So when it comes to touring properties, do you join the crowd or go it alone? To figure out what the best method is, we spoke with a few of America’s top real estate agents from Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Montecito and Santa Barbara, California, to get their take on the matter. First off, why tour at all? It’s broker caravan day, and you don’t have a buyer, what’s the point?
Touring with the group
Silicon Valley luxury real estate agent Jakki Harlan of Dreyfus Sotheby’s International Realty explains that it is not just about finding a specific home for a buyer but also about understanding the market. “If you have seen the homes you understand the small differences that can change the overall value in one home versus another. Even if you don’t have a client for a home in that particular neighborhood or price point today, you may tomorrow,” Harlan said.
Stacy Gottula of Coldwell Banker Previews International, one of the most prolific luxury real estate agents in Beverly Hills, said touring properties in the high-end market can be a bit different than what you might find at a typical broker caravan. It’s not uncommon for these open houses to offer a lavish social gathering, complete with wine, cheeses and many of the top-tier real estate agents in the area. The social aspect plays a significant role in the selling of homes with a higher price tag, where knowing and being known by your fellow professionals can play a key role in getting your listing sold. “In the estates marketplace, when you’re a new agent, it’s vital to align yourself with a seasoned agent — someone who can help you make those connections and help you learn why homes are priced and marketed the way they are. “It’s not just about going to look at the house, but about learning values and building relationships with the most respected agents in the industry. It’s your professional education,”Gottula said. Although the benefits of touring properties expands to more than just seeing potential sales, a big part of it seems to be the social and fact finding aspect. The broker tour is where you make connections with your fellow agents and where you study the market in its current state.
But if meeting other agents and spending time getting to know your market is the biggest part of touring, it would seem that the group mentality would be the way to go. So then why is it that almost all of these longtime agents tour on their own?
The benefits of going it alone
“Touring with others is a personal preference for each agent,” Harlan said. “Some weeks I may need to hurry through tour because I have an offer to present later, and having someone else on my timeline might not work well. Other weeks I find it helpful to take my interior designer with me so I can learn more about what is trending in the design/building industry. “Other weeks I may be meeting a client at a property on tour so they can see the home at the earliest possible chance. I don’t often tour with other agents because it can be hard to coordinate schedules.”
“What it really comes down to is that when you are just starting out it is important to spend time with other Realtors, particularly experienced ones because they can explain why a property is priced a certain way,” renowned Santa Barbara real estate agent Louise McKaig said. “Touring with a group has benefits if you make the effort to ask questions, take notes and learn. As you get more experienced and your business begins to take off, spending time with your clients will take priority and your schedule will be much tighter, so you won’t have as much time to tour with friends and coworkers.”
Although a few agents felt that touring with a group was the worst idea they had ever heard, the majority felt it could add value from an educational standpoint. As you become more experienced it’s best to go it alone for a number of reasons, the most prominent of which was scheduling and time management. “As you become a more seasoned luxury specialist, it’s less important to tour with others,” Gottula said. “Yes, networking with your colleagues is an important part of caravanning when you’re starting out, but once you’re established, you have more focused reasons for going on caravan, like looking at specific properties that will meet clients’ criteria.” Harlan said, “Plan your tour ahead of time to be efficient. Know the route you are taking and make notes as to which client you are going to be looking at each home for. If you don’t have a client for certain homes, then go to see if you think it is priced well or learn something new about that street or that type of home. There is opportunity to learn constantly. “Also it is a time to be social with your fellow agents. Get out there and get to know who is who, because before you know it you will be sitting across the negotiation table with those agents.”
When to caravan and when to go solo
Tour with a group for education and developing relationships with your co-workers, but when you are established and understand your business you’re much better off on your own. Touring with a group can add value from an educational aspect but when you are a full-time luxury real estate agent, like the ones we interviewed today, you should already know your area and your fellow agents; your caravan day should be more strategic, on schedule and deliberate. When you are at the elite level touring on your own is really the best, and for many, the only option. “No matter what method you decide to choose, it’s important to develop a strong relationship with agents you work with because it can help your clients in the long run when you’re negotiating or competing against multiple offers, and helping your clients is what our whole business is all about,” McKaig said. The purpose of regularly touring properties as a professional is, on the surface, finding properties for current or even future clients, but the hidden importance of touring is in fact-finding and market analysis, social interaction with your peers and gaining insight on upcoming properties. The reason to tour with a group — education. If you feel educated and ready, then you are better off going alone. “When I began, we started a group that would tour together and then meet throughout the month to discuss things we had learned or invite professionals to come speak with us. We all helped each other get started,” McKaig said.
Gottula gives a final bit of advice for those just starting out in real estate: “It’s highly beneficial to be mentored by seasoned agents who are the experts in your market. Learn your neighborhoods and master your contracts. “But to really get ahead in this competitive market, you will get most of your education by associating with an award-winning team. Work hard enough, hone your skills, and before you know it, some smart new agent will ask you to be their mentor.” Sam McKaig is a marketing and brand consultant, head of the Advertising Division at Hollywood Film And Media, and director of marketing for a high-end Santa Barbara real estate team. Email Sam McKaig.