Archive for

Real Estate Agents and the Internet – How to Buy and Sell Real Estate Today

Then and Now

Ten years ago, a search for real estate would have started in the office of a local real estate agent or by just driving around town. At the agent’s office, you would spend an afternoon flipping through pages of active property listings from the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). After choosing properties of interest, you would spend many weeks touring each property until you found the right one. Finding market data to enable you to assess the asking price would take more time and a lot more driving, and you still might not be able to find all of the information you needed to get really comfortable with a fair market value.

Today, most property searches start on the Internet. A quick keyword search on Google by location will likely get you thousands of results. If you spot a property of interest on a real estate web site, you can typically view photos online and maybe even take a virtual tour. You can then check other Web sites, such as the local county assessor, to get an idea of the property’s value, see what the current owner paid for the property, check the real estate taxes, get census data, school information, and even check out what shops are within walking distance-all without leaving your house!

While the resources on the Internet are convenient and helpful, using them properly can be a challenge because of the volume of information and the difficulty in verifying its accuracy. At the time of writing, a search of “Denver real estate” returned 2,670,000 Web sites. Even a neighborhood specific search for real estate can easily return thousands of Web sites. With so many resources online how does an investor effectively use them without getting bogged down or winding up with incomplete or bad information? Believe it or not, understanding how the business of real estate works offline makes it easier to understand online real estate information and strategies.

The Business of Real Estate

Real estate is typically bought and sold either through a licensed real estate agent or directly by the owner. The vast majority is bought and sold through real estate brokers. (We use “agent” and “broker” to refer to the same professional.) This is due to their real estate knowledge and experience and, at least historically, their exclusive access to a database of active properties for sale. Access to this database of property listings provided the most efficient way to search for properties.

The MLS (and CIE)

The database of residential, land, and smaller income producing properties (including some commercial properties) is commonly referred to as a multiple listing service (MLS). In most cases, only properties listed by member real estate agents can be added to an MLS. The primary purpose of an MLS is to enable the member real estate agents to make offers of compensation to other member agents if they find a buyer for a property.

This purposes did not include enabling the direct publishing of the MLS information to the public; times change. Today, most MLS information is directly accessible to the public over the Internet in many different forms.

Commercial property listings are also displayed online but aggregated commercial property information is more elusive. Larger MLSs often operate a commercial information exchange (CIE). A CIE is similar to an MLS but the agents adding the listings to the database are not required to offer any specific type of compensation to the other members. Compensation is negotiated outside the CIE.

In most cases, for-sale-by-owner properties cannot be directly added to an MLS and CIE, which are typically maintained by REALTOR associations. The lack of a managed centralized database can make these properties more difficult to locate. Traditionally, these properties are found by driving around or looking for ads in the local newspaper’s real estate listings. A more efficient way to locate for-sale-by-owner properties is to search for a for-sale-by-owner Web site in the geographic area.

What is a REALTOR? Sometimes the terms real estate agent and REALTOR are used interchangeably; however, they are not the same. A REALTOR is a licensed real estate agent who is also a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. REALTORS are required to comply with a strict code of ethics and conduct.

MLS and CIE property listing information was historically only available in hard copy, and as we mentioned, only directly available to real estate agents members of an MLS or CIE. About ten years ago, this valuable property information started to trickle out to the Internet. This trickle is now a flood!

One reason is that most of the 1 million or so REALTORS have Web sites, and most of those Web sites have varying amounts of the local MLS or CIE property information displayed on them. Another reason is that there are many non-real estate agent Web sites that also offer real estate information, including, for-sale-by-owner sites, foreclosure sites, regional and international listing sites, County assessor sites, and valuation and market information sites. The flood of real estate information to the Internet definitely makes the information more accessible but also more confusing and subject to misunderstanding and misuse.

Real Estate Agents

Despite the flood of real estate information on the Internet, most properties are still sold directly through real estate agents listing properties in the local MLS or CIE. However, those property listings do not stay local anymore. By its nature, the Internet is a global marketplace and local MLS and CIE listings are normally disseminated for display on many different Web sites. For example, many go to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS Web site, http://www.realtor.com, and to the local real estate agent’s Web site. In addition, the listing may be displayed on the Web site of a local newspaper. In essence, the Internet is just another form of marketing offered by today’s real estate agent, but it has a much broader reach than the old print advertising.

