Full Disclosure: I admit that I am notoriously hard on real estate agents in the markets that I serve. I have worked with some of the best and the worst. Maybe it is that for the past 11 years I have been through hundreds of transactions as both the buyer and the seller and I have seen enough incompetence to see past the need for a real estate agent that generally just gets in the way.
Maybe it’s that I have seen common standoffs between two agents hell bent on NOT doing the other agents job. Maybe it’s that I have experienced the agents disappearing acts, the calls that were not returned and the vital paperwork required for closing delayed by agents for silly personal reasons.
Maybe it’s that I have a problem with any industry that accepts mediocrity and widespread failures as acceptable collateral damage. There are just so many revealing real estate statistics some of which I’ll share below that gives me pause every time one of my houses brushes up against a second rate rate agent at a critical stage in escrow.
I know one thing for sure, real estate agents should be doing more to help their clients on the way to earning their high commissions especially at the most volatile stages of the sale on the way to closing. In my experience, 95% of all delays are caused by real estate agent incompetence or apathy which makes me wonder about their enshrined “Code of Ethics”.
Before all of you seasoned veteran real estate agents go ballistic and send me hate mail, be truthful and read the entire article, because if you do you understand my plight. Most sellers just dont get to see the big picture they way that I do. I see it from both sides of the transaction and I have been represented by the best and the worst. The best make things happen. They show up and make a difference. The rest just get in the way. Drop the ball and otherwise put in jeopardy the sale that should be everyone’s priority.
In all fairness, all great real estate agents that have a deep seeded problem with the rank and file. The statistics dont lie and before I can move onto the purpose of today’s post we need to peel back the onion and look at all of the layers to discover why some agents are better than others and reveal the 9 Signs of a Great Real Estate Agent in any market.
What it Takes to Become a Real Estate Agent (The Basics)
There is no shortage of real estate agents out there as the path to become one is generally pretty simple. It consists of a single test that requires a score 70% or better. As a reference, that is a C- average, and if you were looking for an accountant or a lawyer you might just want a bit better than the below average real estate agent taking care of you. The analogy is actually good because most people hire a real estate agent to help them with buying or selling what is arguably their largest single asset.
Selling a house has been described as one of the most stressful events in someone life and yet over 78% of the sellers just hire the first real estate agent that they talk to? It is actually worse than that. They hire friends, cousins, brothers and sisters. No interviews, no due diligence. Just a wink a nod and a handshake and a hope that the job will get done. The problem is that beyond all of the hype, 87% of all real estate agent wash out within the first 5 years and not one of their customers asks whether they are in their first month or last month.
Sellers need to understand that a listing agreement is not a contract to sell a house. It is a contract to pay a commission when a house sells.
That is a huge distinction and one that all sellers need to know. Regardless of the discount, hiring a friend or a family member may not be a great alternative or even a bargain if at the end of the day there is a problem. That last thing you want is the”Family Dynamic” creeping into the room when things start falling apart.
Even the best real estate agents have deals that fall apart. But where the best shine is in the ability to get the job done regardless of the setbacks. If your relatives or friends possess that quality then by all means hire them. But, if they are looking for a fast commission because you owe them for being related, then no commission in the world is going to solve your bigger problem when things don’t work.
Top 9 signs of a great real estate agent!
1. Real Estate Agents should ALWAYS come highly recommended…
Certainly you can ask your friends, family, and people you know who have recently bought or sold a house. Not just for the names of agents they know, but people who have recently gone through the process and worked with. This is the time that you want to see a resume. Not necessarily the real estate resume, the complete resume. You want to see the depth of the people that you are talking top. What are their life’s experiences? Talk to them, get to know them. Ask them if they own a home? You may not be looking for someone with 35 years in the real estate, but you are certainly looking for someone with more than 7 years. (Remember that most real estate agents wash out with in 5 years). Interview them like you were hiring a personal assistant. Ask them what’s the frequency of you hearing from them on an ongoing basis
Call a local Title Company and ask the escrow officers… they know. Read online reviews and see what people are saying about them. An experienced agent should have plenty of 5-star reviews on the different real estate sites. Do your homework and interview at least three agents before you settle on one. Remember, you could be committed to this agent for months while they attempt to “market your home”, so you need to be sure you are working with someone you can count on!
Here is the thing… everyone has got a story. The problem is that some of them are just made up, pure fiction. When it comes time to sell your house, if you are going to hire a real estate agent that you are paying (5% to 6%) shouldn’t you be looking for the best representation possible. After all, if you are going to be paying the same amount for either, shouldn’t you have the best?
2. Real Estate Agents Should be Full Time
Real estate can be cut throat. Your agent has to be someone how is working hard, all the time! They should be someone with big goals and who shows an impeccable drive. How you do one thing is how you do everything, and someone who appears to be chasing down a dream, will likely be someone who works hard to make you happy. They should be sending you information at 2 am when they think of something new. (By email of course!) They should be keeping you updated and checking in with you often as new buyers come forward.
