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Do I REALLY Want to Do That? Working With Your Cousin, The Real Estate Agent

The following is an excerpt from an actual conversation. Well … it’s not an ACTUAL conversation, but its components are taken from bits and pieces of real chats we’ve had over the years.

And before we start, we’re just going to get our “bless their hearts” out of the way.

Bless their hearts.

THEM: I’ve decided to sell my house.
US: That’s wonderful! Are you working with an agent?
THEM: Well, I think I’m going to use my cousin; she just got her license and could really use the work. And besides, you know, she’s family.

Bless. Their. Hearts.

So, this scenario isn’t all that unusual.

Many of us know people who are real estate professionals. Friends, family, people we care about and, by gum, we want to help them out. And, you know, maybe—just maybe—working with a friend or family member could work out for us. Maybe we’ll get a deal! Maybe there’ll be a break on fees or we’ll pay less commission or maybe we’ll be showered with treasure and glitter and fairies and maybe a unicorn will act as the title attorney.


Any one of these things could happen, I mean, anything is possible, right? Except cutting commission. This isn’t fantasyland, you know (we kid, we kid).

In all seriousness, this is something that any of us could run into. But is using a friend or family member as your real estate professional a good idea? 

For the sake of continuity and linguistic economy, let’s say you’re thinking about using your cousin, Daisy Mae, as your agent. We suppose that there are, in some cases, reasons it would be OK to work with Cousin Daisy Mae. IF she is a person (and if YOU are a person) who is able to draw hard lines between your business and personal lives and IF they are a person who sets expectations and IF you and Cousin Daisy Mae are able to set boundaries between your working and personal relationships that cannot be breached, then yes. Working with Cousin Daisy Mae is fine.


But if these IFs aren’t the case, then we strongly—STRONGLY—advise against doing this.

The biggest reason for this is that personal relationship we mentioned up there. It’s important. You love your Cousin Daisy Mae. She’s awesome. You have cookouts together, you like pina coladas, health food, champagne. You have a kinship. We assume you’d like to keep it that way.

If your transaction goes smoothly (and no real estate transaction has ever had any sort of complication, has it, so that’s likely ::ahem::) and there are no hiccups, then awesome. But what if something goes wrong? What if your listing stays on the market longer than you want? What if there are no showings? What if you make an offer on a house and it’s not accepted? What then? Is your relationship going to sustain that kind of stress?

Definitely something to think about.

Did Cousin Daisy Mae just get her license? Are you, because you love her, doing your best to give her a leg up? We do that for the people we love, you know. But, all things being equal, don’t you want someone who’s got some experience working for you? If Cousin Daisy Mae was NOT your cousin, would you consider working with her?

Definitely something to think about.

IDEA: if your friend/family member is newly licensed and you’re not sure about working with them, ask them (or their broker) for a referral. They’ll still generate some income from their referral fee, and you’ll get paired up with an experienced agent. That’s a pretty good deal for everyone.

You’ll hear real estate professionals say it again and again: buying or selling a home is the single most important transaction of your life. And that’s the God’s-honest truth. It’s your home. It holds your financial future. It’s a BIG DEAL. It’s something you’d entrust only to the most qualified professionals, only to people you hold in the highest esteem.

If that person is Cousin Daisy Mae and you’re ready to make that leap, then godspeed. But if you’re not sure–not 100%, serious-as-a-heart attack sure–stop and think long and hard about whether you want to do that or not. Your relationship could depend on it.

And one last thing: if you do have a situation like this and you want to work with someone else, but you don’t want to hurt your friend’s feelings, just be honest. Tell them how you feel and what you want to do. You don’t want them to find out later that you used someone else and that you didn’t care enough about Daisy Mae’s feelings to say so.

If you have questions, we’ve seen it all, so feel free to give us a call and ask. Urban Provisions’ REALTORS have been around a long time and have seen every type of transaction under the sun. Our job is to help, and if you need it, we’re here to give it to you.