The Hidden Danger of Elbow Grease | The Zebra Blog

The Hidden Danger of Elbow Grease

Have you ever picked up a shovel or a paintbrush in the spirit of helping a seller get their home on the market? If so, I am talking to you.

Over the years I have been witness to many sad situations that could have been prevented if the real estate agent involved had thought twice before offering to do work for their sellers. I don’t believe that any real estate agent would ever do work again for their sellers if they had a chance to speak with some of the agents who have and who have been either sued or injured because of it.

No one ever agrees to do work for their sellers thinking that either of those things might happen but when it does, most agents find themselves ill-prepared to deal with the situation they find themselves in.

  • What if you were helping to do some yard work and you accidentally left the hose on and flooded the seller’s basement? Would you be liable? Would the seller’s homeowner’s insurance policy cover it or not?
  • What if while doing that yard work you were mowing the lawn and a rock spun out of the mower and hit a child in the eye? If you think it can’t happen, it can. I myself was a victim to a severe eye injury as a child because of that exact situation.  Thankfully it was on our property and my father was the one doing the mowing, but can you imagine if that was you mowing and a neighborhood child got injured?  You just never know what can happen when you are doing work on someone else’s property.
  • What if you were helping paint the inside of the house, fell off the stepstool and broke a priceless antique vase?
  • What if you used the wrong type of cleaner in bathroom with antique fixtures, and plumbing, and the cleaner you used etched away the antique finish and the pipes?

If you think to yourself, “What could happen?” and shrug off the potential consequences, sit down and REALLY ask yourself, “What could happen?”

I have had to counsel agents through situations where they found themselves in a very serious legal or financial situation because of the work they had done on a seller’s home.

A few years ago, a past client of mine called to tell me she was getting sued because she did some complimentary landscape work for her sellers to get the home ready to sell. The company that she hired and paid to do the work was not licensed or bonded. They damaged the seller’s septic system to the tune of $7,200.  The landscaping company refused to fix it and therefore both the agent and the company that did the work ended up being sued by the sellers.  It was an awful situation and one that could have been prevented had the agent told the seller that while she could refer a company for the sellers to interview, she could not hire and pay for the work to be done.

I was also witness to a situation in which an agent fell off the seller’s roof. The result? He could no longer work as a real estate agent.  The legal nightmare that resulted lasted for over five years and ended up with a costly lawsuit against the seller’s insurance company.

The bottom line is that real estate agents need to stick to doing what they do best…selling real estate.  The minute you put yourself into a position of doing any kind of work for the seller on the sellers’ property you open yourself and your seller to liability, possible litigation and even worse, possible injury.

You do not do handyman work, landscaping, electrical repair or plumbing repair. You should NEVER agree to do work in hopes of getting a listing as this could potentially be a very costly endeavor.  Stick to doing what you do best and leave the repair work to the professionals.

If you find yourself agreeing to do anything for the seller that is not directly related to selling the home then you need to STOP and explain to the seller that you are not licensed to do that work.

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