When it comes to recommending housing, the choices for new agents can be overwhelming.
Where should the agent begin? After 20 years selling residential real estate, I have learned that, no matter how little experience any agent has, the agent knows more than the buyer and has to take the lead.
Yes, experience counts, but some homework on the part of the new agent is invaluable. Your buyer and you, as their agent, are a team. You owe them not only courtesy and assistance, but also the advantage of your thoughtful input.
1. Put yourself out there
Yes, all agent searches begin online, but getting out and viewing listings, attending open houses, previewing listings, going to new developments and most importantly talking to everyone you see will make a new agent an expert in a certain area or market. Ask everyone lots of questions. Remember the old adage, “There is no such thing as a stupid question.”
2. Communicate with your buyers
Buying a home is emotional. Pay attention to your buyers’ emotions, but be practical as well. Ask your buyers to communicate clearly what is essential, and do help them with a “wish list.”
Encourage them to be willing to compromise and continue to look at properties when they feel like they cannot take another step.
3. Don’t let TV fool you
If only real estate sales were as simple and painless as the typical television portrayal of a residential transaction!
Do yourself a favor, and put down the remote control. Step away from the television. Real estate TV programs will inspire envy and foster bitterness in new agents. Be sure to encourage your buyers to look at real estate TV with a huge grain of salt.
These programs are designed to build ratings and occasionally inspire you as an agent to pick yourself up after defeat and keep going. However, you need to retain a sense of perspective: In real life, buyers will not decide among three properties, obtain a contract, secure financing, then close and hoist flutes of champagne all within 30 minutes!
After you have attended your 35th open house with your buyer, been outbid for what seems like the 100th time and tasted endless defeat, you might find the experience of seeing happy couples buy a home in 30 minutes annoying. Don’t pay attention to that fantasy — keep going and stay focused!
4. Attend lots of open houses
As a new agent, attend open houses with fierceness and devotion. Four to six open houses on a Sunday is a given and on the light side. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
5. Stay within your buyer’s price range (almost)
Be sure to look at properties that are just above your buyer’s price range. This will give your buyers hope and a sense of the possibilities. You will be helping buyers working toward their goal, and they will see how they could improve their future properties.
To view only “fixer-uppers” can be depressing after the 15th sad property. It’s good to see the “after” as well as the before.
Don’t go overboard though: If your buyer is looking for a studio apartment, don’t look at penthouses.
6. Take notes
If you are visual, take videos and pictures — but ask first. Your client expects you to be organized. If you are more prone to take notes, write the address and your thoughts in a notebook.
Do include the price and pros and cons. Houses go on and off the market, they are relisted with new prices and new agents. Your notes will prevent you from returning to a property you already saw.
Agents change, house colors change, interiors change, but not addresses. Write everything down. You’ll be glad you did. Remember, buyers are hiring you to supply and keep track of information. What is worse than taking the same buyer to see something you have already seen? It will not build confidence on the part of your buyer. But it happens.
7. Consult online sources
Go online and look at the local Chamber of Commerce and their neighborhood ratings. This will include walkability score, school ratings and crime statistics as well as the income level, age groups and types of households.
8. Speak to the locals
It might take courage and might be well beyond any agent’s comfort level, whether new or seasoned, but speak to the neighbors, go to local playgrounds, houses of worship, farmers markets, street fairs, bars and parks.
As a new agent you will spend quite a bit of time speaking to strangers; it is important to develop this skill. There has to be someone who looks approachable. Even if you cannot approach strangers, open your eyes and observe.
9. Explore the neighborhood
Shop in the local stores, eat at the local restaurant and diners; these will be your buyers’ hangouts if they move to this area. I have sold to buyers who can only live in an area that has a Starbucks or a Banana Republic within two blocks of their front door.
Scope out the local retail, restaurants and entertainment. It’s also important for you, as your buyer’s agent, to know about local issues including water quality, pollution, noise, flight patterns, etc.
Keep up with the local news, and stay current on issues such as road repair, local politics, flood plains, local politicians and their agenda for an area. That way, you can keep your buyers informed in their purchase decisions.
One other way of keeping up with neighborhood chatter on these issues is to join online email neighborhood groups.
10. Show all facets of the property
Be sure to show the property at different times of the day, different days of the week and even different seasons and holidays if possible.
Is the area where you are showing a “destination” during holidays for busloads of tourists to view the local holiday decor? Will this be a problem for your buyers, or will they find it exciting? Note: This might affect their resale value.
If you only show a house during the day, you might be amazed at how different it looks after dark. Are streetlights sufficient? Can you see street signs easily, or are they concealed by trees?
11. Don’t let the weather slow you down
Don’t let weather deter you from looking at houses. Winter storms will inform you about how the snow removal works. Rainy season will teach you about leaks and flooding.
12. Read up
Read everything you can find about real estate. Look at the local real estate guides. Read other agents’ descriptions, scrutinize their listing photos. Do the agents have tag lines or mottos or slogans? Are they corny or thought-provoking and clever?
Gerard Splendore is a licensed associate real estate broker with Warburg Realty in New York. Connect with him on LinkedIn.