• Understanding the transaction is a key to reputation building and repeat business.
  • Selling your service is just the beginning.
  • Agencies should spend as much time training in transaction basics as they do in sales basics.

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“Being a real estate agent is not rocket science,” goes the insufferable bromide. But as anyone who has gotten into the business knows, it’s no walk in the park either, especially as a new agent. And selling yourself as your client’s best guide through the real estate process is barely the beginning.

The transaction is the key thing, and you’d better know your way around it backward and forward. It’s the difference between being chosen once and being your client’s go-to agent and automatic choice when referring friends.

A focus on prospecting, lead generation, overcoming objections and other sales techniques miss the point that, as far as I can tell, this is primarily a customer service business. Yes, we are selling our services as real estate professionals.

Entrepreneurs know — in this hustle economy — we are all in sales. Being in sales is not unique and does not tell nearly the whole story of what is required to be a skilled agent. Being entrepreneurial means sales is in your job description, but it means a hell of a lot more than being in sales.

So real estate agents, stop thinking of yourselves as sales associates. It’s not interesting. It doesn’t differentiate you, and it misses the larger picture. Ongoing success in real estate requires expertise in the transaction process to come to the settlement table with happy, informed, satisfied clients.

With the endless variations and surprises that come up in the course of getting the agreement of sale to the settlement table, new agents need to understand the nuances of the transaction.

You don’t know what you don’t know, and not knowing can lead to awkward situations at best — and blown-to-smithereens deals at worst.

To be clear, I love what I do, and I love where I work. I just think we could do better in training for a clearer understanding of the transaction between executed agreement and the settlement table.

From what I hear anecdotally, I am one of the lucky ones. Although I had no overabundance of formal training in the transaction process, I work in a collaborative environment where I can ask any smart or dumb, fresh or stinky question and get great advice from seasoned agents.

Inman posted a Special Report in mid-2015: “Why and How Real Estate Needs to Clean House.”

The report cites lack of education — lack of understanding of the basics and the complications of a real estate transaction — as a major detriment to the public perception of real estate professionals. When we don’t know our way through the process, our clients can see that we are not serving them well.

With this in mind, here are some transaction pitfalls to master to be a top-notch, know-your-stuff agent:

1. Inspection process  

Inspections, as we all know, can wreak havoc on a real estate deal. Bad septic or water service, mold or questionable stucco can blow up a transaction quickly.

Being able to point buyers and sellers to experts in these fields and navigating increased anxiety when surprises crop up — these are crucial skills in keeping a transaction on track.

2. Navigating local municipal requirements  

God bless you if you live in a market where there are a small handful of local government bodies to navigate. Where I live, there’s a new municipality every 10 feet or so.

Along with a basic understanding of expectations and deadlines in the agreement of sale, being ignorant of or misunderstanding requirements for occupancy and other code enforcement in a local municipality can be a significant factor gumming up the works.

3. Everyone’s ridiculous expectations  

You know what I’m talking about. Sellers believing their home is worth way above market value, buyers wanting a steal. Fighting over the very last $42.34 because “nobody’s going to get the best of me, (expletive deleted)!”

This moment is where training in crisis counseling would come in handy. Understanding where there is give and where there is no give left in a transaction is part of the learning curve — a piece that maybe can’t be taught as much as experienced.

New agents need to understand the potential trials and pitfalls that come at the beginning, middle and near the finish line of a transaction.

Every transaction is different, and there is always something new to learn, but understanding what to expect will only increase the positive reputation of individual agents and the industry as a whole.

Craig Landes is an agent with Weichert Realtors Doylestown, Pennsylvania, office. You can follow him on Facebook or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Email Craig Landes.