Traits of a Great Real Estate Agent

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Last week, my blog article discussed the pros and cons of “Getting Your Real Estate License”

With that post in mind, I wanted to throw out some additional thoughts for those people who want to or plan to get their license to buy/sell their own properties. While the logistical parts of being a real estate agent are pretty simple and can be accomplished by anyone who can do paperwork, follow some basic rules and regulations, etc, there are some aspects of being a great agent that require some not-so-common skills.

For those considering their license, I just wanted to take a few minutes to touch on some of those other aspects of being a great agent, and how to tackle those areas if you don’t personally have the skills…

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

The number one skill of a great agent is the ability to communicate effectively and to make the agent/buyer on the other side of the transaction feel comfortable and appreciated.

As a buyer myself (and having my wife as our agent), we’ve had other agents that have failed to return our phone calls, agents who don’t keep us updated as to the status of a transaction, and even agents who don’t bother to respond to an offer we’ve submitted! These are agents that I will go out of my way not to work with in the future, and especially in a market like this (a buyer’s market), not communicating with your buyers or your buyer’s agent is likely to lose you lots of business.

Just the other day, we had an agent who thanked us for answering the phone over the weekend to give him more information about one of our properties. It never even occurred to us that some agents wouldn’t answer EVERY phone call immediately, but apparently there are plenty who don’t.

If you’re not a strong communicator, and you don’t think you can build these skills, let me suggest that you hire a good agent to sell your houses instead of trying to do it yourself.

Make Every Showing Perfect

I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve called a listing agent to inquire about seeing one of their properties, having them tell us to go see it, and upon arriving at the property, it’s clear that the agent hasn’t been there in a long time. Maybe the key is missing from the lockbox; maybe there are no flyers left; maybe there are light-bulbs burned out in dark areas of the house; etc.

When you sell a property, you must strive to treat EVERY showing as if it’s for the eventual buyer. When we sell a house, we ask in the listing that the agent call 30 minutes before showing the property. Then, when an agent calls, we have time to have one of our employees drive over to the property, turn on all the lights, open the mini-blinds, ensure that the staging is perfect, ensure the air fresheners are filled, ensure that there is no debris in the driveway, ensure that there are flyers, ensure that the flowers look fresh, etc. This is so ingrained in the way we do things that I couldn’t imagine not doing it (I cringe every time an agent calls from the driveway of a property, not giving us time to prepare).

And while this is completely natural for us, it’s completely the opposite of pretty much every other agent we work with. If you’re going to list your houses, be prepared to make every showing perfect, even if you have to hire someone to run over to your houses before a showing to get it ready for you.

Be A Strong Marketer

For many investors, this is perhaps the most difficult aspect of also being a great real estate agent. Selling houses isn’t just about sticking some text on the MLS . . . it’s about marketing your properties and yourself.

For example, here are just a few of the things we (okay, not really “we,” but my wife) do to entice buyers to visit our properties and to put in offers:

  • Pictures: If you want people to visit your property, you need to entice them with great pictures. That means making small spaces look big, making awkward areas look enticing, and making “ugly” features of your properties seem appealing. Pictures should make buyers say, “I have to see that property before someone one buys it!” If you don’t know how to take great pictures, invest in a photography course, and just as importantly, invest in a copy of Photoshop. Being able to manipulate things like brightness, color and contrast in your photos can make the difference between drab and fab (did I really just say that? :)). If you need to take a course in photography and/or Photoshop, I’m willing to bet you’d find it to be a great investment.
  • Flyers: Many of your potential buyers will see the exterior of your house and then grab a flyer from the flyer box. If that flyer doesn’t entice them to call you (or their Realtor) for a showing, you’re in trouble. Likewise, after a potential buyer has seen your property, they should have an appealing flyer to take home to show others who may be contributing to the decision of whether to make an offer or not. If you don’t have the skills to design your own flyer from scratch, invest in a good template, or hire a good designer to build you template.
  • Virtual Tours: I was surprised to find that many buyers will base their decision on whether to look at a house on the virtual tour. Personally, I don’t look at virtual tours, but many buyers do…especially when they’re trying to narrow down their list of houses to see with their Realtor. There are some very basic tools available to create virtual tours; learn to use them, and make sure you post a tour with every MLS listing.

