Do you need a real estate agent when you start looking for a house? What makes a good real estate agent? Is good relative to whether you are buying or selling?
From my new Kindle eBook Buying a House Using Apps, Maps and Location Based Services: (In case you weren’t aware, you don’t need to own a Kindle, you can download free software for your PC, tablet or mobile from Amazon.)
“I’m very harsh on real estate agents. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because of how they call every small house ‘charming’ and every run-down house a ‘great fixer-upper’. Just once, I’d like them to show me a house and declare, ‘This one’s a piece of crap’.” – Stephan Pastis
I recently wrote a review on a new iPad application from Auckland Realtor, Barfoot & Thompson. You can read the review here. The application comes with a wide range of features and data, but it is only as good as the effort that each individual agent provides.
I found that some agents had the bare essentials, whilst others provided every bit of information they could, including council Land Information Reports, floor plans, photos, video and more. This can very quickly give you an idea of the professionalism of the agent who is selling the property, as well as the detail you need to evaluate the suitability of a property. It came as no surprise to me when I looked at the listing for the above property on the Barfoot app, that the agent who listed this property had a similar high level of detailed attachments on other properties she had listed.
Of course professionalism has two sides to it. As a buyer you might find that you can negotiate better deals with a not so good agent, whereas when you are selling, you want the best.
In the past I have worked with real estate agents and in some cases with their business coaches and I learned was that 80% of the sales are made not by 20% of the sales people, but more like 5% of them.
Many of the sales people do it as a hobby and aren’t too worried about how many properties they sell. Many are technophobic and are in the business as a social outlet. They enjoy meeting people and being active in something. These are gross generalizations, but having bought and sold several houses, I can say that in many cases I have been extremely frustrated by the people I had to deal with.
Some of the key reasons included not giving me all the information I needed. Taking me to properties that didn’t match my criteria (because they were desperate to sell them, or had the sole agency etc). Not knowing how to get to a property (surely they should all use GPS car navigation?) and not knowing the areas they were showing me houses in. Overselling the value of a property or trying to mislead me as to the reason it was on the market.
Obviously all real estate agents have web sites. Surprisingly many do not have applications, which is really interesting because those who do will have a competitive advantage because if you are not using an app from a specific Realtor, you will be looking at their competitors as well.
I have met very few really good real estate agents over the years and my personal preference is to do my homework first. One thing that can be useful is when you use an app or website to find a property and it is multi-listed, you can find to do a little research on the agent themselves. You then have a choice of which one you wish to use to view a property with. You can’t see the property with one and make an offer through another.
Beware of reviews of real estate agents that you can’t quantify. Review sites and apps like Yelp may not always have reviews that you can follow up on (they are typically anonymous) and often reviews may be fakes placed by people who haven’t actually used that company themselves (to buy or sell real estate).
It’s funny isn’t it. If you were looking for a night in a hotel, sites like TripAdvisor are full of reviews, but when it comes to borrowing money up to your eyeballs, everyone’s a winner baby.
The best way to really check out an agent is to ask for references from them, or look for properties they have sold and make contact with the vendor or person who bought through them directly, then you won’t be sent to someone guaranteed to give them a review. When I owned rental properties I once rang to do a reference check on a potential tenant who let slip that he was the brother-in-law of the person I was asking about!
This is likely to be the biggest purchase you have made to date in your life. The agent walks away with a fat check and moves on, while you move in. If you’re employing staff you would do a reference check wouldn’t you? If you’re not convinced yet, check out this story from the New Zealand Herald in 2012 about the worst real estate agents in New Zealand. It might give you a few pointers.
This is one in a series of blogs about buying real estate through the use of location based services technology including web sites and applications. You will find more of them through this link. If you know someone who is thinking of buying a new house, please share this with them. I’m sure they will thank you for it.
You might also like to leave a comment or share an experience. You don’t have to agree with me. You can also subscribe, if you don’t want to miss out on the next blog, or want to know when my eBook is coming out.