In addition to Internet marketing, listing agents may also help the seller establish a price, hold open houses, keep the seller informed of interested buyers and offers, negotiate the contract and help with closing. When an agent provides all of these services it is referred to as being a full service listing arrangement. While full service listing arrangements are the most common type of listing arrangement, they are not the only option anymore.

Changes in the technology behind the real estate business have caused many agents to change the way they do business. In large part, this is due to the instant access most consumers now have to property listings and other real estate information. In addition, the Internet and other technologies have automated much of the marketing and initial searching process for real estate. For example, consumers can view properties online and make inquires via email. Brokers can use automated programs to send listings to consumers that match their property criteria. So, some agents now limit the services they offer and change their fees accordingly. An agent may offer to advertise the property in the MLS but only provide limited additional services. In the future, some real estate agents may offer services in more of an ala carte fashion.

Because of the volume of real estate information on the Internet, when people hire a real estate agent today they should look at the particular services offered by the agent and the depth of their experience and knowledge in the relevant property sector. It is no longer just about access to property listing information. Buyers and sellers historically found agents by referrals from friends and family. The Internet now provides ways to directly find qualified agents or to research the biography of an agent referred to you offline. One such site, AgentWorld.com, is quickly becoming the LinkedIn or Facebook for real estate agents. On this site an agent can personalize their profile, start a blog, post photos and videos and even create a link to their web site for free. Once unique content is added to their profile page the search engines notice!

Some have argued that the Internet makes REALTORS and the MLS less relevant. We believe this will be false in the long run. It may change the role of the agent but will make knowledgeable, qualified, and professional REALTORS more relevant than ever. In fact, the number of real estate agents has risen significantly in recent years. No wonder, the Internet has made local real estate a global business. Besides, Internet or not, the simple fact remains that the purchase of real property is the largest single purchase most people make in their life (or, for many investors, the largest multiple purchases over a lifetime) and they want expert help. As for the MLS, it remains the most reliable source of real estate listing and sold information available and continues to enable efficient marketing of properties. So, what is the function of all the online real estate information?

Online real estate information is a great research tool for buyers and sellers and a marketing tool for sellers. When used properly, buyers can save time by quickly researching properties and, ultimately, make better investment decisions. Sellers can efficiently research the market and make informed decisions about hiring an agent and marketing their properties online. The next step is to know where to look online for some of the best resources.
Internet Strategies

In the sections that follow, we provide strategies and tips on how to use the Internet to locate properties for sale and research information relevant to your decision to purchase the property. There are many real estate Web sites from which to choose and although we do not mean to endorse any particular Web site, we have found the ones listed here to be good resources in most cases or to be so popular that they need mention. One way to test a Web site’s accuracy is to search for information about a property you already own.

Finding Real Estate for Sale

Despite the widely available access to real estate listings, many believe that MLS databases continue to offer the most complete and accurate source of real estate information. Most MLSs now distribute content to other Web sites (primarily operated by real estate agents). An excellent starting point for MLS originated content is the national NAR Web site, realtor.com, which is also the most popular web site for searching real estate listings. Virtually all local and regional MLSs have an agreement with realtor.com to display much of their active listing inventory.

Some local and regional MLS systems also have a publicly accessible Web site. However, to get complete information you will most likely still need to find a qualified local REALTOR. Many local real estate agents will also provide their customers (via email) new listings that are input into the MLS that match their predefined criteria. This can be very helpful to a busy buyer.

There are also many Web sites that display both real estate agent listed and for-sale-by-owner properties. Some of the more popular Web sites include zillow.com and trulia.com. These sites offer other services too. For example, zillow.com is best known for its instantaneous property valuation function and trulia.com for providing historical information. Another source of properties for sale is the state, regional, and local Web sites associated with brokerage companies; for example, remax.com or prudential.com. Search engines like yahoo.com and classified advertising sites like craigslist.com also have a large number of active real estate listings.

One key difference between these sites is how much information you can access anonymously. For example, at trulia.com you can shop anonymously up to a point but then you will need to click through to the agent’s Web site for more information. Many new real estate search engines allow you to sift through listings without having to fill out a form. The best strategy is to browse a few of the sites listed above to find geographic areas or price ranges that are interesting. Once you get serious about a property, then that is the time to find a qualified REALTOR of your choice to conduct a complete search in the local MLS.

