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My friend is upset because I didn't hire her as my real-estate agent

The question

I recently bought a new house and sold my existing house. I have a very old dear friend who is a real-estate agent. When she saw my house on the MLS website, she confronted me and told me she was very hurt that I didn't use her as our agent. I realize now that I should have told her directly that I wasn't going to use her as the agent, rather than letting her find out on the Internet, but the question remains: Am I compelled to use my friend's services just because she is my friend?

The answer

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Short answer: No.

Long answer (columnist takes out breath spray, spritzes it in his mouth) is as follows:

I'm not a big believer in hiring people just because they happen to be friends or family. That way lies cronyism, nepotism and, ultimately mediocrity, I feel.

If all other things are equal, sure, hire the friend or family member. But all other things rarely are equal, and I think if it's something important, the job should go to the most talented/qualified person, even if it means making the tough choice of passing over a friend.

It is my long-held belief that most people underappreciate/underestimate the importance of surrounding themselves with talented people in their everyday lives.

Sure, they might think about it once in a while. For example, when they go to a restaurant: "Hope the chef's talented." Or a play: "Hope it was written by a talented playwright."

Me, I think about it continually. When I get on a plane, I pray the pilot is a talented pilot. I want my doctor to be a gifted tumour catcher, artistic polyp analyst and maestro of medical forensics, able to spot and diagnose things less-talented doctors might ignore or overlook or misinterpret (The guy on House, basically).

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I want everyone on Team Eddie to be outstanding in their respective fields, including the various experts I consult for advice on my advice: family lawyers, bankruptcy specialists, sex gurus and so on. I even have someone I contact on column questions relating to clothing-optional communities (rare but I get them once in a while – like this one: "Our friends have been avoiding us and we think it's because they've become nudists. What do we do?"). He's outstanding nude in his field. And you'd best believe when it comes to the critical decision of selling my family domicile, I want a supertalented real-estate agent.

I assume you wanted that too. For most of us, if we're lucky enough to own a house, it's our biggest asset/investment, i.e. a big deal, and you want the right agent for the job when it comes time to buy or sell.

You wouldn't go to a doctor just because he/she was a friend. Why a real-estate agent?

I would hope your friend would understand this. At the same time, you should be sensitive to the fact that the commission on the sale of a house can represent a pretty big chunk of change for an agent, so she probably feels stung not only in her feelings but her bank account.

I asked my own real-estate agent about your case, and she raised several excellent points. One was: How is it that someone who is both a "very old dear friend" and a real-estate agent didn't know you were planning on selling your house?

My guess is she's either not that good a friend or not that good an agent.

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The other possibility is that for this case, your friend was the wrong type of realtor: Some specialize in condos, some in suburban houses, some in downtown Victorians. My agent said that if a friend chose to pass her over for this reason, she wouldn't be offended.

Whatever your true reason for not using your friend, I would use this as your explanation: Take her out and say something to the effect of "not a good fit." I know I should hate that bureaucratic-sounding corporate neologism, but I actually quite like it. Just because someone is not right for one job doesn't mean they wouldn't be great at another –and feelings are spared.

If she continues to be upset, well, that's her problem. Life's hard; we don't automatically get what we want; sometimes we have to fight for it. Maybe the implied criticism of your passing her over for selling your house will cause her to up her game, and you will use her next time.

What am I supposed to do now?

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