What differentiates a rookie from a top-notch, seasoned pro, you ask? Well, it starts with an in-depth knowledge of the market and a knack for accurately gauging property values. Here’s how you can hone that skill and set yourself up for long-term success.

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(This is an excerpt from the RealEstateCoach.com Online New Agent Sales Training published with permission from the author.) 

A key point differentiating top-producers from other agents is their ability to accurately price properties without seeing the comparable sales. Whether you’re a new agent just starting out or an experienced agent moving into a different market, accurately gauging property values is pivotal to your success. 

Have you ever met an agent who knows the history of almost every home in their market area, what improvements have been done to each property and even how the sun impacts the light in the home during various parts of the day?

That level of expertise almost always goes hand in hand with mega-production. It’s also a primary reason these agents are hired over less knowledgeable agents.

Client expectations

Regardless of your experience level, sellers expect their agent to accurately price their property and defend the property’s sales price if the appraisal comes in low. Listing and selling agents are also expected to know:

  • The price range for entry-level, single-family homes and condos.
  • The cost of a typical three-bedroom, two-bath home plus how much additional bedrooms, baths and other amenities add to the basic price.
  • How much it costs to live in the best school district in the area.
  • The average price ranges within various subdivisions, including price points for new homes versus resales in the same subdivision.  
  • The best-priced properties in each area.
  • The benefits and drawbacks of living in various parts of a given market. 

How to learn the inventory in only 90 days

If you haven’t yet mastered the inventory in a given area, here are the steps to follow: 

  • First and foremost, see as many properties in person as possible.
  • When you walk into a property for the first time, determine where you would price it without looking at the comparable sales first. Jot the number down. When the property sells, see how close your estimate was to the final selling price.
  • To learn the resale market, visit various subdivisions in person to learn the prices and characteristics of each area. 
  • For every new listing that comes on the market in your service area, view all the photos, 360 virtual tours and videos of the property. Take notes on the most important differentiating features for each property.
  • For each area where you specialize, track information about the lifestyle, including parks, recreational areas, shopping, restaurants, commute times to various locations, etc.
  • If there are new homes in your service area, learn the builders, their reputation, the quality of the products it builds and the price ranges it offers. Other agents who have listed or sold resales in new subdivisions can also be an excellent resource.   
  • Learn how to spot the age and characteristics of older homes in your area. For example, the image on the left illustrates a house constructed during the Victorian era (usually between 1860 and 1900). The shower photo illustrates an original art deco bathroom with the characteristic tile that was often used in the 1930s.

Learn how to recognize ‘red flags’

Part of knowing the inventory is being able to identify “red flags” that may pose environmental and other types of hazards, oftentimes based on when the house was constructed. Some common examples where there can be issues include:

  • Spots on the ceiling or anywhere else in the property.
  • Lead-based paint which is common in homes built before 1978. The older the house is, the more likely it is to have lead-based paint.
  • Wood siding and trim.
  • Mold.
  • Dry rot and efflorescence (moisture bubbling up through the stucco causing it to flake off) as illustrated in the two adjoining photos below.

Caveat: Although it’s important to recognize red flags, never diagnose them. For example, the spot on the ceiling may be due to a roof leak, but it could also be due to a beehive in the attic. Instead, when you do spot something that may be an issue, advise your clients to hire a contractor or other expert who can diagnose the cause of the problem. 

Apps to use while you’re learning the inventory 

For new agents and experienced agents learning a new market area, the question is how to quickly estimate prices. You can certainly use your MLS mobile tools, realtor.com or Zillow, but I find the most convenient tool is HomeSnap.

With HomeSnap, there’s no need to even enter the property address. Merely snap a picture of the property, and the app provides you with a price, school information, past photos from prior listings as well as comparable sales. 

It’s exceptionally handy when you’re showing a property and your clients want to know the price of a property that is not currently listed. (Please note HomeSnap has a free consumer app as well.) 

How and where to track the data 

You could use Google Docs to track your notes on various homes, builders and subdivisions, but I prefer Evernote for the ease of searchability and the ability to quickly identify data stored over long periods of time. 

The Evernote web clipper tool (use Chrome to access this feature), allows you to clip photos, articles and screenshots with a single click of the “elephant” in your Chrome search bar. 

The secret to using Evernote is in the tagging and creating a digital “notebook” for each area you serve or type of property (lakefront properties, high-rise condos). 

To illustrate how this works, you can tag a new listing with the date it came on the market, date sold, list price, sales price, amenities, subdivision, builder, etc. You can also load in any pictures or other relevant data. 

The next time you have a listing lead in this location, you can bring up all the relevant comparable sales plus any history, pictures, 360 tours or other data you loaded into Evernote. 

You can also use Evernote to create digital notebooks based on the subdivisions, ZIP codes, streets, property types and price points you serve. Rather than having to memorize data about the various properties, you have it at your fingertips on Evernote. More importantly, it’s searchable. 

Best of all, having all this digital data at your fingertips makes you appear as an expert in the eyes of your client, especially during listing appointments where you show the sellers the pictures, videos and data that back up your pricing.  

Where to begin? 

The secret to learning the inventory is to choose one subdivision, farm, price range or type of property where you want to specialize in. For new agents, it may be where you live currently. Once you master that area, expand into one or two other areas at the most. 

If you diligently use this approach for 90 days, you’ll soon be able to compete with even the most experienced agent in terms of their knowledge of the inventory. You will also be laying the foundation for long-term success.

Bernice Ross, President and CEO of BrokerageUP and RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, author and trainer with over 1,000 published articles. Learn about her broker/manager training programs designed for women, by women, at BrokerageUp.com and her new agent sales training at RealEstateCoach.com/newagent.

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