It also never hurts to search the old-fashioned way by driving through the neighborhoods that interest you. There is no substitute for physically, not virtually, walking the block when you are making a serious investment decision. In this sense, real estate is still a very local business and standing in front of the property can lead to a much different decision than viewing a Web page printout.

Valuing Real Estate

As we mentioned, one of the most popular real estate tools is zillow.com’s instant property valuation. Just type in an address and in and you get a property value. It even charts the price ups and downs, and shows the last date sold (including price) and the property taxes. There are other sites that provide similar tools such as housevalues.com and homegain.com. Unfortunately, many people use these estimated values alone to justify sales prices, offers and counteroffers. However, these are only rough estimates based on a formula that incorporates the local county sales information. These estimates can swing wildly over a short period of time and do not appear to always track actual market changes, which are normally more gradual. In addition, these estimates do not automatically take into account property remodels or renovations or other property specific or local changes. This is not to say these sites are not useful. In fact, they are great starting points and can provide a good ball-park value in many cases.

When it comes to getting a more accurate value for a particular property, there are other strategies that are more trustworthy. One is to go directly to your county’s Web site. More often than not the county assessor’s area of the Web site provides sales and tax information for all properties in the county. If you want to research a particular property or compare sales prices of comparable properties, the local assessor’s sites are really helpful. When you visit a county’s Web site you are getting information straight from the source. Most counties today publish property information on their Web sites. Many times you cannot only see the price a previous owner paid, but the assessed value, property taxes, and maps. Some county assessors are now adding a market and property valuation tools too.

Given the importance of valuation to investing, we are also going to remind you of the two most important (non-Internet) valuation methods: real estate agents and appraisers. Working with a local REALTOR is an accurate and efficient way to get value information for a property. While one of the primary purposes of the MLS is to market the active property listings of its members, the system also collects sales information for those listings. REALTOR members can pull this sales information and produce comparable market analyses (sometimes called CMAs) that provide an excellent snapshot of a particular property’s value for the market in a particular area.

Finally, the most accurate way to value a property is by having a certified appraiser produce an appraisal. An appraiser will typically review both the sold information in the MLS system as well as county information and then analyze the information to produce a valuation for the property based on one or more approved methods of valuation. These methods of valuation can include a comparison of similar properties adjusted for differences between the properties, determine the cost to replace the property, or, with an income producing property, determine a value based on the income generated from the property.

The Neighborhood

There are many ways the Internet can help you get the scoop on a particular neighborhood. For example, census data can be found at census.gov. You can also check out the neighborhood scoop at sites like outside.in or review local blogs. A blog is a Web site where people discuss topics by posting and responding to messages. Start by looking at placeblogger.com and kcnn.org/citymediasites.com for a directory of blogs. Trulia.com has a “Heat Map” that shows how hot or cold each neighborhood is based on prices, sales, or popularity among the sites users.

Schools

When it comes to selling residential property or rental properties that cater to families, the quality of the area school district makes a huge difference. There are many Web sites devoted to school information. Check out greatschools.net or schoolmatters.com. Most local school districts also have their own Web site. These sites contain a variety of information about the public schools and the school district, including its district demographics, test scores, and parent reviews.

Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

A recent addition to the Internet boom in real estate information is Web sites that let real estate agents market their expertise and local knowledge by displaying their professional profiles and socially networking with blogs. You can search to find an agent with a particular expertise, geographic area of specialization, or an agent offering specific services. The web site AgentWorld.com lets users quickly and easily find an agent with the right expertise using keyword searches and clean and simple agent profiles. AgentWorld.com also enables agents to post personalized blogs, photos and videos to help consumers find the best agent for their needs. Plus, many agent profiles include a direct link to the agent’s web site where you will likely find the local MLS listings.

Maps and Other Tools

The Internet has made mapping and locating properties much easier. To get an aerial view or satellite image of a property or neighborhood, go to maps.live.com or maps.google.com or visit walkscore.com to see how walk-able a particular property is. These sites can give you an idea of the neighborhood characteristics and the types of entertainment, restaurants, and other facilities that are within walking distance of the property. Maps.Live.com provides a view at an angle so you can see the sides of houses and Maps.Google even gives you a 360 degree street-level view for certain neighborhoods. If you have not tried one of these satellite map Web sites, you really should if only for amusement.

