Agent Selection Myths
Real estate is full of misconceptions, misperceptions and agent selection myths. When it comes time to select the agent to represent you in the next purchase or sale in Northville, Novi, Plymouth, Canton, Livonia, Ann Arbor, Birmingham, West Bloomfield or Farmington Hills, make sure you take these myths into consideration…
Myth: A close friend or relative is a good choice as a real estate agent.
Remember your best friend in college? Did that person turn out to be the right roommate when you rented your first apartment? Perhaps not.
Likewise a close friend or relative could be a disastrous choice as a real estate agent when you list your home for sale. The problem with hiring a personal associate is that he or she may lack objectivity, or fear telling you the truth about your place, says Susan Marshall, a broker-associate for Coldwell Banker.
“What you really need is an impartial person who will keep his emotions out of the deal,” Marshall says. She tells of a condo-apartment deal that “went sideways” because the owner hired his cousin to shepherd the sale. The condo had long been occupied by a tenant. When the owner decided to sell, he promised his tenant to find an equivalent rental unit for him and subsidize his move, in exchange for leaving the place before his lease expired.
Along came a single mother, with a young daughter in tow, who became enamored of the condo, which overlooked a large pool. She agreed to buy the place and obtained mortgage approval for its purchase.
Just days before the deal was too close, however, the tenant declared he would not move because the condo owner hadn’t bothered to locate another rental home for him. The problem surfaced late in the process because the listing agent – the owner’s cousin – had been too fearful of asking the seller direct questions on the matter.
“He was intimidated because it was a family transaction. He didn’t want to strain relationship with his cousin,” says Marshall, who represented the single mother in the transaction. Not only did this snafu cause the condo sale to be canceled, but all those involved in the situation went away frustrated and sore.
“Everyone wasted a lot of time, and the tenant was irate,” Marshall remembers. To be sure, not every deal involving a relative or friend is scotched. But even where such deals reach a successful conclusion, they can tarnish the relationship between the agent and his close associate – just as college roommates can be left with bitter memories and an impaired friendship.
In theory, a dear friend or relative would be the ideal person to list your home since he or she has your best interests at heart. But this notion is a myth, says Darlene Schroeder, of Prudential Realty, who has sold homes for 20 years.
Myth: An agent with lots of assistants is always a superior agent.
Since the early 1990s, real estate agents have been hiring an increasing number of assistants as a way to broaden the reach of their business. The concept is simple: The more they have, the more clients they can handle. Of course, delegation is a sound management principal. But real estate specialists say that some in their field are delegating too many of their basic functions. And that could mean that seller doesn’t always get the expert help he needs.
“The only thing one agent has over another is the quality of his or her service,” Schroeder stresses. There’s no reason personal assistants can’t handle routine paperwork, phone calls and errands. Many are capable of doing still more. But do you truly want a relative novice handling the sensitive final negotiations over the price of your home?
Probably not, Schroeder says. Chances are the agent you hired is the most effective person on her team to bargain on your behalf. And forthright bargaining may be vital to the best possible outcome. “It’s nice to be a lamb, but sometimes you have to be a lion when you’re doing a transaction for your client.” she says.
In addition, you want your listing agent to personally “put out fires,” should they happen to flare during your transaction, says James M. Banger, a broker-associate for Century 21. He recalls, for instance, how he once averted a crisis by intervening after a roofer – who was doing some pre-sale repairs on a property he had listed – insulted the buyer-to-be. Had he not intervened to get an apology from the roofer, the deal could have died.
“When the buyer is upset, you have to handle that carefully,” Banger says.
Myth: A big money-maker is always a good agent to select.
Every realty office has “top producers” – those who consistently lead their offices in commissions. Some are agents who can manage many listings and still provide excellent service to everyone on their roster by working long hours with great zeal and efficiency, Banger says.
On the other hand, some top producers are merely playing “a direct mail game,” in Banger’s words. Rather than centering their business on referrals from satisfied clients, they swamp neighborhoods with advertising and build a customer base through the law of large numbers, he says.
To be sure, the Postal Service is a fine way to communicate with potential customers. But where an occasional top producer falls short is in spending virtually all his time on direct mail campaigns, giving scant attention to the legitimate need of current clients to achieve the best results on the sale of their home.
Myth: It’s always smart to hire a neighborhood agent.
By selling within a defined piece of turf, an agent is better able to recommend the right price for property, show the property quickly and work with local lenders. She’s also more able to market a property by communicating with other agents who may be scouring the area on behalf of buyers. That’s because she’s known and trusted by other agents in the area.
Yet it’s not always wise to carry this “know-thy-turf” commandment to extremes. The agent who dominates your neighborhood enclave may not be the best possible choice within a 10-mile radius merely because she has the most signs up in your immediate neighborhood, cautions Banger of Century 21. Another agent may provide better service and a higher level of negotiating skill. “Don’t always pick ‘Numero Uno’ from the neighborhood”, he advises.