In response to several comments and requests I've had recently, I'm going to address a topic that is a big issue for real estate buyers and sellers. Specifically, what - beyond the generic answers - what makes a particular real estate agent "great" and therefore a premier choice for a buyer or seller?
In preparation for this article, I reviewed a number of pieces on the generic topic of what makes an agent "great" or a "good choice". The points mentioned included a variety: Fast response time, knowledge of the local market, creative thinking skills, how to correctly price a home, and ability to "multi-task". While I agree these are all valid skills, they are pretty much the skills that an administrative assistant could fill. Sending emails, calling me back quickly, and multi-tasking do not require a license. There has to be more to being a skilled real estate agent who is truly "great" at the business of listing and selling homes. Otherwise, why are we requiring that these particular administrative assistants be regulated?
I believe that a real estate agent (or broker), that is truly "great" at what they do, goes much deeper than this, into areas that don't get much of the focus when one is training to become a "licensed agent". Training does include lots of general details about real estate, such as forms of title, deeds, mortgages, contracts with dozens of exhibits and addenda, and the like, along with a very hefty dose of real estate license law "do's and donts". All are important issues to be sure, but is learning what one is expected to learn, in and of itself greatness? "Competency" yes, "greatness", no, we're not there yet.
Experience is one of the "bricks" that paves the road to greatness. You can't be great until you've had some learning experiences. But once you've got some experience, and been an agent for a few years, especially in the post 2008 housing market, it's time to get beyond the ability to plunk a sign down in the yard, fill in the blanks on the MLS form, and then wait for a buyers agent to bring some business.
In today's high tech world, agents must have GREAT technical skills
And I don't mean email. I'm talking about the ability to generate online leads, utilize QR codes effectively, advertise my home with websites, videos, press releases, and marketing campaigns that include things like podcasts to raise the agents own level of influence and marketability. An E-PRO designation is helpful here, but there is so much opportunity out there for those who are willing to go looking for ways to build their business. And today it can be done for a fraction of the cost agents have traditionally paid for postcards, pens and calendars.
Yet, as a former agent who has used other agents a lot lately to list and sell rental homes for me, I've come across agents with little to no tech skills at all and their brokers are as clueless as they are. Most brokers think that having an office website with an IDX feed and a big directory of all the agents is fine. They have no idea how much business they may be leaving for their tech-friendly competitors. Today, if an agent knows little or nothing about the internet and how to use it, they will be average performers at best.
Modern lockboxes have data collection capabilities that can inform a listing agent with a variety of details such as how many times a listing has been shown and by whom. But you rarely see a listing agent who provides regular weekly or bi-weekly reports on listing activity unless they are pressed for it by the client. And as a seller I'd appreciate all the feedback I can get about how my listing is showing and what the buyers are saying about it. It would be great to have that, yet I've seldom ever gotten a report without asking for it. I'm usually told that they "have a message in to the buyers agent for some feedback."- (feedback that never seems to arrive).
I personally believe that one of the biggest components of "greatness" in a real estate agent is the ability to understand what is happening in their local market place, and how the local market fundamentals could impact their clients
They give out awards to agents each year for the most closed sales. Generally an agent is "great" if they have sold enough to qualify for the "Million-Dollar club". But I think it would be "great" if agents took advantage of the dozens of real estate data vendors who provide low cost access to critical market data that agents could use to better direct and inform their clients about market conditions and potential risks or advantages.
It's dangerous to depend solely on "Official" assessments from the National Association of Realtors. NAR economists are fawned over monthly when the housing numbers come out, yet they have consistently shown a remarkable lack of ability to assess fundamental market conditions beyond the adage that "it's always a "great" time to buy or sell a home". Client information and services should be strategy driven. To me any real estate agent that can assess local market data and make some smart strategy moves for the benefit of their clients is a "great" agent.
And finally, I believe "Great" agents are backed by "Great" brokers who are true visionaries.
Brokers who are not afraid to think outside the box, not afraid to reinvent themselves and their businesses. Brokers who can look at the real estate landscape along with the technology that has so radically altered today's playing field, and come up with innovative business strategies.
Yet most of the innovators I've seen in recent years have been criticized for "rocking the boat" or "going against the system". Innovators and true entrepreneurs are not all that welcome amongst the "traditional" real estate culture. The "flat earth" club is alive and well. Only the "great" agents and brokers have the vision to see the future and the guts to welcome it.
About the author: Donna S. Robinson is a 18 year veteran of the real estate industry, with experience as a rehabber, wholesaler, investment analyst, rental property manager, owner, licensed agent and residential real estate market expert. She coaches real estate investors to improve cash flows while reducing risk. She has authored numerous books and CE courses on real estate market fundamentals and investing strategies. Follow her on twitter @donnaconsults Watch her videos here, and read more articles and contact her about coaching or business consulting services on her website.