Final Thoughts on Internet Strategies

The Internet is a very effective research and marketing tool for real estate investors but is not a replacement for a knowledgeable experienced real estate professional. The Internet can save you time and money by enabling quick and easy property research and marketing options. Sites like AgentWorld.com also help you efficiently find a REALTOR who fits your buying or selling needs.

Always remember, when it comes to Internet strategies for real estate: More knowledge is better. You need to use the Internet to build your knowledge base on a target property or to find a real estate agent with expertise you need. However, the big caution here is that the Internet should not replace human judgment and perspective, expert advice or physical due diligence-keys to successful investing.

Indian Real Estate, Property Portals and the 21st Century Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents? Hasn’t the internet gotten rid of them yet?

I hear this question all the time. Most people assume that property portals in India are working towards eliminating agents and facilitating direct interaction between seller and buyer. Though this is partially correct, real estate agents are the biggest customers of these portals and the portals are doing their bit to facilitate their growth. We interact with agents every day and we see most of them are doing good business. I want to take some time and explain the dynamics behind Indian real estate, the role agents’ play and how the role of agents’ is going to change in the future.

Note – Throughout this article, I’ve focused only on the rental and resale market and not gone into sale of new property by builders as the dynamics of that market are radically different. Also, the scope of this article is limited to Indian Real Estate.

“MakeMyTrip has eliminated travel agents. So why hasn’t the same happened to real estate agents?”

One needs to understand that ticketing is now a point-and-click industry – travel agents have been replaced by computers. The process of getting information about the journey AND purchasing the tickets can be done on the internet. Real estate is fundamentally an offline process. Though information aggregation is an important part of it, site visits, negotiations and paperwork all need to be done offline. Even from an owner/sellers perspective, renting out/selling a home isn’t as simple as listing it online – the process can stretch for months. This is where real estate agents step in – in guiding customers through the offline part of the transaction, bringing both parties to agree to the terms and finishing off the paper work.

Why aren’t property portals trying to eliminate agents and become virtual middlemen?

A property portal provides a platform for a seller and a buyer to interact (A seller can be an owner, builder or an agent). If we eliminate agents from this equation, portals are left with a C2C platform with property owners being the only source of inventory. Though many prefer a scenario like this, we need to figure out how the platform provider is going to monetize from this setup. They have the following options –

Listing fees – They can collect a fee from the owner/seller to list their property. There are few owners who’re willing to pay for premium listings (last time I checked, about 5% of owners listing online were willing to pay) but this is simply not enough to sustain the business. Indian consumers are ready to use a service which is free (free listings) OR pay for a service once it’s rendered (brokerage) but are not OK with anything in between.

Charge property seekers to get owner information – Another option would be to charge property seekers a fee to give them information about the owner who’s listed. This also isn’t a sustainable option because owners who list online tend to list on multiple portals and you can always finds a portal which gives you the owners information for free.

Brokerage fee when the deal is closed – This would be a great monetization scheme that everyone would be willing to pay for, but is very hard to implement. To do this, portals need to keep track of every deal that closes offline and that would be next to impossible.

There might be more options, but I don’t really see them becoming huge ‘revenue making machines’. Running a real estate portal is a VERY expensive affair and portals would need a solid revenue stream to offset that cost.

This is where Real Estate Agents step in: Agents are willing to spend good money to market their properties on a platform which would give them good leads. Property portals see this as a steady, sustainable revenue stream. This, seemingly, is a match made in heaven.

So, you’re saying property portals have made no dent in the brokerage industry?

Undoubtedly, they have. In a BIG way! With many owners listing their properties online, agents are starting to feel the heat. Coupled with the fact that the number of real estate agents has almost tripled in the last few years, you’ll see that the average real estate agent earned a LOT less in 2014 that he did in 2011. Agents are beginning to realize that there’s a paradigm shift and it’s time to mend their ways, before the game gets taken out of their hands. There needs to be a shift in their mentality and it needs to happen NOW.

Role of the 21st century real estate agent

10 years back, agents pretty much charged money for information arbitrage – “I have the contact information of the owner/tenant and you need to pay me money to get this contact” was the mantra and it has worked. A disproportionate amount of money was charged for this seemingly simple service and the world went on without a qualm primarily because there was no alternative. But now there is. Increased owner listings on portals, multifold increase in number of real estate agents, internal portals in corporate companies which help employees find accommodation, Facebook groups, etc. have all impacted the brokerage industry and there needs to be an overhaul.

