Kelly, a homemaker in the midst of a divorce, was flipping through a local real estate magazine in search of a new home when she came across Mitch Cummings picture. She wanted to stay in the same neighborhood so that her twelve-year-old daughter wouldn't have to leave her close group of friends, and so that her eighteen-year-old son wouldn't have to part from his girlfriend of two years. Yet as soon as she turned to the section of the magazine that covered her neighborhood, there was Mitch Cummings face, his porcelain teeth flashing at her in a perfectly symmetrical smile.

'Ugh.' Kelly rolled her eyes. 'Not this creep again.'

Kelly had never met Mitch Cummings, Realtor. But she was tired of his face and fed up with that symmetrical smile. It seemed to Kelly that Mitch Cummings face was plastered on half the billboards, benches and bus bays in the neighborhood, trying to entice home sellers to let him "help you get the best deal on your house." When her neighbor across the street had put the house up for sale last year, Mitch Cummings had smiled at Kelly for a good three weeks thanks to a giant For-Sale sign in the front lawn. Even now, when she was trying to relax in her chaise lounge with a magazine, Mitch Cummings wouldn't leave her alone.

As the divorce date drew nearer, a desperate Kelly asked friends, neighbors and relatives for referrals to real estate agents. No one knew anyone worth recommending in her area from personal experience. However, "why don't you try that Mitch Cummings guy?" several of her sources suggested. "He's always advertising around here. He must have a few homes for sale."

"Absolutely not!" Kelly shot back. "That guy is everywhere. He must be such a money-grabbing sleaze."

In the end, Kelly enlisted the help of Jenna Bathurst, a lesser-known agent in the area, to act as her buyer's agent. Together, the two women found a charming For-Sale-by-Owner home for Kelly and her two children. Kelly had to pay Jenna a fee for her services (a fairly common practice when a buyer's agent leads you to a For-Sale-by-Owner home, and therefore doesn't get commission from the seller), but Kelly felt that at least her money had gone to an honest women, rather than that slimy Mitch.

The very day after Kelly purchased her new home, her sister, Katie, surprised the family by putting her own home up for sale. It turned out her husband was relocating his dental practice to the Canadian province of Newfoundland, and taking the family with him. Much to Kelly's chagrin, whom did Katie employ to help her sell her home? Mitch Cummings!

"Katie, what are you doing?" Kelly practically screamed down the phone. "That guy is such a sleazy salesman! He's only after your money! Why else would he feel the need to splash his face all over town?"

"He's a good businessman," Katie argued. "He probably knows what he's doing."

Sure enough, within a mere one week on the market, Katie's house had sold for a very attractive price. What's more, Mitch Cummings remained friendly and professional throughout the entire transaction, from the initial marketing strategy to the closing paperwork. And the commission he took was very reasonable-6% of the sale price, which is quite standard in the real estate industry.

Was Kelly right to assume Mitch Cummings was a 'sleazy salesman?' And why was Katie so quick to call him, despite her sister's warnings?

The truth is, Kelly misunderstood Mitch Cummings advertising campaign. She assumed he was targeting people who, like her, were in the process of buying a home. She knew from reading his ads that Mitch Cummings was primarily a listing agent-that is, he worked to represent the interests of a seller in a real estate transaction. Thus, when she saw his ads, she assumed he was attempting to entice homebuyers to his properties by saying, "Come buy my homes! I'm the best!" In reality, he wasn't interested in the likes of Kelly at all. Rather, he was much more interested in the likes of Katie-home sellers.

Buyer's Agents Vs. Seller's Agents

Buyers assume that listing agents place ads in order to attract buyers. In reality, the buyers are the furthest people on the listing agents' minds when they place that ad. Really, the listing agent is using that ad as a means of attracting and impressing two types of people: sellers, and buyers' agents.

Obviously, one of the main reasons a listing agent advertises is because the seller expects them to; the seller wants to see that the listing agent is taking active measures to market the property for sale. However, by placing this ad, the listing agent is in effect advertising his or her services to other sellers. Think about it: Katie didn't know of any listing agents in the area when the time came for her to sell her home. (Jenna Bathurst, the agent who had helped Kelly, was a buyer's agent and thus specialized in representing buyers like Kelly, not sellers like Katie.) So, forced to pick a listing agent at random, who did Katie think of first? Mitch Cummings, the most well-advertised listing agent in the area. After seeing the aggressive marketing campaigns he'd launched for so many other properties for sale in the area, Katie felt confident that he would be equally persistent in selling her home. Sure enough, Mitch Cummings did a great job, and got her several offers almost right away; one of which she couldn't refuse.

Thus, in the sleazy salesman/good businessman debate, Katie, who perceived Mitch as a good businessman, was correct. Mitch Cummings wasn't out to strip innocent people of their money. Rather, he was out to generate as much business for himself as possible, all the while collecting a very standard and reasonable commission. This is a big part of why listing agents advertise as much as they do. They want their names on prospective home-sellers' lips long after the property itself has been sold. They want to inspire future sellers to turn to them for help selling their home.

Throughout the neighborhood, home sellers like Katie opted to list with Mitch Cummings. Because he was constantly advertising properties listed for sale with him, sellers knew that he would advertise their homes well. And he always does.

Another thing that Kelly overlooked was the fact that listing agents don't typically advertise to homebuyers. Rather, they target buyer's agents. Why? Because it is the job of the buyer's agent to bring as many buyers as possible over to the property for sale. In other words, Mitch would have been much more interested in Jenna, the buyer's agent, than he would have been in Kelly.

A listing agent wants to attract as many buyer's agents as possible to view the property. The buyer's agents, in turn, will gather up buyer's to view the property. This is great news for the seller, because it increases the odds that he or she will get a good offer on the home. In fact, in addition to the ads you see on the street, the Internet or in magazines, a listing agent does plenty of advertising to buyer's agents completely unbeknownst to the seller. For example, a listing agent may hold an Open House solely for buyer's agents from his or her office, or for all the agents on the Multiple Listing Service. As well, the listing agent will probably pitch the property for sale at any real estate organization meetings he or she attends. These are all strategies to get buyer's agents familiar with the property, so that they in turn can pitch it to buyers.

Also, many listing agents nowadays (Mitch Cummings included) are part of "teams." The team consists of both listing agents and buyer's agents. Imagine that a buyer called Mitch Cummings to look at Katie's house. Mitch could refer that buyer to a buyer's agent from his 'team,' who would schedule an appointment to bring the buyer to Katie's property. However, while they were at it, why shouldn't they show the buyer a few other properties the 'team' has for sale, as well? In this way, many real estate agents actually work together to sell a property.

The moral of the story: don't jump to conclusions about real estate agents who market properties aggressively. They're only doing their job and a good job, at that!