Earning Your Keep: What Makes a Good Real Estate Agent

by | BiggerPockets.com

Charlie Brown: Realtor Charlie by A.M. KuchlingIn the last few years I’ve noticed much of the public has lost respect for Realtors and view them as overpaid “salespeople” that get a lot of money for simply showing a house or two and writing up a simple contract. For some, that perception will never change simply because they see it as a simple process, much like buying a car.

Much of the blame however, falls on agents that aren’t doing their job and providing a genuine professional service. They simply email listings to clients, and when the client wants to view one of the listings they meet them there, unlock the door, and proceed to tell them what a great deal it is (even when it’s not) and point out all the nice features of the house. They then keep their fingers crossed and pray the client will want it.

A good agent know his/her market; they go to several (5-9) Brokers Opens at least once a week or more; they take notes, and the evaluate the homes and the price its listed at. Over time, a good agent will have an inventory of listings in his head and book that would amaze you. By looking at assessed values of properties, and the most recent sale price of dozens of homes in various neighborhoods, one can calculate the percentage above the assessed value homes are selling for in their area. Then that agent will know by doing the math what homes are worth when listing a home, or assisting clients in arriving at an offer price.

Agents should know what various homes were listed at, sold for, and how much over the assessed value that figure was. For example, some areas may be averaging sales of 1.7% above their tax-assessed value, while other areas are averaging 1.4%. To know what homes are comparable to, you need to have seen many homes in that same area (with your own two eye’s). Then when you tell your agent what you’re looking for, they can say “I know just the house” or better yet, have two or three homes that they have personally seen and can show you. Sadly, many agents never bother viewing homes unless a client wants to see it.

Obviously an agent can’t see every home on the market, but he or she should have a book with a hundred or more homes that they’re tracking sales of. By doing this, an agent is prepared to give real advice to clients when they need it. When an agent is asked, “how much should I list my home for?”, or “What would you suggest we offer?”, the agent should be able to answer with confidence, and that answer should be rooted in solid research and hard work; not some number that was derived from a “Zillow” or MLS program.

When showing homes, a good agent will bring the homes deficiencies to your attention, not remain quiet and hope you don’t notice them. If the agent merely stands there and tells you how pretty the floor is and how nice the kitchen is, then yes, they are a salesperson and not an agent representing your interest.

As a client, you don’t need an agent to confirm how pretty the floor is, and how nice the kitchen is. You need and deserve a skilled professional to walk through that house and point out any problems they see and give you a fair assessment of the homes value. In today’s market, you must be leery of overpaying for any home. You may later find it’s hard to sell without losing money because of something that wasn’t brought to your attention at the time you purchased it (when it should have been).

You can’t rely solely on Inspectors and Appraisers; it’s your agent’s duty to provide you with a professional service, and to protect your best interest. Even if it means they don’t make a sale that day (especially then).

Of course, if you choose to disregard your agent’s advice and make the purchase anyway, or list the house at a price you prefer, that’s perfectly fine. I’m certainly not saying an agent is going to always be right even with all their research to back-up their evaluation; but they do need to do their very best at giving you the advantage of having a professional opinion to rely upon when needed. That’s their job.

Find the agent that does these things, and you have a qualified, skilled, and professional agent that is worthy of the paycheck they will receive.

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  1. Great post and great point!
    I have explained to people that there are good real estate professionals and bad ones. Just because someone is a professional does not mean they are any good.
    An example would be with the NFL. The worst player on the worst team is considered a professional football player in the NFL.
    At the same time, the best player in the league who is the MVP, is still a professional in the same league as the worst player but, there is no comparison in talent between the two even though they are still NFL professionals.

  2. Indeed. The agents that are around for the free ride ruin the reputation of the profession as a whole. People think “Hey, you can get a real estate license in couple of weeks, how hard can it be?” and then feel agents aren’t worth their keep.

    As with stock brokers, the better advice an agent gives, the better service he/she provides, and the greater lengths he/she goes to protect that clients interest, the more money they will make. All agents are not equal, and it’s not a simple pencil pushing task to put together a perfect deal.

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