“What’s dangerous is to not evolve, not invent and not continuously improve customer experience” – Every Realtor in the country needs to latch these words said by Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon. Information arbitrage can no longer be the game real estate agents play – We’re moving towards a world where access to information is getting easier and this cannot remain the USP of why a property seeker goes to a real estate agent. I believe agents need to adopt the following practices –

Save time for your customers – In today’s world, nobody has time to do things (even if they do have time, people don’t want to spend their time house hunting). Saving time for your customers is probably the best value-add an agent can provide. Be up-to-date on the latest inventory that is available in the locality. If you’re not confident if the customer will like your property, just tell them so! Don’t drag them to a dingy apartment they’ll never never be interested in – they’ll lose trust in your sense of judgment and never come back to you again. Learn to truly understand what your customer wants, be equipped to find the most relevant inventory, accompany them during site visits and close the deal. A really good agent should be able to close a rental requirement in 7 days and a resale requirement in 1 month, tops.

Give as much information as possible – Instead of hoarding information, agents need to freely part with it. Tell your customers exactly which apartment society the property is in, tell them exactly how far from the bus-stop it is and tell them if the owner/tenant is not comfortable with someone from their demographic. In the longer run, this helps build a better rapport with customers. Sure, other agents (or your customers themselves) might get to the owner/seller without you, but in the longer run, this is what will work.

Adopt technology, don’t fight it – Apart from Whatsapp, agents don’t use their smart phones for any business related activities. Why is this so? For starters, there’re many CRM applications on the app store which they can use. This alone will improve their productivity 100 times over! Other applications for maintaining inventory, marketing, etc. are available but are not being consumed by agents.

Develop skills a computer/technology can’t do – A computer can never negotiate a good deal for the client – that’s a job that requires a human touch. A computer can never get a feel of what the customer truly wants – Agents can do that given you’re always with the customer. This is a relationship driven industry, make sure you always remember that.

Use social media as a marketing platform – When owners are using Facebook as a platform for marketing, why shouldn’t agents? Creating a Facebook group to marketing their listings is a great way to reach new customers. There are some agents who do this already and are getting good response from the same.

Be professional – Cliche as it may sound, going back to the basics is something every agent needs to do. Being punctual, dressing in formals and talking politely to customers are some key skills that agents need to practice. Again, there are agents who’re well mannered, but the number seems to be shrinking.

The list can keep extending, but I can summarize it this way – If you’re a real estate agent, think of what you were doing for your business 5 years back and compare that to what you’re doing today. If nothing much has changed, understand that you’ll become redundant within the next few years. The world is changing and only those who change with it will live to fight another day. Portals have evolved, house hunting has changed for end customers and it’s about time the role of the real estate agent changes as well.

How are we positioned in this complicated market?

Our vision has always been to build A Technology Powered Real Estate agency that works towards helping our customers find a home they truly love. We do that by mixing cutting edge technology and expertise brokerage. We’re adding great real estate agents to our team, giving them next-gen mobile applications/desktop products to better run their business, helping them understand the market as it is today, providing training sessions and learning material and eventually, helping them serve customers better. Given the amazing response we’ve received from customers and agents so far, we’re confident of the road ahead.

How NOT to Hire a Real Estate Agent

If you do NOT read this report you will almost certainly lose thousands of dollars when you sell your home…

Home sellers don’t know how to spot a good real estate agent

This is understandable when you consider that you will only buy and sell one or two properties in your lifetime. Your home is probably your biggest asset. So, be careful whom you choose to sell it; one slip-up from an agent will wipe thousands off your selling price.

Ask the right questions

Many home sellers ask the WRONG questions when they interview an agent. They ask questions such as “How much do you charge?” or “What’s my house worth?”. While these questions are important, they should only be asked after the agent has told you what they’ll do for you and how they’ll get you the best price.

This report is your guide to hiring a real estate agent. I’m going to show you how to spot and select the best agent to sell your home. After all, I believe there’s no one better to sell your home than a highly skilled agent. The problem is that highly skilled agents are hard to find.

WARNING! Don’t settle for second best. Too many sellers make the mistake of picking the ‘best of a bad bunch’. You could be better off without an agent

Check out your agent

It’s a sad fact, but many people don’t check-out their agent until after they have signed with them – by then it’s too late. After you sign you’re stuck; you could be locked into a ‘minimum 90 day’ contract.

The questions and information in this report will give you the knowledge you need to keep the power when you’re selling a house. After you sign you lose your power.