There is no substitute for a full time real estate agent. There are all kinds of reasons that people enter the real estate industry but if you are going to be a part time real estate agent at least be honest with your clients. Better yet go work for a discount real estate brokerage that doesn’t value anyone’s time anyway. Who said you get what you pay for. That axiom is more true more often than than not but in residential real estate the truth is most customers are NOT getting what they pay for.
Full time real estate agents can after years of working can gain expertise in so many facets of the job. Part timers are a systemic problem and why the follow through with real estate agents is so poor.
3. Real Estate Agents Should Know What an Expired Listing Looks Like Before They Sign One Up
Here is the problem, if you are a seller, there are some ugly statistics about over all agent performance and their ability to get houses sold. For example, nearly 40% of all listing agreements with real estate agents expire before the seller accepts an offer. That is a huge number. It means that the top 60% of the real estate market is being somewhat served. It means that there are a lot of houses that are clogging up the MLS as expired listings and the job did not get done.
It is no secret that in real estate there are four main drivers of offers and sales. Your house, its location, it’s condition and its price. If any one or more of those things are out of synch with the others, your house will just sit.
Great real estate agents don’t sign up listings and play a numbers game hoping that some other agent is going to deal with it down the line.
What it means is that the B team signed up a client and knew that the chances are that the listing would expire without a sale were pretty good.
4. Real Estate Agents Should Understand the Market (Buyers Sellers)
Real estate is not magic and it is not complicated, but unless you understand your market, each house and you are targeting your buyers correctly, there is little chance that you are going to find the perfect buyer in any market. Great real estate agents know this and have developed their marketing expertise by keeping up with technology and shifts in the market.
All real estate agents know that beautiful houses sell for the highest price and spend less time on the market especially if they are priced right. What good is accepting an offer when the house will not pass an inspection or the lenders scrutiny. Great real estate agents understand the local market and are experts because they live in the neighborhood or nearby. Having a real knowledge of the area will help them to best market your home.
They will have an understanding of the local demographics and what they are looking for in a home. They will be able to answer all questions about the neighborhood and really be able to explain the location to potential buyers.
5. Real Estate Agents Should Understand the Seller Timelines
This is really common sense stuff, but real estate agents do not operate by a commitment to time frames. They cannot and will not promise when and how much your house will sell for. At best they can forecast a ballpark sales price and project about 45 days to get an offer. They underpromise by design. You are the only one with both fixed and variable costs in the transaction. You are the only one that has equity at stake and you are the only one that uses a calendar and a budget to determine how much money you will make.
Real estate agents do NOT operate by calendars and budgets. They operate off of a commission and a calculator to tell you how much. They answer to their Brokers about sales and timeframes, but today’s real estate agent pays lip service to getting things done quickly because they are entrenched in an industry that does things at a sales pace. It is always the lender, the inspector, the appraiser and the buyer. No one is managed and as far as I can tell it all happens when it happens. After all that is what amendments are for. Missing deadlines is a way of life.
Find the best real estate agent and you solve that problem. They are driven. The operate by the power of a promise and while they may overextend on some promises, the great agents keep track and negotiate every promise before the unthinkable happens. They make it look easy and those are the agents that you are looking for because the dirty little secret is that they cost exactly the same as the bad real estate agents.
So avoid the way that things done as a way of life and look for the agent that will not tolerate mediocrity or buy into the notion that tomorrow is good enough.
6. Real Estate Agents Should Have Greater Influence and Reach than their own Office
Selling houses is about the volume of traffic. Where is it going to come from. As the seller you do realize that it may be the 1st or the 49th person to see your house that wants it. The question is, how much experience and how far is the reach of your real estate agent. How do you test for that? Are there questions that you can ask about that?
A great real estate agent is not bound by geography. Over the years, the good ones have shown hundreds of houses to thousands of other real estate agents. They have literally thousands of names, telephone numbers and email addresses. These agents are from all over the California market. Have they built a database with all of those agents names? Can they send out a listing alert to those agents about your house in Stockton, Sacramento or Modesto? Can that reach extend to the top buyers and sellers agents un and down the Sac Joaquin Valley? What about the Bay Area commuters that are looking for bargains right over the hills?
Great real estate agents hold open houses for other real estate agents. They demand that their own offices and agents show up and they have wine and cheese. They show your house and get the word out. They create that marketing plan and they have the ability to pluck buyers from the bay area.
7. Real Estate Agents Should Understand Marketing and the use of Technology
So, the question is… who is going perform the marketing and that is the gotcha in real estate. Most sellers dont give it a second thought and act as if their real estate agents have a masters degree in marketing and it couldn’t be further from the truth. Listing a house is not a marketing plan, it’s a component of the plan. Much like planting a sign in the front yard is. Likewise, a plan is not a brochure with great statistics or a comparative market analysis. A plan is a way to target possible buyers that would be interested in your house. A plan is taking action to make that happen. A plan has strategic components like sending an email blast to all of the real estate agents in the bay area that routinely show houses to their buyers in Stockton, Sacramento and Modesto. It is targeted open houses and mailers, etc.
