"Aberration" is not a pretty word. It suggests peculiarity and impermanence; an odd thing destined not to survive. But his nay-sayers might have better luck with sticks and stones, because names like those have never hurt Bill French – nor his buyer's representation business.
"Candidly, when I started this 25 years ago, everybody thought I was an aberration and wouldn't last," French, owner of Wm. French Buyer's Real Estate Services in Chesterfield, Missouri, says. "I think I was flying under the radar 25 years ago."
Indeed he was. And it was that pioneering approach to the business that has earned him a place in the Real Estate Buyer's Agent Council's (REBAC) "Of course, I'm really pleased. I've been a director on the REBAC board from its inception, so I guess I was fairly well known in the group," he says. "I've also been a strong advocate of the concept of buyer's agency and dealing with the buyer only for almost 25 years now. I haven't found anybody that has been doing that other than me."
French hadn't been in the real estate business when he decided to become a buyer's agent. He'd come from a consulting business –a field in which you can't serve two masters. He brought that sensibility to his real estate work, recognizing that representing both the buyer and seller on a deal provided an inherent potential for conflict of interest. He immediately recognized his approach – some dozen years before fair disclosure laws – was a novel one, but he doesn't consider himself a buyer's hero. "I've always worked on the merits of what I do and let the people make their own decisions about it. I wasn't Don Quixote tilting at windmills saying 'This is the way it should be done,'" he says.
"I've always been a believer in the fact you could do good business, market yourself on the merits of what you do and you don't have to make the other people look like bad guys. I've been preaching that to the buyer's agency business." His numbers alone should prompt some of those in the business to prick up their ears. Last year, his brokerage of 20 agents brought in more than $100 million. "I think the public is certainly catching onto it," he says, adding the National Association of Realtors' purchase of REBAC leant the field the credibility it deserved. "That in and of itself was a statement of buyer agency coming to the mainstream as opposed to a fringe concept. There isn't a firm in St. Louis that doesn't offer buyer agency," he says. "Of course I pushed them and nudged them a little early."