- Buyers often expect agents to be so much more than what we are trained to be.
- Sometimes you have to give the best advice you can, even when you don't know the perfect answer.
- Clients often need your reassurance, and all you can do is try to help.
People expect a lot from someone like me. I have a degree, but my job does not require a degree or any experience. All I need is a license that I can get after 90 hours of classes.
On a day-to-day basis, the work isn’t about technology or what the portal websites are doing with my listings.
I am supposed to be an expert in many areas. Over the years, I have concluded that buying or selling real estate is mostly about making choices and decisions, and it’s my job to give people information to help with that process.
Homebuyers want a nice house in a decent neighborhood. I can’t recommend a neighborhood, and I’m sure it has cost me business over the years.
In fact, one client dumped me because I kept showing him and his wife homes in areas where Somali woman can be seen walking their children to the school bus stop.
Choosing a neighborhood is a big decision. In fact, the right neighborhood is the path to happiness, wealth and well-educated children.
I suppose some people are fortunate, and it all works out that way, but it seems like most people are expecting too much. My neighborhood seems perfect to me, but I know people who would never consider living in a diverse inner-city neighborhood.
The 90 hours of education to become a real estate agent doesn’t seem like nearly enough to qualify me to recommend a school, but I have had people ask for such a recommendation.
Some of the decisions people need help with are not nearly as important as which school to send their children to or which general contractor can be hired to gut a little Cape Cod and turn it into something more modern. But at the time they are being made, they seem paramount.
A dash of concierge
One of my clients sent me an urgent text message asking me which way the boards should go on the new wood flooring he was having installed. He wanted them going the same direction as the boards in the adjoining hallway, but the company he hired to install the flooring suggested the opposite direction.
I used my mad communication and people skills to side with the installer and told my client that I did not think the direction would impact the sales price.
People expect me to be an expert on everything, including how to make a profit flipping houses and what kind of room makes the best nursery or home office. I am also supposed to know where the best craft beer can be purchased and which roofing contractor will get it done the fastest.
I am supposed to have all this local information about where to shop and where to go out on a date. With so much on the Internet and so many ratings, why would anyone ask me where to shop?
They want to do their own research to find homes for sale but need a real estate agent to give them suggestions on where to go on date night? Homebuyers rarely ask me the questions that the experts think I should be able to answer, and that’s a good thing.
Equal parts fortune-teller and mathematician
Homebuyers ask me if I think the seller will accept an offer of X amount. Honestly, I have no idea what the seller will accept. I can usually figure out the value of the property and even guess at what a reasonable person would sell it for, but all too often, people are not reasonable or predictable.
I usually come up with an answer for the buyer that makes me sound like I know what I’m doing, and that is what they need from me.
Buyers want to know how much a home they buy today will be worth in 2025. I haven’t come up with an answer yet. And I’m not even sure how to sound wise on that one, so sometimes I suggest that if they can figure out how much a loaf of bread will cost in 2025, we can use the same math to estimate how much the home will be worth.
(No, I don’t have any idea how the price of a loaf of bread and a house are correlated, but I know they are. I just need more data so I can figure it out.)
Homesellers ask me to choose paint colors for them. I tend to keep it neutral. One of the trendy colors today is gray. I never recommend it, but sellers choose it.
I wish I had data on how much paint color is worth when it’s time to sell a home. I have to act like I know that without saying anything that’s false or misleading. It’s a kind of dance I do all day long.
A couple of years ago, I had a buyer interested in one of my listings, and he wanted a history of the house going back to when it was built 1880.
He wanted to know a little something about everyone who ever owned it. He was ultra surprised that I didn’t have that information.
There are people who want me to know the neighborhood gossip, what people are saying about a home that’s for sale and what other real estate agents think about it. I never have that kind of information, but people believe I do.
Sprinkle in a few decorating tips
Home staging can also be a slippery slope. I have seen homes that were poorly staged by staging professionals who stuffed furniture and stuff into every corner. Putting stuff in a house just to have stuff in it makes no sense to me.
Some of my sellers take this all so seriously that they want me to tell them just where they should put the couch so that buyers will fall in love with their house.
I always do my best to help with that. I can be very authoritative when it comes to couch placement because I know that is what my clients need so that they can move to the next set of choices and decisions.
There are times when I would just love to say that I don’t know, but most of the questions I am asked don’t have a right answer, and offering anything helps my clients.
Mix together for a spectacular agent
I am very knowledgeable about houses, and I know a lot about the neighborhoods that I work in. Some of that knowledge is even useful to my clients.
If someone wants a list of 100 things to do in my area, I know which website to send them to, and if they want business or restaurant reviews, there are a couple of sites I like.
It is all about helping people make choices and helping them feel good about their decisions. So many of the questions I get asked are subjective.
I guess my opinion is as valid as anyone else’s, and if I speak with authority, people seem to feel as though they made the right decision when they chose me to be their agent.
Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.