Not too long ago, I attended a closing on a home I had for sale. Pretty normal, uneventful; for the Seller that is. The Buyers had chosen a discount agent, I assume they hadn’t known her previously. She seemed pretty on-the-spot, up to Closing. The Buyers went first, and no issues were brought up to us as they thanked my Sellers and left.
We took their vacated place in the conference room, and again glanced over the financial documents given 3 days prior, and one just the day before. I had noticed an error, but it was in my Seller’s favor, and should have been caught easily by the Buyer Agent. Was it, and the Buyers said “oh, well, we will let it go”? I don’t know. Maybe someday I’ll ask them, but for now, I know that an error was made and not rectified by the Buyer Agent. The Sellers did correct the issue.
What do you picture when you look for a Realtor to help you buy, and particularly, SELL your home? Here are a few scenarios that I have run into, both from folks NOT choosing me, and from how Realtors choose to advertise their services to YOU:
1. “My Aunt Susan is an agent, she’ll look out for our best interests.”
This could be true enough, but one needs to look into Auntie’s background, and current level of enthusiasm in her chosen career. Notice I didn’t say “education” or “how many houses she’s sold last year”. She’d best be updated on her education as proscribed by her licensing association, but if she’s not kept up with technology, or doesn’t have the creativity to market your property as times demand, is she really looking out for your best interests, or is she resting on her laurels of the dusty past? No crime that, but what do YOU need?
2. “He goes to our church and is such a nice man!”
Yes, I bet he is. Maybe he knows Aunt Susan, or maybe he is a part time agent. Now being a ‘part time agent’ is not a sin (pardon the pun) nor is it damaging to anyone. Where does the focus and passion lie, though? Are you getting the closest attention to real estate detail you can from this nice man? You just might, but the reasons you chose him above do not necessarily make a good real estate agent.
3. “She’s the biggest selling agent in her office!”
OK, that’s a good reference, for sure! However, how many homes is she and (probably) her team juggling at one time? How about the fact she has a ‘team’ of folks helping her keep track of all these sales and Buyers? That’s awesome until someone doesn’t get the message you left with a team member, or you can’t get in touch with the lead agent. You chose HER, not her team. Right? If you are comfortable with having an automated team experience in which you don’t get a personal connection with the lead agent (they are BUSY getting listing leads most of the time, leaving all other details to the team after they get you to sign on the dotted line), then the award-winner may be right for you. But make sure the awards she says she’s gotten are real, and not, perhaps, paid for (yes, it happens).
4. “He/she dresses so well, and drives an expensive vehicle. I see their ads everywhere! They must be good!”
I call this the “Sharp Dressed Man” approach. (then there’s the opposite in ranch country, of the man in the dusty jeans, bolo tie and cowboy hat. He MUST be good at selling ranch property, right?) They must make TONS of money since they drive that fancy thing around, yes? Perhaps they do. Remember, that’s YOUR money they’ll be spending. Same for their fancy offices, where does the money come from for that? Is this what YOU need? Many folks like to say their agent comes from Fancyland Realty, just so they can bask in that image for awhile. I say do what makes you happy, but are you getting the service you need just from these qualifications alone?
5. “I called up Corner Office Realty and took the first agent that answered the call. She/he seems nice”
Yep, probably is. And probably capable, too. I remember doing “Desk Time” and taking random calls from folks with different requests. I didn’t often get a client from that, and most of the time those I did faded away. Was I not the right emotional and supportive choice for them, or were they perhaps not really that committed to the process yet? Yes, maybe both, and maybe other reasons. The agent on the other end of the phone is probably quite capable. But definitely meet them before you commit your time. See if you ‘click’ with them and vice versa.
Oh and I have to mention that one of the all-time WORST agents I ever had to share a transaction with was at the time a single agent ‘Broker” who wasn’t doing so well. This chauvinistic, big-mouthed, condescending boor of an agent decided to go back to being just an agent, and got himself in with a very ’24K’ named agency. INSTANT credibility, right? Ugh….. I believe that ‘affair’ ended not too soon after it’s start, however.
6. “We live in a small town and this local old real estate agency knows it so well.”
Yes, I suppose. However, nowadays folks looking at property have already researched the areas they are willing to buy a home in, and know something about the town, as well. If they’re going to look at your property, it’s already in their search radius chosen by THEM. Does the local agency keep up with the best marketing practices and use technology to promote your interests? I see more ‘small town’ agents taking horrible home listing photos (and not enough), not giving vital details in their listings needed by out-of-area Buyers, and not knowing answers to questions about the property when I call to ask for a Buyer. Yes, having a local agent is swell, but if they’re not keeping up, they’re letting you down.
7. “My neighbor/friend/Facebook acquaintance/mother recommended this agent (and 35 others on Facebook)” Broken record time. See all above.
If you’ve never bought or sold a home, I want to explain a couple important things.
These will help you understand how to choose the right agent for you:
- First time buying or selling a home is a very emotional experience, don’t you think? You’re selling the only home that perhaps your children have ever known, or you created so many wonderful memories in. Or your buying the very first place your children will ever know, and that you feel proud that you could finally afford. The agent you choose needs to understand and guide you along this emotional rollercoaster, looking out for YOU (not their commission check) at every turn. You need someone who listens and communicates when you ask.
- You will be working closely with this agent (or his/her team) for at least 3 months, if not closer to a year especially if you’re a Buyer. Will you get lost in the shuffle? Will you be remembered that long as to all your wishes and changed wants? Will this agent be proactive and find homes or ways to market for you, or be too busy with other clients? Do you even LIKE this agent, personality wise? You don’t have to be best buddies, but you DO have to not be annoyed by certain facets of the agent. This is like dating; you’ll learn more about each other as you go along. If you get to where this agent is no longer feeling like a good ‘date’, ask to be released from any signed Agreement, and find another one. But be aware that, if you’ve seen a home with them while under a Buyers Agreement that you decide to put an offer in on later, that agent MAY be due a commission from the sale.
