Sourced from various real estate pros all over the country, this recurring column features stories of what agents are seeing on the front lines and what others can draw from those experiences.
There is something a new agent really needs that some real estate companies don’t provide. Sure, they offer “onboarding” programs and classes that teach agents how to market themselves and the company. Sometimes new agents are even taught how to write a purchase agreement and how to use various software provided by the real estate company.
During my first weekend as a licensed real estate agent, I attended an open house with an experienced agent so I could learn how to do it. My broker helped me through my first purchase agreement. As I recall, it took me two hours to write it.
All to say, what new agents really need is experience. Since they don’t have it, the next best thing is supervision and help from someone with experience.
The importance of supervision
Being available to answer questions isn’t enough. New agents don’t know what they don’t know, and they often fail to ask the right questions at the right time. Brokers need to ask new agents who they’re working with and what they’re doing. Brokers can actively supervise rather than wait for questions.
Most real estate transactions offer some teachable moments that agents can gain experience from. They can build on that experience and share it with their clients.
I can usually spot a new agent right away. It’s pretty easy to look the agent up in our MLS and confirm my suspicion. Agents rarely, if ever, admit that they’re new.
Last week, I got an offer from a new agent who admitted she had only been licensed for a few months. I did everything I could to help her, which wasn’t easy because she wasn’t allowed to work on real estate at her day job. If her broker had looked at the offer before it was sent to me, some changes could’ve been made to make it more competitive.
Real estate agents usually don’t let their clients know that they’re new. People who want to work with a real estate agent are given all kinds of advice about what to ask the agent, but they rarely ask if the agent has ever sold a house.
My first clients never asked, and I never volunteered that information. At the time, I thought I did a great job with those early clients. As I look back, I can see some things I could have done better.
Clarifying legal obligations
As a new agent, I was taught to tell clients that what I lacked in experience I could make up for with all the time I could spend on their purchase or sale. Like most new agents, I wasn’t busy with clients. Time is no substitute for actual experience, especially when new agents will charge the same as agents with experience.
A couple of years ago, I helped some clients buy a house. Some unexpected issues came up. As I negotiated with the listing agent, it became obvious to me that she was new. I later learned that the seller was related to the agent, which the agent had a legal obligation to disclose.
The agent’s aunt was the seller and wanted to help the agent out by giving her some business. At the closing, the aunt told me that they never could have made it through the transaction without my help. I was happy to help, but I think the other broker had an obligation to help the agent through what was her second transaction during her first year as a licensee.
I once got a phone call from a homebuyer who lost out on a house she really wanted. She had fired her agent and was looking for a new one. There were four other offers on the house. The buyer blamed the agent, who had less that six months’ experience.
The buyer didn’t know that, by asking for seller concessions, she was offering less than the asking price. Offers that are below the asking price rarely win in multiple-offer situations on newly listed, affordable houses.
I explained the math to her. She understood that her offer was not a full-priced offer — it was $5,000 less than the asking price after the seller paid closing costs. She told me she thought she had asked her agent all the right questions.
In reality, a young, first-time homebuyer making her first offer can’t possibly ask all the right questions. First-time homebuyers are like new real estate agents in that they don’t know what they don’t know. That’s why they need us.
Experienced agents explain the homebuying process to buyers. They can anticipate what might go wrong in a multiple-offer scenario. Working in real estate full-time also helps agents stay on top of market trends.
With some supervision, new agents can learn on the job and provide competent service to their clients at the same time. Brokers should require new agents to discuss strategies for helping a buyer make a competitive offer.
Brokers are responsible for the actions of their agents. We all look bad when a consumer gets hurt because of an agent’s lack of experience. Most brokers have experience — why aren’t they sharing that with new agents?
Please supervise your new agents, and help them until they have enough experience to help their clients. If that seems like too much work, bring on more experienced agents, and be available to help them when they need some advice.