Last week, my BiggerPockets.com 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