- Good agents keep you top of mind. They call you or email you every week at least if we haven’t heard from you, to tell of the latest changes or needs, or to check in on your needs or changed wish list if you’re a Buyer. It’s our JOB to help you buy or sell, so a good agent will HELP you do that! Does Mega Agent (not her team) check in with you? If not, why did you choose her? Are you 36th on her list?
- Depending on the state you are in , there’s a lot of paperwork and signaturing to be done. A good agent doesn’t mind connecting with you to get them done right. And a good agent knows what documents are needed. I just worked with an agent whose bio reads they’ve been a Broker and in the business for over 30 years. Yet this agent didn’t know what form was required for a specific yet common type of contract. This may be someone’s “Aunt Susan”.
From the surface, Real Estate seems pretty simple, yes? Buyer here, Seller there, property in the middle.
A handshake, a couple documents signed, and voila! Sold. Well…
SELLERS, Let’s talk about that ‘emotional factor’. You love your home, yes? Best house on the block, right? You’ve updated it so much and done some landscaping; it’s just wonderful! “Oh, but we’re moving, or now it’s too small for our expanding family.” “We NEED to sell, but we love it.” Here’s the rub: NO ONE will have that emotional connection to your home. Not even the Buyer that may put an offer on it. They may really dislike those Crepe Myrtles you so lovingly planted and have plans to rip out that countertop you adore. If you had to negotiate with that Buyer, you may feel aggravated or heartbroken that they don’t see your home as you do. They see what they can make it for themselves. (Hence why I will tell you to put away all your beloved ‘knick knacks’ and photos, because the Buyer is buying the house, not your life story) How do you think thatwill go once you find out what they DON’T like about your home? Can you put that aside?
And can you put aside what you THINK your home should be worth, and understand that your Good Agent knows pretty closely what you home SHOULD sell for on the Market. The Market (just like the Stock Market) drives what price you’ll likely get for your home. It just does. Yes, your updates may count for something, or may not. You may have over-updated (that’s a THING? Yes!) and not be able to make back that $40,000 you put into converting the garage to a home theater complete with a popcorn machine built in. Or the flamboyant, expensive updates you made may not match what the neighborhood supports in price. You simply CAN NOT ignore what the market says you’ll get, but a good agent will play up those updates and try hard to get you the best price in the neighborhood. (but not if she took pictures for the listing with her smartphone).
And Buyers, do you know what that home SHOULD be worth on your own? You know how much you’ll pay, but should you pay that much for THAT house? What about if something comes up in the home inspection (you’re getting one of those, right?)? How do you handle that with the Seller, who thinks his home has no flaw? How do you know for sure what the value of that repair might be? Can you see past this flaw and stay on course if you feel this home is for you? Who’s going to steady the path and make light at the end of the tunnel? Who’s going to smooth the feelings on both sides, and make this deal work without fireworks? A Good Agent, that’s who. One who knows how to research, communicate, negotiate, stay neutral, and knows what’s needed legally and emotionally to make the deal work.
Common Thoughts I’ve heard on agents:
They charge too much: Listing Agents, (the one who sells YOUR home) put out a lot of money to market your home, and just to be an agent at all. Between office fees, commissions splits, education and all the marketing they (should be) doing for your home, the current rate scale just covers what we do. Most make about $15/hour, some less on the Buyer Agent side. We have fuel and vehicle expenses (HOW many homes did I see with you in the last 3 months, 50??), and all the other above expenses except marketing though we do have to market ourselves. (and how will they afford those fancy clothes and cars if not for your commission?)
I can do what they do: Yes, you can, it’ll just take you longer, and cost you about the same. Yes there are Real Estate Lawyers who can handle some of the paperwork. Some of it. And they’re not going to go show you houses nor market yours. And they charge per hour. With the internet real estate sites exploding everywhere, you can certainly shop by yourself. Most Seller agents will not handle your side of the transaction, however, without you paying a fee or the normal percentage anyhow, nor will it make the Seller haggle with you by trying to save the commission. The List Agent is already contracted for what fee the Seller will pay.
Wouldn’t it be better to hand pick your support system aka Realtor?
They’re pushy, bossy and/or snooty: You could use the same generics on speaking of doctors, lawyers, and government employees. Some are, some aren’t. Mega Agency agents may tend more to those adjectives, and maybe they’re justified. But we are just people, after all; all different.
I’m scared of dealing with agents, they’ll take advantage of me: We are NOT like that, but there are always some bad eggs in every business. But if you feel like one has, just make sure you report them to your state’s licensing association! There are rules and ethics that all agents MUST conform to. If you feel that something unethical has happened in your dealing with an agent, call the Brokerage and speak with the Broker, and find out the licensing association’s information. Call them today!
I liken being a Real Estate Agent to each one being like a pizza parlor. Though we may be represented under a Mega Agency Umbrella (or not), each agent is their own small business. We each need to have clients of our own to make our salary. The Agency pays us nothing; we pay THEM! There is no loyalty from agents to or from their respective Agency; agents changing brokerages are common. When you look for a Realtor you are getting THAT PERSON, Not Mega Agency. No matter what tools an Agency offers, there’s no guarantee YOUR agent is using them. And there’s no telling how GOOD an agent is simply by the name of the Brokerage they’re paying to be a part of.
Find yourself a Realtor you feel comfortable with, not one that fits some unrealistic and non-useful image you may have of them. This is YOUR home dream, you get to call the shots!