Posted: 10 Mar 2011 04:00 AM PST
We brainstorm with dozens of real estate agents every month. We have sat down with literally hundreds of them over the years. And one of the primary questions I ask them is “Why would I list my home with you?”. I am constantly amazed that over 90% of them give the same exact basic answers.
They discuss the 50 websites they have access to, brag about their (or their company’s) market share, and present a standard marketing plan sprinkled with print media and open houses. Shockingly, these agents are puzzled when home sellers choose the agent with the lowest commission or the one who promises a higher sales price. When every offer is basically the same, wouldn’t you pick the one that puts the most money in your pocket?
In today’s world, where only 10% of the available inventory is going to sell this month, you need more than a listing agent…you need a LEADER. As far as I am concerned, there are three components to leadership:
An agent must prove themselves as well versed in many areas in order to ask someone to follow them. Market trends like those discussed in this blog daily, interest rate movements, the changing mortgage landscape, knowledge of your competition (the other homes for sale that are also trying to lure any potential buyers), and being a raving fan of the community are some of the components that make an expert. Additionally, experts have others in their sphere of influence who are experts in other disciplines- mortgage, taxation, estate planning and more. Lastly, your agent needs to be an expert on pricing, which is why I pride myself on being a practitioner of Advanced CMA valuations. I grade myself with an “A” in the area of expertise.
2. Listening Skills
How can anyone help anyone if they don’t take the time to LISTEN? They need to understand your needs. What’s more important…price or timing? Why are you moving? Where are you going to begin the next chapter of your life? What are the reasons you bought your home (because it might give a clue to your eventual purchaser)? Great agents ask a lot of questions. If you find yourself asking more questions than the agent, you have not found a leader. Leaders listen so they can help their followers get the result that the followers desire. It’s called Servant Leadership. This also falls directly under the definition of “agent,” in that you are the “agent” and representative of your seller. A really good agent has 3 ways to respond to the challenges that the seller puts forth in terms of pricing/condition, etc., as follows:
1. You are in total agreement with each other on all elements of the listing information, pricing, style of showing, etc and you both immediate agree that this partnership would be mutually beneficial.
2. You are in agreement about most issues, but there is a small difference in price with the seller’s price being a bit higher or at the high end of your recommendation. In this case, your best choice for a agent will be the agent that is frank with you (as opposed to an agent that simply accedes to a higher and potentially unsaleable price) and to discuss how you will proceed together if your home hasn’t sold at the seller’s preferred price within 28 days.
3. As a good agent, you recognize that your price and style aren’t in line with the seller and you respectfully thank them for meeting with you, but you pass on taking their listing, so as not to waste each other’s time and $.
While you might be surprised at #3, and while you may feel it is every agent’s goal to sign your listing, a good agent needs to exhibit confidence that dovetails with their expertise; what does it tell you if an agent gives you all the stats and recommends you list for $450,000 and you ask them to take on your listing at $500,000? All you will be doing is creating a very frustrated seller and that is not in a good agent’s best interests.
Once you are comfortable that an agent knows their stuff and that they care more about your result than their pay check, you need an agent who has unique solutions to the problem. Simply stated: How can they get your house to stand out with all this inventory? An agent’s marketing plan is what ultimately attracts potential buyers and, if your agent is just putting you in with all the clutter of the big websites on the Internet, you are doomed for disappointment. Single property websites, text messaging, QR codes as well as geographic, cultural and employment marketing strategies are crucial. Unique Open Houses that incorporate potential repairs, renovations or upgrades with the FHA’s 203K loan could be important as well. Or, you can also try anything else that’s “outside the box”. In my case, owning a series of Open House websites that cater to the bedroom communities of NYC provide me with access to a minimum of 1000 hits per month to as many as 3,000 hits per month by potential buyers that have set their sites on a particular town (zip code, according to the experts i have spoken with at Realtor.com). I also belong to “groups” that cater to people who are specifically looking into relocating to New Jersey. Both of these are advantages over most of my agent competition, i’m proud to say.
As a consumer, it’s okay to follow when you find a true leader- one who is a creative, serving expert. Take it from me…they are rare. However, when you find one, they are worth their weight in gold.