In the June issue of Men’s Health magazine, I came across an article that got me fired up. In a short article called “Realty Check,” an anonymous Broker offers the “real deal on real estate.” Some of the info was accurate, but many of the statements were off-base generalizations that hardly classify as the “real deal.”
The article inspired me to write a call-and-response post based on my own experience selling real estate here in Mt. Shasta, CA. The headers below are quoted from the magazine (They Say), along with a summary of their version, followed by my response (I Say).
Ready for the real Real Deal? Here are 6 insider tips to know when working with Realtors®.
They Say: Many Agents are Clueless
Referencing a low barrier to entry, the author states he “knows Realtors who got their license via online courses they bought on Groupon.” The takeaway is that, when choosing an agent, word-of-mouth referrals trump website reviews because “shifty agents can have their friends write fake reviews.”
I SAY: First off, is Groupon still a thing? Secondly, yes, getting your real estate license is not on par with getting a doctorate. However, the license is only a gateway to where the real education begins: in the field. And, just like ANY job, if you’re “clueless” in the field, you’re not going to last long in this career.
Choosing the right Realtor should be treated with the same focused diligence as hiring a new employee, finding a good job, or seeking a nanny. If the Realtor you interview seems clueless, keep looking, there are plenty of excellent agents who would love to help you achieve your real estate goals. It’s your job to find them.
They Say: There’s No Golden Month
The author acknowledges that buyers and sellers are more active during the warmer months, before stating that “when Realtors use that old line, ‘now is a great time to buy or sell,’ it’s just to hurry you along.”
I SAY: True, some agents really put the “sales” in salesperson, and are overly reliant on scripts, techniques, and hard sell tactics. Other agents actually communicate with their clients as if they’re, you know, intelligent humans. As for golden months, there is typically more activity during some months than others, and there ARE seasonal cycles to adhere to.
A good real estate agent is there to educate and advise the client. When I tell clients that “this house probably won’t last long,” it’s not to get them to hurry up so I get paid quicker. It’s to let them know that they’re buying in a hot market, inventory is moving, and if they’re serious, they need to act fast—regardless of what month it is.
They Say: It’s More Than The House
Stating that many buyers overvalue school districts, the author suggests investigating other future additions to the neighborhood, such as a train station or upscale supermarket. Those additions would positively affect property values as opposed to, say, the addition of a new landfill or prison.
I SAY: Actually, I can’t argue with this point. Current and future property values should always be taken into consideration when purchasing real estate.
They Say: Realtors Will Waste Your Time
The author states that Realtors will show you homes you can’t afford in order to push your budget boundaries, and show you “garbage houses” right before a “beautiful one” so the nice one looks more tempting.
I SAY: Seriously? This is the point that got me really steamed! First off, it’s way more common for unqualified looky-loos and noncommittal Sellers to waste Realtors’ time than the other way around. Secondly, the author makes all Realtors sound like shifty tricksters operating from a 1950s instruction manual called Sleazy Sales 101.
In the current Mt. Shasta real estate market, many buyers hope to get something in the low $200k range. Yet there is limited inventory at that price point. It’s important for them to see the few affordable options, as well as the higher-priced properties so they get a better understanding of market value. Then, using their budget—and their brains—they can decide if they need to increase their budget, or look in a more affordable area.
As for the garbage-house-then-beautiful-house scenario, that’s just ridiculous. That’s not to say that a little “presentation theatre” doesn’t come into play sometimes, but each house is what it is. Buyers respond to what they like, or not, regardless of the order you show the houses in.
They Say: Commission Is Negotiable
The author suggests Sellers can talk an agent into working for a 5% commission instead of the standard 6%. How? “By telling the agent you’re equipped to sell your own house (FSBO), or that your friend had an agent who helped him with a similar transaction at a lower cost.”
I SAY: Bravo, author, sounds like you’ve been reading Basic Negotiating for Dummies. He’s right about one thing, while 6% commissions are standard, they are not mandated by the National Association of Realtors. Many agents and brokers in our area are quick to drop their commission to 5% or less in order to secure the listing.
This raises a couple issues: Commissions are split between Listing Agents and Selling Agents, then are divided up more through Brokers fees, Desk fees, and good ol’ Uncle Sam. Therefore, Selling Agents aren’t quite as enthusiastic about bringing Buyers to a bargain-rate listing knowing they’re working for a cut of a cut of a cut of a reduced commission.
Plus, just as the negotiating genius above used it against you, so will future clients who catch wind that you’ve charged previous clients 5%, and you’re trying to charge them 6%.
Finally, once you get a reputation for working at a bargain, it’s very hard to dig yourself out of that hole. It’s not just a financial issue, it’s also a branding issue: are you a Cadillac or a Kia? Set your price accordingly and stick with it.
They Say: Staging a Home Isn’t Hard
The author’s version of staging is patching holes, scrubbing stains, painting and washing windows. He also suggests that “champagne and cookies can’t hurt either.”
I SAY: The word “staging” usually conjurs images of filling the house with expensive furniture on the Seller’s dime. No wonder people who aren’t on Million Dollar Listing shy away from this. However, the author’s version of staging sounds more to me like a good spring cleaning. In that case, it may be best to call it “preparing the home for a sale,” and work with the Seller to create a to-do list.
As for champagne and cookies, hey, at least I agree with this guy on SOMETHING. Cheers!
Let’s face it, when it comes to public perception, Realtors don’t have the best reputation in the world. In fact, it’s kinda like shopping for organic apples at the farmer’s market: you might have to pick through a few rotten ones to find ones that aren’t.
The good news is that there are more than enough Realtors out there to choose from. And it’s up to you, dear Buyers and Sellers, to do the work necessary to find one who resonates with you.
[Article quoted: “Realty Check,” Pg. 42, Men’s Health magazine, June 2017. Copyright © 2017 Rodale Inc.]
Nikolas Allen is a Realtor® with J. Harris & Associates Real Estate in Mt. Shasta, California. He helps people through the complex process of buying and selling their homes. For more real estate news and info, follow him on Twitter @nikolas_allen and Instagram @nikolas_allen.