Have People/Networking Skills

Good agents have large networks of contacts that they can leverage to find buyers, sellers, investors, partners, etc. They build these networks through good-old-fashioned networking — attending real estate meetings, introducing themselves at parties, talking to neighbors at the properties, etc. And through these networks, they can get can their houses sold much more quickly than those agents who just put a listing on the MLS and wait.

Not every investor is a “people person,” so for some, doing this part of an agent’s job might be difficult (personally, I’m not very good at it). If that’s the case, consider partnering with another agent to help with your marketing and selling. It might mean splitting your commission(s), but it also may be well worth it when it comes to moving your houses quickly.

Photo: A.M. Kuchling

About Author

J Scott

J Scott is a full-time entrepreneur and investor, living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. In 2008, J and his wife, Carol, decided to leave their 80-hour work weeks in Silicon Valley to move back East, start a family, and try something new: real estate. Since then, they have bought, built, rehabbed, sold, lent-on, and held over 300 deals, encompassing over $40 million in transactions. J also runs the popular website, is an active contributor on, and is the author of three books on real estate investing. His books, The Book on Flipping Houses and The Book on Estimating Rehab Costs, have sold more than 100,000 copies in the past five years and have helped investors from around the world get started investing in real estate.


  1. Great post!

    I agree that you need to be a great communicator in order to be a successful agent.

    I was in the market to purchase a house early last year and there were a few listing agents that never got back to us so we could schedule showings for their listing. I was surprised that so many agents just allow potential buyers to slip through their fingers like that!

    When I wanted to see the house I now own, we were able to schedule showings with little hassle and the second time was even on short notice.

    If you list a house and don’t return phone calls then it kind of defeats the purpose of even taking the listing!

  2. What a great blog!
    -Perfect Showing skills, and
    -Strong marketing with
    -Flyers &
    -Virtual Tours!

    What a fantastic outline of the top tips to keep Realtors at the head of the pack! I’m sending this to my friends! (…and I’m not even a realtor!)

  3. I’m a professional photographer, and I agree absolutely, make sure your photos are the best. Taking a photography course is time consuming though, and buying and learning Photoshop is expensive, so I recommend just hiring a professional who already knows what they’re doing.

  4. Great information, I’m planning to get my licence this summer when I have time off from university. The skills they you have mentioned are all considered necessities from the information I have gathered of becoming a great realtor.

  5. Thank you for putting this out into the world. What is it with agents that don’t answer their phones, don’t return phone calls and do not know how to communicate? I cannot tell you how many clients I have picked up because they could not get a phone call back from an agent they called to inquire about a property for sale.
    Furthermore, what about the agent, that when you finally get in touch with them to present an offer, doesn’t get back to you for days to let you know if their seller is interested in selling to my clients.
    These agents are doing their sellers a huge injustice. Why did these types of people get their real estate license, if they have no intention of working?

  6. Terrific thoughts. Especially, about communication. In my books Power Marketing for Luxury Real Estate and Get Your Highest Price (the consumer version), I comment on the “agents from hell” who other agents just avoid (with their listings) and how this hurts the consumer, alot. One of the criteria that I recommend listing agents get in order to be hired is testimonials and recommendations FROM OTHER AGENTS. I think agents should make sure sellers know that other agents like dealing with them. Only then is the seller really served.
    Also, I offer the Sellers FIrst Update Letter, a comprehensive template of items every agent should keep their seller informed of. I hope this helps. David

  7. Traver Freeman

    I know this was posted a long time ago, but I’m hoping you’ll still notice this post and possibly respond. I found this post because I was searching for advice about flyer design. I’m a graphic designer looking to get into real estate by catering specifically to investors and agents. I’ve seen a lot of terrible property flyers and I’m wondering if it would be a valuable use of my time to pursue reaching out to agents and investors in my area offering my design services.

    Do agents hire out design enough to make a living off of it? Or do most do it themselves and not really care what the flyers look like? Does a good flyer help the home sell faster or for more money? What type of info can I give to an agent or investor to help pitch the idea of paying me for a professional design?

  8. I think that communication skills can be beneficial in all kinds of different situations in life. It is interesting to learn that this is an important attribute for real estate agents as well. I think another important quality that people in this field should have is the capacity to be sincere.

  9. My cousin needs to find a real estate agent and we are looking to find more about this situation. It is good to know that good agents will understand the importance of and know how to communicate. Something else to consider would be finding someone who has a flexible schedule.

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