- Brokerage design services can help buyers post-sale while sellers get the most for their money.
- The listing agent/buyer's agent pay structure will change drastically in the next five years.
When Realty One Group’s Jeff Sibbach started out, he was a buyer’s agent.
Sibbach, whose business was Realty One Group’s No. 1 team for 2015, and was himself the No. 2 top individual agent overall, learned that a buyer makes a decision about wanting the house within seven steps of entering a home.
Named top Arizona buyer’s agent from 2011 through 2015 with Homes & Land magazine, Sibbach is a believer in previewing homes on a large scale in order to be a true market expert — something that he doesn’t think many agents bother to do these days.
“I’ve showed over 7,000 houses — not including the ones I’ve previewed, which is a much bigger number — since 2003,” said Sibbach. “You start to pick up on trends, ‘have to haves’ for a home as needs change — and through that, the price ranges.”
Currently, he sees 800 to 1,000 homes a year in his market of North Scottsdale and its environs, he said. Sibbach personally sold 106 houses last year, $58 million in volume.
Focus on buyers helps agents pinpoint trends
“Being a buyer’s agent and seeing lots and lots of homes — with the buyers and without them present — has taught me about what buyers buy and how much they will pay for different features,” said Sibbach.
“It’s those moments with buyers that help you when a seller asks: ‘What should I improve to get maximum dollar and maximum return on my investment?'”
Sibbach, who represented more sellers than buyers in the last year, likes to do things differently. He has set up his own design services company with two stagers to help sellers improve their properties before sale — and to help buyers to add their touches after they have bought.
The majority of his buyers are empty-nesters who are downsizing. But first they need to sell their large, typically outdated homes before moving into their ideal homes — smaller, one-level, open-plan contemporary, preferably with granite and stainless steel fittings.
Sibbach Design Service’s stagers help homeowners by setting up meetings for contractor quotes and generally helping the seller take care of all of the “to dos” in preparing a home for sale.
“It’s all about eliminating the hassle and pressure on the consumer’s time,” said Sibbach. “Who likes to fix up their house? Nobody. We’ll help them fix it up.”
For buyers afterwards, many of whom are wanting move-in-ready homes (simply not possible in the current market), the design services company steps in.
“If a buyer is interested in a property but it needs carpet, paint, a bathroom or additional upgrading, we provide the same service after the sale,” said Sibbach.
These extra customer services are about being a real estate expert, he said.
Best tips for updating a home
Sibbach doesn’t pull punches when he goes into a home that needs work. In a recent listing, Sibbach had the owners invest $18,000 in updating the master bathroom, laying tile to replace carpet, adding stainless steel appliances and some hardware.
The sellers made $75,000 on the sale.
Sibbach, a big fan of open houses, adamantly believes that a listing agent should spend 50 percent of their time on the preparation of the house for sale, and the other half on marketing the product.
“We know that the entire world is going to see our house for sale, and as long as the seller allows, we invest significant time into getting it ready.”
Sibbach pays for the cleaning and paint touch-up as part of the standard commission.
His team of 18 agents last year did $95 million total sales volume (including his $58 million). To date, Sibbach has 23 agents and 14 additional independent contractors who help with listings, staging and blogging — many of them well-educated moms.
He said he gets quality leads from his hyperlocal company website, which attracted 160,000 visitors and gave him over 2,000 detailed leads last year.
Active on all the real estate portals, he did $38 million of sales volume from internet leads — $29 million from buyers and $9 million from sellers — in 2015.
Real estate market is ripe for change
Sibbach uses the phrase “Real Estate 2020” when talking about the evolution of his team culture.
“This includes redefining what an agent is, what functions they perform, the services they offer and how they operate in the new world,” he said.
“Our goal is to become the best possible agent for a consumer by providing services above and beyond industry’s elite levels while leveraging technology for efficiency, execution and marketing,” he said.
Not everyone in the real estate industry has these lofty goals, and Sibbach would like to raise some issues he believes the real estate industry must face.
The real estate model has needed to change, but the dark years 2007-2011 “muted the evolution,” he said.
Buyer’s agent commission dilemma
“I think the listing broker-buyer broker pay structures are going to change in the next five years because it’s time,” said Sibbach.
“The pay structure was created when the world was different — the world has evolved, but the pay hasn’t. Change is coming.”
And it is the lazy buyer’s agent who should face reality first.
“Too many agents are letting buyers do many parts of their job — it just seems like a logical conclusion. It’s hard to think that if someone’s doing less work, they would get the same pay,” he said
There are a some very good buyer’s agents who are doing the work, however. But they are outnumbered by agents providing very few services for the same fee, he said.
“You are supposed to be a housing expert and to go and find properties for your client,” said Sibbach. “For the buyer’s agent out busting their hump — absolutely, they deserve to get the commission.”
Good agents find homes not yet listed for their buyers or find a gem in the MLS, said Sibbach, who maintains an off-market list of homes for sale exclusive to his buyers.
The listing agent is also going to have to lift the level of service in the new environment, said the team leader.
“Listing agents spend the majority of their marketing budget to get hired as a listing agent,” he said. “This leaves very little marketing to try to sell their homes and rely on putting it in MLS with syndication to sell their homes.
“And the same thing for brokerages. This is backward to me. Why is it that aggregators like Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com show up for online searches for homes ahead of brokerages?”
Brokerages are playing catch-up
Brokerages. meanwhile, are playing catch up with the aggregators and will have to offer new services, said Sibbach.
“I think that brokers used to have an advantage, being the big brokerage on the corner of major intersections in town,” he explained. “Leads would walk in their door. Now, buying and selling is moving to the web, but Realtors have let the aggregators lead the way there and they are way behind, so we are paying dearly to get leads from the aggregators.”
These services will include helping agents with lead creation and lead conversion as buyers and sellers “get more crafty” because they have all of the information at their fingertips.
Brokerages should be helping agents convert internet leads, said the Arizona agent.
“They should be teaching technology and efficiency, how to manage their internet presence and how to help a seller get their home to a ‘sellable’ condition for top dollar,” he said.
“Now that buyers can see inside the homes, their needs and the pressure on sellers is going to change drastically. Consumers will drive the change.”
Brokers should provide some ‘secret sauce’
“It’s all about strategy,” said Sibbach.
“We offer a free eight-week series of free coaching, which we have been doing for about a year and a half,” he said. “We also do paid monthly coaching, and we just started coaching outside our team this year and have five external coaching clients.
“We share, open up the kimono for the coaching clients. We provide accountability on their actions, scripts to change they way they talk to buyers and a plan to spend time most efficiently.”
Although he has achieved a certain level of success, Sibbach spends a lot on making his business sing — his fleet of contractors range from a receptionist to listing assistants and bloggers.
“Client service is the key to success,” he said.