Whats it like to be an agent?
Being an agent is on one hand the best job in the world, and on other other hand a very challenging job. The best part of the job is getting to help people into their first home, or trade up from a starter home to their next adventure. It’s gratifying to help people move on to the next stage of their life, and every home is a different story with a different set of challenges. Being a part of someone’s biggest purchase is a responsibility we don’t take lightly, and we find it fun to to look at each home and imagine what it might be like with different tile, less walls, or some other improvements. With each home purchase comes the possibility of a new life; more time with family because of a better commute, more space, access to a new hiking trail, new coffee shops, and a new (literal and figurative) outlook on the world.
Being an agent is a multi-faceted job in that you have to know quite a bit about computers, social media, the local law and recent policy changes, zoning, construction, investment analysis, and of course a healthy dose of gumption for those times when you need your agent to paint, haul junk, drive across town, make keys last minute, or de-escalate a high-emotion situation.
The reality is that much of an agent’s time is spent prospecting or looking for business, and it’s quite competitive with about 20 agents per house for sale on the market. It’s a job that has changed drastically with the advent of computers, AI-based home valuations, hundreds of kinds of loans available, and very very complex lending guidelines. Even fraud around the home buying industry is complex and we as agents have to be constantly educating ourselves about ways to protect buyers.
Still, when it comes down to it, the hard skills like social media and law are important — but it’s the soft skills like getting to know our buyers, negotiation, and even imagination that separate the good agents from the not-as-good.
A survey from Century 21 shows that a majority of homebuyers and sellers say they value and confide in their agents more than a therapist, and know them better than their own neighbors.
What are the qualities of a good agent?
Some people say that a good agent is someone that is doing X millions of $ a year in business. While it can be true that these agents that are doing lots of business are good at their job, the only thing that volume implies is that the agent in question has a good system for getting business. That may be referrals, paid advertising, or a close relationship with a builder. For us, sales volume is less of a metric. What matters to us is how much time, attention and empathy for an individual client’s needs an agent has.
In our opinion, a good agent should:
- Respond to emails, texts, phone calls etc very quickly. For us, that’s under one hour from 8am to 10pm, and on weekends.
- Work for a firm where they can get support and recommendations. In any given transaction, you might need a lawyer, a couple of second opinions, a handy-person or two, in addition to a good lender, title, escrow, and of course a broker. They say it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes one to convey a home.
- A good agent should genuinely listen to what your needs are. My first agent insisted that I should want more bathrooms in a home than I knew I needed. I was willing to listen, but they weren’t on-board with what was important to me. A good agent should understand your commute, your deal breakers, your style, and they should let you drive the process forward free of an pressure.
- A agent should have knowledge of the local market. While a Seattle agent is legally able to sell a home in Spokane or Vancouver, WA, they are going to be missing some of the nuances of that market if they haven’t closed a transaction there before. While the hyper-local neighborhood agent is a somewhat antiquated idea, an agent is best suited to their metro area.
- You should trust them. Some self-promotion and “fluffing” should be expected in any sales industry, however you should get a good vibe from them.
- Value adds. Do they have a moving van? Will they help you rent out the property if you need? Can they assist you with VA loans or first-time buyer credits?
- They should work with professional photographers. In the era of the internet, this is the most important differentiator you can have.
What are the qualities of a bad agent?
I’ve been very luck to work with some very diligent, conscientious agents in my career, both across the table from them, and as a client in some transactions. However, I have heard some horror stories (mostly on Reddit) of clients with complaints ranging from the mild to the downright unbelievable.
- Slow phone call / email responses.
- Trying to act competent in areas they aren’t, or B.S-ing their way through questions. No person can know everything about law, construction, finances, etc. Every property sale will have some items where the agent needs to go out and research, get a referral, or speak to a permitting office, the homeowner or a managing broker. The ability to be open about what you do and do not have expertise in is an essential component of a good agent.
- Pressure. A good agent will never pressure you. They may have some cause to let you know when a matter is of urgency, or a property is in very very high demand, but they should never make you feel uncomfortable.
- Glossing over or hand-waving. Agents should take their time and make sure you understand each and every element of the process and what liabilities and responsibilities you have.
- Online reviews are telling, but be sure to give them slack if they work in divorce, probate, or other legally sticky areas.
Is it good to work with friends?
The biggest advantage of working with friends is this: If you engage a friend to be your broker, they are going to take care of you like family. They will make sure that nothing happens that will endanger your friendship. If you do a random internet search, and choose a random person to work with, they will come and go without regard to whether you will be happy with your purchase in 3-5 years. If you use a friend, they are going to make sure you are happy and have thought through every aspect. We highly recommend working with friends.
What’s the value in a referral?
If someone had a good experience with a broker, that says a lot. While 99% of buyers say that their agent added value to their transaction, only 84% said that they plan on using the same agent for their future transactions. Asking your friends for a referral is probably the best way to find someone who would work for your needs.
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