During my 26 years practicing real estate law, and with over ten thousand real estate closings under my belt, I have seen my share of real estate agents. Some great. Others, not so much. The great ones, however, all share the same traits, and, in my opinion, it is these characteristics that set them apart from the mediocre. So, what makes a great real estate agent? Here are a few common practices I have watched great agents incorporate to provide uncommon service.
Know the market. In the past, agents specialized in well-defined neighborhoods. Today, agents are working with buyers and sellers across a broader geographical footprint – which means that a great agent has to be more than a car service or “doorman” and do more than drive customers to and from locations to open smart locks. While everything can be found on the internet, all that data can also overwhelm your customers. But this is where you can shine. Synthesize the data for them. Create value by knowing whether that 3/3 with a 2-car garage is a good buy or whether it is overpriced. Confirm how long properties are typically sitting on the market in a particular community. Familiarize yourself with the schools and places of worship in the area. In short, do your homework.
Show up to everything. Do not phone it in. Be present when your customer sees the home for the first time. Attend the inspection, the appraisal, the walkthrough, the closing (if there is a physical closing), and encourage your customer to join when appropriate. If your customer is a seller, know when their presence might be counterproductive and advise accordingly. Meeting a buyer during their inspection is an invaluable time to bond and to confirm that the home is for them. Want to lose a customer? Give them a printout of listings and send them on scavenger hunt.
Work with solid, reputable vendors. Fair or not, buyers and sellers view everyone involved in a property deal – inspectors, title agents, insurance agents, mortgage brokers – as part of a team, regardless of company affiliation. A shoddy inspection, much like a disorganized or unskilled title agent, or deadline averse mortgage broker, can reflect poorly on you and not only sink the current deal, but eliminate the possibility of any future work from that customer. Select referral sources based on skillset and commitment to quality service, not because they bring your office the best doughnuts. These vendors are your lifeblood. Treat them as such and choose wisely. NOTE: This team should include a real estate attorney and CPA reachable at any hour on any day.
Trust, but verify. Having a trusted team in place doesn't excuse you from also having a grasp on the roles and responsibilities covered by everyone on that team. You want to know enough to be able to identify when something might not be right. This includes:
- Appraisal. Understand how comps are chosen and how property value is established.
- Mortgage lending. Become familiar with what lenders need to underwrite a loan – tax returns, W-2's, paystubs, bank statements, etc.
- Insurance. Be able to suggest the type of insurance policy will your customer will have to obtain.
- Tax. Know the basic tax implications of a real estate sale and how a non-US taxpayer might be affected.
- Title. Identify the difference between a lien search and a title search, how marital status affects who signs a document, and the basics of an LLC, corporation or trust, as well as the governing documents for each.
Even the most experienced customer values working with an agent who understands how to navigate the entirety of this multi-faceted process, asks intelligent questions during every step, and consistently demonstrates having their customer's best interests at heart.
Understand the real estate contract. By no means am I suggesting that you provide legal advice to your customer. (Remember: a reputable real estate lawyer should be on your speed dial!) But you should know enough contract basics to foresee problems before they occur. Does the contract utilize calendar days or business days? What are the critical deadlines? Who pays for what and how is a missed deadline handled? What could happen if a party fails to perform? Being armed with this knowledge allows you to preemptively caution your customer and recommend dependable, trust-worthy professionals to protect their interests.
Know the difference between a homeowner association and a condominium association. They are governed by two separate and distinct statutes in Florida. Know whether the association is responsible for a roof or whether the homeowner is. Understand how to read an association budget.
Excel at the art of negotiation. What will it take to get your customer they what? How you will influence the other side to achieve the desired result? Purchasing property can be an emotional experience. How high is your EQ (emotional intelligence)? Have you taken the time to educate yourself on how to appreciate every individual agenda in an effort to reach a desired result or the closest thing to it?
Check your own emotions at the door. Although you need a high EQ to manage all the parties in the process, you also need to understand how important it is for you to be a calming beacon of emotionally detached guidance. Your customers will have enough angst for both of you. When dealing with the opposing side, keep your ego, as well as your emotions, in check. Don't take things personally. It's business. You're there to do a job. Before sending that email or making that call, ask yourself: is this behavior going to serve my customer? The following thought should run through your mind each time you act: How can I add the value it takes for someone to want to refer me two more customers?
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.