The best real estate agent have a comprehensive plan for selling your house. That plan details what websites if any that your house will be listed on, the dates of open houses (for agents in their office and others for the general public) , the photographer (that will take the video and quality photos) and the types of email campaigns they will launch to attract other buyers agents to your house. Your listing agent should be able to tell you the profile of the buyer that they twill attract. Will there be a reach and demographic from the the bay area? If so, how do they target that market? Are they Capable and how? What does their real reach look like and their ability to attract buyers and how that pencils out for past sales. How often will you speak with your agent until there is a signed agreement? Is there a team or support staff that backs that agent up? That means that it is your responsibility to find the best possible agent to sell your house, not to hope that the one you haphazardly hire would somehow work out.
Your goal is to get as many people through the front door as possible and unlike sales your real estate agent isn’t going to go out and hunt them down or knock them over the head and drag them to the property as buyers. Your real estate agent needs to fire up that marketing machine so that every other real estate agent knows about your house and that they bring in the actual buyers.
So the question that I have for you is, does your real estate agent have that kind of experience, influence and reach to accomplish that? Is their marketing expertise so fine tuned that they are able to reach out through email or by phone and get the troops geared up for the plan that they have in store for your house? Do they have a plan? Is it the same plan that everyone else has? What is their success record? That is a lot of questions and they need answers because before we can talk about offers, it is all about the effort to get the buyers in the front door.
Here is the takeaway… the very minute that the “Listing” goes live and you plant the For Sale sign in the front yard it all about your house and the marketing. Besides all of your renovations, it is arguably the most costly and time consuming part of the process to sell your house because it requires lots of bodies. Do you have the right real estate agent.
8. Real Estate Agents Need to Follow through
Professionalism goes a long way. Working with someone who is always punctual, who keeps their promises, appointments and who follows through goes a long way. Agents that are childish and can’t see their way past completing paperwork today or refuse to make another move until the agent on the other side does their job are a waste of time. Commissions are structured so that the buyers agent and sellers agent split, buyers and sellers dont care whose job it is they just want it done.
If your agent is frantic, running around and appears scattered… then they are. Work with someone who properly manages their time, and is focused on you and your needs when you are meeting. They should be able to update you on your open houses, interest in your home, and what they are doing to actively get your house sold! Your real estate agent is your eyes and ears with all things affecting the sale of your house. If you are constantly feel left out of the loop… you are and that will not change.
Great agents make things happen and have to a running “to do” list and hold each other accountable for the things that need to be done right now. Delaying an inspection or appraisal even one day could mean a delay in the sale by up to 1 week depending on holidays, etc. If urgency is important to your agent then you wave a winner.
Real estate agents that use phrases like “well, it is ok we’re not scheduled to close until the 30th and it is the 20th, we have plenty of time” are not operating in your best interest. Great agents dont care whose job it is to get the paperwork rolling and despite ruffling feathers form the other camp, realize everyone is on the same team when it comes to closing dates. They communicate victories and failures with the same veracity and they deliver bad news when it happens. Most of all they tell the truth because at the end of the day all anyone can deal with is “what is. Just give it to me straight!
9. Real Estate Agents Should Know Contracts and Negotiation
While some Real estate agents appear to be naturals, know that it is learned. They spent hours reading, competing, creating purpose and urgency with every step. Their dynamic and persona is learned and disciplined and you can sense their desire to be the best at what they do. You can identify them quickly and they have a track record of being very successful because they live their lives by a code and a work ethic. It really is that simple they are market experts and they have been at the negotiating table often enough to understand the process and what works an what doesn’t.
They are not salespeople but they, but they understand first offers with contingencies and the power of counter offers. They understand good and bad inspections and appraisals. They file protests for the bad inspections and recommend re-inspections and second opinions to counter the bad ones.They understand the use of contract language and the maneuvers to make counter offers that work.
Remember, at the end of the day, real estate agents are NOT salespeople. They can be, but not one of the traits listed above, even mentioned that. Sure they want your home to sell, and they want to make a commission, but they are not selling it. At best they market it and target the most likely buyers. That is what you want. Real estate is a numbers game and the object is to get as many people through your front door as possible because sooner or later someone is going to fall in love with your house.
But make sure that you do not fall for false promises or over inflated listing prices. Instead, look for agents who are knowledgeable, have great reviews and who are able to educate and walk you through the entire selling process and possess the 9 signs of a great real estate agent.
My name is Peter Westbrook and I am a real estate Investor, a cash home buyer in Sacramento, Stockton, Manteca and Modesto, CA. and I would like to talk to you about how we do business and how we can help you. While no one can promise that they will buy your house sight unseen for whatever amount that you want, we will sit down and make a fair cash offer that will in most cases exceed what you can get if you chased the market conventionally.
Give me a call at (209)481-7780. What have you got to lose, you may just find out that selling directly to us is your best alternative. In either case you will be get a better picture of your options, understand your houses worth and be able to make more informed decision. We’d love to earn your business.
The final Takeaway:
Throughout the years I have worked with hundreds of different real estate agents and met and interviewed hundreds more and yet there are only a handful that I would personally recommend to family and friends. Why is that?