Agents love to say they are all different but basic research will prove most are the same. It’s the ‘cookie cutter’ approach when it comes to selling your home – every property is sold the same way.

What to look for when choosing an agent

In 2006 Neil Jenman (my Dad) was asked to provide a list of questions, comments, and hints to help home sellers choose an agent for a TV show he was hosting. He called his list of questions and comments, GUIDE TO GRILLING AGENTS. Over the last few years I have given the guide to many home sellers. This report contains many of the questions and comments in his original guide.

What does a good agent look like?

Most agents will be well dressed, on time, and prepared. But the best real estate agents will be the ones who put your interests first. They will offer solutions that suit you first, not them.

Agents who ask for money to advertise your home should rarely be hired. After all, if advertising was the only reason your home sold why do you need a real estate agent?

Questions are the answer

Sometimes the answer to one good question will give you the confidence you need to hire the best agent to sell your home. Good questions do the hard work for you. Before you jump in and start grilling real estate agents, take a step back.

Put your home buyer shoes on. And start with a mystery shop…

MYSTERY SHOP

Department stores do it, so why shouldn’t you? Use the ‘process of elimination’ to weed out the poor agents. Why bother interviewing a real estate agent who doesn’t bother to return buyer’s calls? Start with an email. Approximately half of all buyer enquiry arrives via email.

If you send out 10 emails to 10 local real estate agents, I can almost guarantee that you will not receive 10 replies. If only 5 reply, then you have just saved yourself having to interview 5 agents. Include your phone number in your email. Do they call you back? Or do they just email a standard response? An agent who follows up with a call has a much better chance of ‘closing a sale’ than an agent who sends a standard reply.

QUESTIONS ARE YOUR BEST WEAPON

If you don’t ‘test’ your real estate agent before you hire them – one thing is for sure – the buyers for your home will do it for you.

What follows are questions that have proven to be a huge help to sellers.

REMEMBER: You are the owner of the property. You are considering employing an agent to sell your property. You are the boss. You have the power BEFORE you sign up. Make sure you keep that power at all times. Control the agents, do not let the agents control you.

Your home’s selling price is determined by your agent’s ability to negotiate

• HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GET THE BEST PRICE FOR MY HOME?

When you ask this question many agents will start throwing around the word negotiation. You want to be certain that they are capable of negotiating a high price for your house, ask them to teach you something about negotiation.

Question their ability to negotiate.

Ask them what they know about negotiation. It’s a big point that most home sellers miss because they focus on what the agent says rather than on what they do.

Here’s one of my favorite questions to ask a real estate agent:

• WHEN/IF YOU BRING ME AN OFFER, HOW CAN I BE CERTAIN THAT IT’S THE ABSOLUTE BEST PRICE THAT THE BUYER CAN PAY?

Many real estate agents will have difficulty answering this question. It’s a question that’s rarely asked of agents. Ask it. The answer will tell you a lot about an agent.

Some more questions you can ask are:

• Are you a good negotiator?

• Can you tell me some of the main points you know about negotiation?

• Can you give me some examples of the results of your negotiating ability?

The Biggest Liar Gets the Job

When hiring a real estate agent, the biggest liar (the agent who quotes you the highest price) often gets the job. It’s an old (and very true) real estate saying.

Unfortunately many home sellers hire liars. This happens because people who hear what they want to hear don’t perceive the information as being a lie.

One of the best questions you can ask is:

• WHAT WILL YOU DO TO GET THE BEST PRICE FOR MY HOME?

Once you are satisfied with the answer then ask:

• WHAT PRICE DO YOU THINK YOU CAN SELL MY PROPERTY FOR?

Most agents will try hard to hedge around this question. They may be vague and say such things as “It depends on the market,” or they may use the common ploy of answering a question with a question, such as, “How much do you want?”

Sellers should stand firm and press the agent on this point by making such comments as:

You are the agent, you sell lots of properties in this area, surely you know how much you can sell my property for – even if you have to give me a range. After all, you are the expert, aren’t you?

Once the agent has given a [verbal] quote, ask the following:

1. Will you give me that quote in writing?

2. Do you usually sell properties for the price that you quote the sellers?

Regardless of the answers, don’t dwell too long on any point at this stage. Just keep the questions rolling…

It’s not what you pay an agent, but what they cost you, that counts.

• How much commission do you charge?

