Real estate is an interesting industry. To be a successful agent you need to be incredibly organized, technologically savvy, quick on your feet to anticipate, recognize and solve problems, entrepreneurial, a marketing genius, a great listener, an influencer, an information junkie, an exceptional communicator, and possess an ability to maintain a degree of equanimity (holding steady despite magnificent swings in the market and in the life of a transaction). Despite that long list of skills and abilities, the barrier to entry is low, low, low. Everyone has a child, sibling, parent, cousin, friend, or acquaintance who “just got their real estate license”. The desire to help that person out by throwing them some business is tempting. I suppose if you believe that all an agent does is open doors for buyers or stick a sign in the yard for sellers, then it makes sense to use someone in order to “help them out”. And that could work out well if that someone is being mentored by a solid, experienced professional. But often, new agents are left fending for themselves. Is it really in your best interest to trust a “newbie” instead of hiring a stellar sellers agent for one of the largest financial transactions of your life?
Early in my real estate career I witnessed the results of inexperience in the following scenario. Seller had a friend that just got his real estate license. She wanted to help him get established by allowing him to list her home. The sign goes in the yard, the lockbox goes on the house, and then out comes the iPhone for listing photo’s (mistake #1 – there’s nothing that will turn a potential buyer off more than seeing dark, unprofessional photo’s with toilet seats up, glare from windows, and the image of the agent in the mirror as he gets that million dollar shot of the master bathroom). Showing instructions in the listing are vague, and the lockbox is not set up to limit showings to certain hours, with a second layer of permission required. The occupied listing gets lots of “surprise visitors” meaning a good chance of strangers walking through the house just as the seller is exiting the shower (mistake #2). Showings are slow (because of those not so beautiful photo’s), and as a result, every 30 days the price of the home is reduced, cutting into the seller proceeds (mistake #3 – it’s not always price that’s the problem).
Finally, an offer comes in that is $25,000 less than the original asking price, which was on the high end of the homes value (actually, THAT was the real mistake #1). The agent was so excited that he got his first offer in hand that he uses his “influencing” skill to convince the exhausted sellers to take it, which they do…hesitantly. But they take it without writing a counter offer or negotiating for a better agreement. Mind you, these are things that a broker is not going to look at as every agent has the right to run his or her business the way they think is best as long as no violations are occurring and they are taking appropriate risk management measures (questionable in this scenario for sure).
The agent, remembering his mandatory contract class, makes sure that all of the offer documents are correctly signed by all parties. Unfortunately, he did not contact the buyers lender prior to offer acceptance and received no confirmation of the buyers qualifications to purchase the home. He didn’t even really read the pre-qualification form, believing that no lender would sign off on a buyer if they weren’t fully qualified. WRONG (mistake #4). Had he read the pre-qual form and understood what it said, and contacted the lender, he might have known that the buyer was not only cash strapped, but had a tax issue going on that could (and did) derail this sale. 10 days prior to the end of a 45 day escrow period the buyers canceled the contract on an unfulfilled loan contingency and got their earnest money back. The seller was left having to start all over again (with the same photo’s and marketing plan), the same showing mishaps, and now, the home on the market 35 days more than when the first offer was accepted making it even more stale and problematic. And the seller has nothing to show for that 35 day delay in selling her home. Eventually the home did sell but it took 3 different buyer contracts, three inspections, three appraisals and a lot of anxiety on the part of the sellers. My guess? Particularly if this was a first time sale of a home by these sellers, they would not speak highly of the real estate industry in future conversations.
So what does an experienced agent do to earn a reputation as a stellar sellers agent?
Provide market data and analysis to help seller determine correct home value
Determine the least invasive changes to the home to increase it’s appeal to buyers
Recommend home service providers to assist in preparing the home for sale
Provide cleaning and maintenance services as needed; assist in home staging
Program lockbox to maintain security and ensure notice before showings
Place yard signs and implement a variety of “hard” marketing strategies
Create a well written MLS listing to grab the attention of potential buyers
Have professional photo’s and video taken of the property, highlighting best assets
Use the full power of the internet to market property in every possible way, including a property web-page, listings on every home selling portal, social media posts, reverse prospecting via MLS
Weekly check of vacant homes to ensure security and showing condition
Manage offers to obtain highest price and best terms for seller
Evaluate buyer financing and consult with lenders to determine the best possibility of closing without a hitch.
Follow process step by step to ensure compliance with all contract terms and timelines
Negotiate repair requests
Meet the appraiser and build a case for the purchase value
Maintain weekly contact with buyers agent, lender, and title to confirm adequate progress on closing
Review all documents for accuracy and intervene in any conflicts or misunderstandings
Follow up to confirm that funds are available to seller as quickly as possible
Remove sign, lockbox, staging items.
The next time you think about selling your home or investment property, rely on the experience of a seasoned, hard working, full time agent that frankly, has made all of their mistakes on other people!!!