to any business listing information without talking a broker into letting them have it (which isn’t likely to happen). Many real estate agents also try to fill out the non-disclosure forms themselves, pretending to be the buyer, but all this does is garner mistrust with any sellers who will then feel like they’ve been duped when the truth is later revealed.
We understand your loyalty to your real estate agent – we have many friends in the real estate industry and we have used their expertise for not only our home purchases but also the sales and purchases for our family members. You shouldn’t feel like your real estate agent gets the short end of the deal if they refer you to a business broker – they get paid for handing over information and doing nothing more. They are doing you and your future business transaction a great service by putting you in more capable hands.
If you are looking to buy or sell a business, feel free to ask your real estate agent if they have a business broker they would recommend. Just be wary if your agent tries to talk you into letting them take the reins.
Have you tried to buy or sell a business using a real estate agent and have a story to share? Do you have more questions about the referral process? Ask us! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions.
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