In pursuit of authenticity, transparency and truth in the residential real estate brokerage business, we must stop and take a look at many of the messages we send to the public. Far too often in real estate we promote the consumer perspectives that seem valuable, yet in our own private circles we know there is little to no value: open houses and silly ads, to name a couple.
The label or designation of the "Million Dollar Producer" is another one of those messages that we need to really examine and ask ourselves, "Is this label truly worth promoting?" "Does the label represent truth and authenticity?"
I think we can all agree that the consumer has absolutely no idea what Million Dollar Producer even means. The larger question is: What does the industry want them to think it means? Does it mean success? Does it mean that you are working with the best? Does it mean that the consumer can feel confident that all will work out well? I think not.
The fact behind the label starts with the question: What is produced? Is it $1 million in revenue, $1 million in income, $1 million in gross sales prices, $1 million in net profit, $1 million worth of listings sold, $1 million in sales? As we all know, the board of Realtors sets the criteria for what constitutes this designation. What is interesting is that when you attempt to find out what these designations mean, it is difficult to find an answer.
The greatest myth behind the label is that the consumer is in good hands when they select that agent. It is the industry’s way of sending a false sense of security to the public. Choosing an agent based on their million-dollar results should be scrapped, and I hereby suggest the following criteria to the consumer population (Mr. and Mrs. Consumer, ask these questions the next time you are interviewing your agent):
Are you a full-time agent? This is defined as an agent who has no other primary employment other than real estate. Part-time agents, as much as the agents would love to be responsive, cannot call you back if they are in a meeting with their boss. In a contest of attention between you and their boss, who do you think will win? Ask your part-time agent if you can pay a part-time commission? Run if they say "yes."
What is your response time guarantee? The number one complaint of the consumer today is poor and slow communication. I suggest that you only hire an agent who uses tools and technology to communicate with you in a timely manner. If an agent cannot assure you a response time (in writing) that is acceptable to you, move on.
What is your list-to-close ratio? Agents try to impress the public with numbers, but let’s look at the quality of performance. Agents who take 25 listings a year and sell 15 might be much less effective than an agent who takes 15 listings a year and sells 13. This is an agent who says "no" to overpriced listings. This represents an agent who is in the business to sell what they list as oppossed to those agents who get a listing, get a sign in the ground, and then hope they will sell it.
What is your unit breakdown? Sellers, ask your agents how many units they have listed and how many sales they have actually completed. A listing agent is a specialty that should be left for those who know how to price them and service them. A buyer’s agent sometime trips on a listing opportunity. These agents are not built to deal with sellers. And by the way, make the agents attach their validated multiple listing service results.
What is your price reduction history? Many agents are great at getting the listing, only to have the consumer listen to reasons why they need to reduce price. Make your agent provide you with an MLS price-reduction report so you can see how many times they had to reposition their other sellers in the marketplace. An agent with a low price-reduction history can tell you that they took the listing correctly and with honesty on day one.
May I see your resume? Agents often provide listing presentation books that talk alot about things in a general sense. Ask your agent for a personal resume that is the same as if they were applying for a job. Look for all their references of past clients, third-party vendors that you can call, and ask them for the name and number of the sellers whose homes they listed but did not sell. This will reveal those who have the courage and conviction to share why their other customers may not have had success. If you are an agent who listed a home that expired and the seller still likes you, you are the agent for me.
What is your support system? The best real estate agents know that it takes a team effort to get the job done right. Provide the names, contact information and availability of team members to your client. The best never try to do it alone.
May I see your service guarantee? The finest companies in the world stand behind their products and services. They put themselves on the line each and every day to put the consumers minds’ at ease. The finest services run their businesses in a way that says, "If you are unhappy for any reason, here is your money back." Hire the agent with the same guarantee — a service guarantee with no gimicks or tricks; just a straightforward statement that says, "If you are unhappy, you are free to go." The best never worry about this guarantee, as they want the accountability on their shoulders. They have no fear because they deliver.
A few more questions to ask your potential agent are: What is your price strategy? What is your negotiation strategy? What is your consumer risk-mitigation protocol? How do you assess mortgage portability?
If you see a blank stare … move on.
If you notice, I do not think questions like advertising programs, Internet strategies, marketing plans and slick Web sites are at the forefront of what matters to our consumer. They mattter to us, not them. There are tens of thousands of listings you can view online with companies that all have these "traditional, valuable features." If they are so valuable and effective, why are the homes not selling?
I think real estate credentials are fine, but there are far too many agents with these credentials who still cannot sell a house and provide an exceptional service experience.
So, Mr. And Mrs. Consumer: Go out there, find your agent who meets the above standards and you will be many steps closer to the experience you expect and deserve.
Scott Einbinder is a national real estate speaker and trainer.
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