Most agents will talk about ‘standard rates’ or they will say that the rate is recommended by the Real Estate Institute – this is to soften the shock. Sellers should make comments such as:

Is your fee negotiable?

Have you ever reduced your fee for anyone?

If you should ask me to accept a lower price than the price you have quoted me, will you also accept a lower fee?

NOTE: Be wary of agents who cut their commission to get your business.

These agents are often poor performers who rely on discounts to get you to sign with them.

• What is it about you and your agency that makes you better than other agents?

This is a great question. The agents all want to say that they are “the best” but they will struggle to define what is meant by “best”. Of course, “best” to a seller means the highest price with the lowest risk and the lowest cost.

The Issue of Advertising

With almost every agent, advertising will be a big point. Be careful, this is the most common way in which thousands of home-owners lose thousands of dollars without selling their homes!

The Golden Rule when selling a home: Never pay any money for any reason to any agent until your home is sold and you are satisfied.

The Silver Rule is this: Don’t sign anything that requires you to pay any money [in the future] for any reason if your home is NOT sold.

Some agents will say “you don’t have to pay for advertising until your house has sold” but what they fail to mention (or make clear) is that if your home fails to sell you will still have to pay.

Here are some comments and questions that can be made to an agent which show the absurdity of the advertising policies in most real estate offices.

• Why do you expect me to pay for the advertising to find a buyer? Surely the commission should include advertising?

• Why should I pay twice – once for advertising and once for commission?

• If you put ads in the newspapers [and charge sellers for those ads] and the buyers are going to come via you, what are you doing that sellers can’t do for themselves?

• If you advertise my home and I pay for the ads and you get calls from buyers and those buyers buy a home other than mine, do you give me any money back? If not, why not?

• If I pay you [thousands of] dollars for advertising and you do not sell my property, what happens to the money I paid?

• I notice that your advertising has your name and the name of the agency prominently featured. Surely I don’t have to pay the cost of advertising you and your agency?

• Based on the length of time you have been in business and the number of people who contact your office, don’t you already have a list of buyers on your books?

• I am not going to be paying any money to any agent for any reason until my home is sold. Once my home is sold within the price range that you quoted me, I will be delighted to pay you a GENEROUS commission as a reward.

This is my firm policy as a seller. Do you accept my policy?

Random comments and questions… [or other ways to make the same major points] might include…

• I want an agent who will get me the highest price at the lowest cost with the lowest hassle and, of course, without any risk of loss if there is no sale. Are you comfortable with being able to meet these simple requests of mine?

• How many properties do you sell? (Let them ask you if you mean weekly, monthly or annually, to which you reply that the time frame doesn’t matter. You just want to know that they are capable of getting results).

• What provisions do you take to ensure the security and safety of my home when it is being shown to prospective buyers?

• If I find a buyer – such as a close friend or relative – will you want me to pay you any commission?

• Have you ever had any unhappy clients?

• What were they unhappy about?

• If I employ you and I am not happy with your performance, I want to be able to dismiss you without any penalty to me. Is this okay by you?

• The agent I choose will be given an initial time period of 30 days on the selling agreement between us. If my property is not sold in 30 days and if I’m happy with the performance of the agent, I will be happy to extend the term of the agent’s appointment. Is this okay by you?

SELLERS’ TERMS & CONDITIONS

Get the agent to agree to your terms BEFORE you agree to the agent’s terms.

Finally, the biggest and most important point of all for home sellers – DO NOT SIGN the document that the real estate agent asks you to sign – at least NOT on the agent’s first visit.

Ask the agent the following questions:

• If I decide to employ your agency to handle the sale of my home, what document will you be asking me to sign?

• Can I have a copy of that document so that I can get some independent advice about it?

• The following is the start of your final words to the agent at the end of the agent’s first visit…

As I am the owner of the home and as I will be employing an agent, I will be preparing a list of my own terms and conditions under which I employ an agent. I will be asking the agent to sign my terms and conditions before I sign any terms and conditions prepared by the agent. Further, if any of my terms conflict with the agent’s terms, then, of course, my terms will take precedence.

• Are you okay with me, as the owner of the home, telling you, the agent, what I require you to do?

Thank the agent for coming and tell the agent that you will be in touch should you require the services of his/her agency. Stand up, shake hands, walk towards the exit or front gate. Wave goodbye.

Smile, you have done well. You are in control.