It’s Monday morning…so what is your agent doing to get your home sold? If your agent is typical, I’m guessing they’re either still asleep, or it could be they’re sitting in front of the computer, browsing Facebook and languidly checking up on what fun everyone had over the weekend, sipping coffee. Whether they’re sleeping or browsing Facebook, rest assured, dear client – your agent is in fact working. They’re doing the oh-so-important work of waiting. Waiting for the e-mail to chime, or for the phone to ring, or maybe for the trill of an incoming text message. If they’re at the office, they may also be waiting for someone to walk in the door. It might not seem like they’re doing much, but in reality, they’re doing about as much as 80% of agents out there – or more.
I don’t mean to come down on Realtors, any more than I’d come down on a combat soldier. I’m not a soldier, never been anywhere near combat, but I’ve heard it a hundred times: being in the military is 99% sheer boredom and 1% terror. It’s all the preparation that goes into being ready for when 1% of the time, the shit hits the fan. The same thing somewhat applies to real estate: your agent sits around and waits for something to happen because they’ve put a lot of work setting things up such that something will happen.
For example, if your Realtor is the rare breed that actually has some property listed for sale, your agent will most likely have put the property up on the MLS. And that should surely cause the ol’ email to chime and phone to ring with incoming buyer inquiries. Likewise, your agent could have put an advertisement up on Facebook, or Craigslist, and that too might do the trick. If your agent is a spendthrift, he or she might also have put an advertisement in one of those glossy full-color real estate magazines, or perhaps sent out “just listed” postcards to the neighborhood. Quite possibly, your agent has done all of these things, and justifiably expects the phone to ring off the hook, at which point they will leap into action and get your home sold.
The truth is, most agents favor these kinds of passive methods of marketing. A good agent will employ the full gamut of passive marketing methods, and combined, they often do a good-enough job of getting a home sold. And hey, good-enough is good-enough, right? So long as it gets the house sold at a high enough price, that is.
What happens, though, when good enough isn’t? Or, perhaps you are a shrewd home owner and you realize that you can get a great real estate agent for the same price as a merely good agent? How can a home owner know they are working with a great agent versus just a good agent, or, gasp, an average agent?
Honestly, there’s no way to know with certainty. An average/good agent can masquerade as a great agent, and this is complicated by the fact that such agents can be great at times depending on their motivation, energy levels, work load, etc. And a great agent too can go through times when they’re just not firing on all cylinders and only turn out good-enough performance.
Generally speaking, though, if a homeowner wants to find out if an agent is great, they can do a couple of things. They can, of course, ask for references – but even an average/good agent will be able to provide some glowing references, as they surely aren’t going to give the names and phone numbers of unhappy former clients. The other thing they can do is ask the agent this question: “What are you going to do to sell my house that’s different than all the other agents?”
When you ask that question, the agent may whip out their marketing plan, which describes all the things the agent is going to do to get your house sold, and they’ll ask you: “do other agents have a comprehensive marketing plan like this?” I’m guessing..probably, yes, as there’s no end of recycled Realtor marketing plans an agent can grab off the internet and repurpose, adding an his or her own custom touches, logo, etc. And I’ll bet dollars for donuts that almost any marketing plan you’ll see one full of the same kinds of passive marketing activities as all the rest: a listing on the MLS, sign in the front lawn, print advertising, “just listed” postcards to the neighborhood, open houses, etc.
When you ask how an agent is different, a savvy agent will come up with their Unique Value Proposition (UVP) – something that does in fact set them apart from everyone else. For example, they might say, “I guarantee I’ll get your home sold in 90 days, or I’ll buy it myself.” Bingo! That got your attention, right? Of course they’re not really going to buy your home if it doesn’t sell in 90 days, because they have a few strings, caveats, and oceans of fine print which mean that pretty much never happens. But they might have some other propositions that come with fewer caveats, such as, “I’ll get your home sold in 60 days or I’ll waive my commission.” That’s good, it’s distinctive, but such a proposition will doubtless require that the homeowner list the price low enough that the agent feels it’s virtually guaranteed to sell at that price within that timeframe.
Sometimes, though, when you ask an agent how they’re different than all the other agents, you might hear this: the agent could say they different because they are an active agent. An active agent will do all (or most) of the things a passive agent will do, but then they’ll go above and beyond and actually go out and – get this – actively try to find a buyer for your property.
How might an agent do that? The old fashioned way, for the most part. They’ll go out and knock on doors in the neighborhood, to see if there are perhaps any renters around who are thinking about buying a home in the neighborhood – or perhaps someone in the neighborhood knows someone who’s always said, “I’d love to live where you live – if ever you hear of a home for sale on the block…”.
Some neighborhoods, of course, aren’t conducive to door knocking, and in that case, an active agent will pick up the phone and make someone else’s phone ring – now there’s a concept! An active agent will call into a neighborhood, and adjoining neighborhoods, letting folks know of your house that’s for sale. And when the active agent is done doing that, they’ll start calling other top agents in town, to make sure that they know all the virtues of your property so that they can let their buyers know, too.
As powerful as the MLS and the internet are, they aren’t a sure-fire way to get a home sold for top dollar. A savvy home owner will want to pick an agent who will go above and beyond the typical marketing methods – even in a hot market – to leave no stone unturned in the search for the right buyer for your home. It is this willingness on the part of an agent that really sets some agents apart from the pack.
When you are out looking for a good agent, you’d do well to do some digging and find an agent who will really pull out all the stops. For the kind of commission you’ll be paying, don’t you feel you really should get an agent who’ll go the extra mile? That’s what I thought.