How NOT to Hire a Realtor “Pick Me!” It’s the simultaneous cry of every licensed real estate entity whose services are offered to the public. I say entity because some aren’t actually offering an agent but just an on-line service to list your house and post it somewhere to be discovered on the world-wide-web and sell itself. To be fair, sometimes this works, and for the seller, it’s a significant savings. But one should be clear about what real estate agents bring to a real estate transaction. Most assume we find buyers to buy available listings and find houses for our buyers to buy. While this is true, by itself, this does not assure a successful closed sale, let alone satisfied parties. Professional agents don’t just qualify buyers. In this time of rampant lender fraud and in a state where mortgage lending is essentially unregulated, we also qualify the buyer’s lender.
While there are many reputable and qualified mortgage brokers and mortgage bankers, there are also many unscrupulous ones who will offer optimistic “prequalification” while concealing reasons why the prospective buyer’s odds of mortgage approval are actually low to nil. Put this number one on a very long list of things good agents do to make an apparent sale, an actual sale.
A good agent will resolve many salability issues for sellers and re-salability issues for buyers before they arise or embed themselves to rise later. This includes, among other things, title, easement and boundary issues to well, septic, and other cosmetic nuances that can be the difference of thousands of dollars and/or months of marketing time-or worst of all, a fallen sale. A Buyer’s agent will often help keep even veteran homebuyers from overlooking costly issues with a property that they’ve fallen in love to agree on a sale is only half of our job. Getting through the inspections, appraisals, surveys, lenders and title searches, lawyers, and yes, even “the other agent” is wherein lies the majority offer after the sale are optional on our part but also a trademark of the best professionals out there. We’ll be here in ten months or ten years when you are ready to refer a friend or move again yourself. OK. All that was the lead-in to the real topic, which is how to pick that right “entity” or at least how not to pick the wrong one.
FRIEND/RELATIVE: Remember those perils and stresses I mentioned? Many a friendship and family relationship has been tarnished or torn over these. For good reason, very few surgeons will ever operate on family and close friends. It’s enough for you to hope for the best out there with an agent reputed to be one of the best around. I am reminded of the movie My Cousin Vinny. But movie endings and reality are two different things.
HIGHEST ESTIMATED PRICE/LOWEST COMMISSION: These are paternal twins and both qualify under the adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” When an agent doesn’t have an impressive track record to show you or quantifiable results, then this is all they have to bait you with. The cost of operating an effective small business today is exponentially higher than when I started twenty-four years ago. Technology alone is a huge investment. Today’s best results, especially in a challenging market, aren’t achieved simply or inexpensively. “You get what you pay for” is another universal truth to consider. An agent with little invested has little to lose if the objective fails. And heck, if they overestimate your price, you can always drop it, right? Avoid any probability of having to reduce your listing price like plague! If you’ve got the time to squander, then you can probably ride it out. Of course, the price will likely end up lower than it needs to after a long time on the market and price reductions cause prospective buyers to question the home’s viability.
NEIGHBORHOOD EXPERT: This is usually someone who has marketed themselves quite effectively, which doesn’t automatically mean they market homes effectively. It doesn’t mean they don’t either. I recommend interviewing these agents but try to key in on their average list-price-to-sold-price ratio and average days on market. Also pay close attention to how many of their listings go unsold or switch to another agent before they sell.
YOU “RELATE” TO THE AGENT: Just because someone is your age or religion or speaks in your tone or dialect may make you feel comfortable and trusting of them. That’s called rapport and it’s a nice thing, but it’s a risky bet and certainly no assurance of success. I personally like to pay special attention to people not like me to look for things I could be missing. I often find just such things, and an amazing balance results with this open-minded approach. A few others that don’t require much explanation are:
AGENT HAS BUYER(S) FOR OUR HOUSE. I’ve heard this many times and have NEVER seen it pan out. It’s a fairly common ploy.
AGENT HAS A GREAT WEBSITE. Important, yes, but just one of many weapons a good marketer needs in their arsenal. Never confuse the sizzle with the steak.
YOU’RE (I’M) TOO BUSY. The proof is in the pudding. There is good reason why some agents are very busy and some are not. The busy ones are connecting with the greatest number of real buyers and sellers, putting them together, and keeping them together. They may, however, tend to appear slack in courting you as a new client because their primary focus is rightfully on their current clients. Once you ARE a current client, you can expect a lot of attention. The old 80/20 rule has gone to 90/10 over the last decade as technology, assistants, and teams allow greater efficiency and effectiveness. These 10 percent of all agents who affect 90 percent of all sales are not all the cheapest or slickest or fastest talking, though some of those unfortunately find their way into this elite group. Few of those, however, stand the test of time. The true elite will be evident in their ability to back what they say and in how their past clients speak of them and refer them to others. In summary, “Pick me!”
K.C. Butler, ABR, CRS, MRE of Re/Max 100, Inc., an Evergreen resident, is married and has three daughters ages five to eighteen years. He is a twenty-four-year real estate veteran, and past president of the Jefferson County Association of Realtors. He has been Jefferson County’s Realtor of the Year and Re/Max International has awarded K.C. with RE/MAX Hall of Fame, Lifetime Achievement, and “Above The Crowd” distinguished service awards for his sales production and for industry and community contributions. He is a consistent member of the Re/Max Platinum Chairman’s Club (Re/Max’s highest) for high-volume annual sales. The internationally acclaimed Starpower Network welcomed K.C. as a Starpower Star in 1995 for his special industry expertise. K.C. lectures locally and nationally and offers free real estate lectures to local groups, depending on his schedule. Learn more about K.C. and his Original “Home” Team on his Web site: TheHomeTeam.com (303-202-3300)