My Conflict of Interest – An inside story

There is an old saying: “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked in their shoes.” This certainly hit home for me when I unexpectedly found myself in a situation, taking an action as a real estate Broker that clearly placed me in a conflict of interest.

The situation

We had a property listed in a secondary market for sale (it has since sold) which was owned by a national bank. I happen to possess a one third ownership in a similar sized office building located four blocks away which was vacant at the time and had appointed one of our salespeople as listing agent. To complicate things, the office leasing market was slow!

The two other out of province investors, who are friends of mine, were relying on us to fill this vacancy. The bank did not have an interest in leasing the property however we had more than one qualified investor willing to purchase the building if we found a quality tenant.

I found myself in a very uncomfortable situation every time I found we qualified Tenant for this category of the market. In each case I did end up presenting both options but found myself second guessing almost every word I spoke. Was I presenting both properties in the very best light without showing favor to my own business interests? I find it very difficult to provide an impartial answer to that question.

ICR’s unique selling proposition

We at ICR Commercial Real Estate have made a commitment to our clients that we will not buy, lease or develop commercial real estate within the primary market that we live and work in. Many of our clients have either been personally involved in, or observed commercial transactions where the Broker has been in conflict.

I came away from my own experience with a better understanding of just how difficult it can be to represent the best interests of my client when I am competing with them.

My takeaway

The investing I have done in commercial real estate has been done outside of my primary market which is Saskatoon. I am in a better position to represent my clients as a result of those investment experiences. When my client asks me the question: “what would you do if you were in my shoes,” I can answer that question from firsthand knowledge.

I walked away from the situation that I shared here with greater clarity of the challenges that arise from owning assets in same market as my clients. I now understand that there are shortfalls in our current non-compete commitment. This has impacted my personal policy if I find myself in this situation again.

Dual Agency is another topic that often comes up in conflict of interest discussions. It is a much broader topic that I will save for another day.

Any conflict of interest experiences that you would like to share?

Posted by Barry Stuart

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