In this second of a three-column series on working with family and friends, let’s briefly address the fundamental decision involved with working for a friend or family member.

Throughout my career, whenever I was asked for service by a relative or close friend, unless unusual circumstances prevailed, I normally accepted the agency and charged my usual fee. They typically agreed without argument because they appreciated the value of our trust relationship.

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Occasionally, however, after calling me for professional advice, a couple of them proceeded to hire a hungrier agent who readily acquiesced to their demand for a chopped fee. Did I find this disturbing? Oh yes. Did I ever forget this betrayal? Nope. Have I forgiven them? The jury is still out, but I’m working on it.

If you’re asked for a discount, without raising an eyebrow, calmly refuse and without missing a beat, move to the next step. At that point, they might drop the issue and the problem is resolved. However, if they persist, ask them why they asked you to represent them.

If they reply that they thought you’d work for free, then it might be time to fetch your hat and head for the door.

But if they say they trust you, ask if they know another agent they trust as much. In most cases, they’ll say no. What’s that trust worth? What’s the value of being represented by someone with whom they share a familiar loving relationship, someone they completely trust to protect them unequivocally and who’ll conscientiously do absolutely everything in their power to fulfill their wishes? In my book, that’s worth a lot.

If they refuse to drop the issue, tell them to begin interviewing agents. They’ll likely respond by saying they don’t want to go to the trouble or wouldn’t trust them as much. Point made. Hold your ground. Or to preserve the relationship, you can fold, take a hit in your income and do your best in the following years to suppress your resentment or better yet, forgive them.

Their motivation isn’t that they don’t love and respect you. They may suffer from the virulent and increasingly common disease of Money Madness and be driven by a fear of scarcity. And that fear may be stronger than their innate ability to love.

It may be hard for you to handle, but you must accept that they’re hard-wired to think that way. If you allow yourself to violate your customary fee policy, then you’ll be aligning your own loving higher vibrational frequency with their lower fear frequency. (More on this topic in The Happy Agent.)

By strictly following this protocol, most prospective clients, whether family, friend or trusting stranger with whom you have a solid mutually respectful relationship, will be satisfied. If not, then consider what you may have lost as you walk out the door. Remember – relationships are more important than money.

In the next and last of this series, I’ll discuss the topic of boundaries.

[quote_box_center]“Treasure your relationships, not your possessions.” Anthony J. D’Angelo[/quote_box_center]


  1. Thank you Ross for your wise words. I agree with you about not compromising my values. I do work with friends, relatives and referrals and thank God, so far, my relationships have grown stronger. At the onset, I advise them that I do not double end and that I work for them. I do advise them that double ending is legal however, I do not find it ethical. I joke, that it is like having 2 spouses and they chuckle! I charge my full fee & always ensure that the co-operating rep receives 2.5% or 3%, with appreciation. I choose my clients and have walked away a couple of times when I realized that there was no chemistry, leave alone the money aspect. Hope you are enjoying your retirement and sailing. All the very best to you and your family! Yes, I do have your book! :) Thank you!

    • Thanks, Radha. It seems that you and I are cut from similar cloth. Being selective with whom we associate in this life helps on the road to happiness. Be well, my friend.

  2. In over 46 years working as a licensed Realtor and successfully assisting Buyers and Sellers to the tune of over ONE BILLION dollars in sales, I made it a point to not do business with relatives and close friends. Needless to say: I still enjoy a close, warm relationship with both groups. Nor do I recommend a Realtor even though I could extract a referral commission. It was NEVER worth it!

  3. Ross, thank you for this. These “nuggets of knowledge” you share are important for any professional to digest and use when faced with this situation not only with friends and family, but even a potential client. It boils down to us knowing our worth, being comfortable with that knowledge and being able to demonstrate our value proposition, beyond this, that beyond the trust factor, the respect for how we practice our craft, is recognized. In absence of these, is where the conundrum surfaces. Some friends and family are best referred to, or left to find their own agent as those will simply result in heartache much greater than the business revenue and when we consider commissions are gross revenue, the post expense and post tax net income is just not worth complicating or risking a relationship. In my almost 27 years as a REALTOR®️, I learned early on to be selective and to not compromise myself for anyone on my values learning (as we all do) the hard way that succumbing to the temptation led for the most part to a challenged future with them. No amount of money is worth losing a friend or damaging a familial relationship.


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