I’d like to offer some important ways of navigating how to choose a realtor that’s right for you. So, in the style of David Letterman’s Top Ten Lists, I’ve put together the Top 10 Warning Signs You Might Be Working With The Wrong Agent.
By Todd Adair
10) An Out-of-Town Agent
A local agent who knows the area where you are buying (or selling) has a unique advantage over the out-of-towner, especially when it comes to country properties. They’re intimately familiar with the area, and can tip you off about a seemingly quiet road (or lake channel) that clogs with traffic at rush hour, or where there’s great shopping nearby. The right agent will have that information at their fingertips.
9) A Fish Out of Water
By the same token, an agent who may be an expert at selling condos in Toronto has no business trying to sell a cottage in Muskoka. A Muskoka specialist will be familiar with how to work within the idiosyncrasies of the area, including local bylaws, “riparian rights,” hidden weaknesses in the construction or condition of the house, and other nuances that an out-of-towner won’t. You want someone working for you who knows the product. When we see an out-of-town agent rolling in with a buyer in Muskoka, we hold our breath, just waiting for the negligence that’s about to ensue. What’s worse, many of these errors won’t be picked up until the client goes to try and sell this property down the road. The list is long in almost every specialty of real estate – don’t kid yourself, it’s complex.
8) Lacking the Ability to Conduct a Market Appraisal
Setting the price of a property is a complicated and technical task that’s a necessary evil in this profession. Ask your realtor to explain exactly how they arrived at the selling price for your property because, make no mistake, when the negotiations begin they’ll have to look the buyer in the eye and justify your price. If they can’t convince you, how can they convince others?
7) A Lack of Resources
You are totally dependent on the agent to have the infrastructure to facilitate a sale, but almost always, I’ve found a single agent or a small team has fewer resources. With no support or emotional infrastructure behind them, the chances of being able to offer added value are reduced. Even if they are affiliated with a big-name broker, that’s not always an indication that they have big-name support behind them.
6) Too Much Experience
I almost never hire experienced agents. I’ve found that many of them are just looking for the next hot lead, and won’t do the extra work required to close a complicated deal. They can be too easily dragged into the gamesmanship plaguing our business, and skip the handholding most clients need that won’t earn an extra commission, but makes a world of difference to the client. I’d rather hire someone who shows that they really care about their clients, not just landing the big deal.
5) A Smoke-and-Mirrors Game Plan
Selling a property is a complicated transaction. Before you hire an agent, interview several and have them explain in detail how they plan to sell your home. Do they offer anything special? Do they have a comprehensive and creative marketing plan that brings your home in front of as many of the right demographic of buyers as possible? Or is it just basically pretty pictures, staging, and MLS?
4) Lacking in Technology
Studies have shown that 96% of all buyers find properties initially from the web. So how does your agent fare in the high-tech game? Do they have a website (and is it attractive and easy to navigate)? Do they have a good supply of listings, especially homes in your price range? Hiring an agent is a job interview, so don’t be afraid to ask tough questions and don’t accept loose answers about their technology. Ask questions like: What do you have that others don’t? What does your marketing bring to me specifically? Can you show me real stats to support your big claims?
3) They Live & Die by MLS Alone
I consider MLS a supplement to a larger marketing plan. Yet far too many agents make it the central basis of their marketing plan. That’s not good enough in today’s competitive market.
Single agents and small teams are starting to realize they are at a huge disadvantage by not having additional marketing services beyond MLS, so they have started offering what they call an “exclusive listing.” Make sure you ask the agent what precisely “exclusive listing” means: It often amounts to little more than spam-emailing every agent on their board with the listing… not very exclusive! You might have been better off to just go on ML.S in the first place.
2) They Can’t Stop Talking Price
Beware of the “suck and blow” or “buy the listing” technique. Agents who have very little to offer other than price and MLS often come to the interview with an inflated price, and will play off the ego of the homeowner by telling them that their home is worth significantly more than it really is. Then, shortly after getting the job, suddenly “the market has changed,” or “things are slowing down and we really need to reduce the price.”
If an agent spends most of their time discussing price, that’s likely their whole game plan. Who are they working for: you, or themselves?
1) Most of their Advertising is Their Own Face!
I’m going to have a little fun with this one, but make no mistake: my number-one point illustrates what’s wrong with this industry in a funny way.
I’ll start by saying I wonder who the first agent was who plastered their own face all over their signs, pictures and marketing. What was their rationale? It’s one of those examples of unsophisticated marketing that kinda just stuck for some reason. Just like people stopped selling vacuum cleaners door to door in a three-piece suit 20 years ago, I know this practice will die once marketing and advertising catches up with modern-day business minds.
Any competent marketing firm has a checklist of rules when running an ad, with points like: “What is our message?” or “What is the clear call for action on this ad?”
So, what’s the message when you post a glamour shot of yourself followed by your phone number? “I’m beautiful?” “Sexy?“ Or “(you fill in the blank)?” It’s entertaining just going through all the possible message/call for action scenarios, but the most important take-home message is “Call me.”
Does this person know and understand what a real marketing effort is? Is this person a sophisticated business mind that can create effective advertising for your most valuable asset? Are they working for you, or themselves? Or are they simply doing what every other agent has done before – without question – because that’s the current standard in the industry?
Of all the points I’ve given here, this last one illustrates better than any other what I’ve been saying all along: the traditional real estate model is broken.