About a week ago, I was driving in Central Phoenix and I saw a Times Square-sized billboard of a happy, smiling Realtor who’s a well known name in the Valley. Next to his portrait, in which he’s fielding an obviously mission-critical phone call with a clipboard tucked under his arm, and yet still managing to give a thumbs-up and toothy-grin for the camera, was a simple phrase:
“What’s your home worth? Call Ted (not his real name) NOW to find out!”
I dismissed the ad and continued my commute.
About 4 blocks later, while stopped at a red light, a bus drove by with a smaller version of the same advertisement plastered on the back.
A few blocks later and there he is, grinning at me from a bus stop poster. Wow. Deja vu.
At this point, I found myself wondering if maybe I was missing the boat on the commuter market and drivers’ apparent fascination with property values. I mean, maybe ramping up my social media visibility was not the right strategy at this time after all.
“Hmmm…,” I thought, “perhaps I should enlist the Ron Paul Revolutionaries to engage in a poster-hanging, sign-pounding, sticker-stickering grassroots campaign to blanket the public streets and sign posts with my brand.”
Commuters would be pummeled on every corner with my messaging, stickers plastered over signs –
“STOP (wondering what your home is worth and call Justin!)” and
“YIELD (to the best comps methodology in the business and call Justin!)” and
“NO U-TURNS (Justin will tell you what you’re home is worth so you can make all the right turns! So call Justin!)”
“ONE WAY (To know what your home is worth — CALL JUSTIN!)”
After a few bizarre Willy-Wonka-esque moments, I realized that, despite commuters’ apparent uncontainable excitement about property values, my blitzkrieg campaign was unlikely to yield sufficient ROI to cover the fines that would be levied against me for defacing public property. I had hit a dead end, so to speak.
Having ruled out vandalism as a marketing strategy, my thoughts shifted away from how to reach an audience of perspective home sellers to the concept of VALUE. Specifically, what do Arizona home sellers want from their Realtor?
Marketing 101 teaches us that one’s marketing message should convey some notion of value to the target audience. Since the majority of Realtor marketing to sellers promotes helping them put a price on their home, one might conclude that home sellers look to their agents primarily for this purpose.
Now, I’m the first to admit that running comps the right way takes experience and a sound methodology. However, I’d argue that ranking it as the number one service of value from your Realtor is like choosing a doctor because they have an accurate scale at their office. (Not that we can choose our doctors anymore.) Yes, knowing and tracking our weight is one factor in understanding our health, but we usually have a rough idea of our weight so a scale that’s a couple of pounds off isn’t going to have much of a difference on our overall experience.
When you visit your doctor, issues like timeliness, education, experience, “bedside manner”, office resources, staff support, and other issues have a much greater impact on the overall quality of care.
The same holds true with Realtors. Are comps important? Of course! But I’ve never met a seller yet who didn’t have at least a “Zillow-rough” idea of what their property was worth. If an agent suggests a value that differs grossly from their own opinion, they’ll know something is wrong. They look to me to help them zero in on the right number that maximizes their sales price because every dollar counts.
However, there are several other facets of the client-agent relationship that can have a greater impact on the overall success or failure of the experience. This is where not all agents are created equally!
Consider a short list of factors that directly affect what I’ll refer to as the “sales experience.” That is to say, the bundle of qualities that include sales price, transaction-related hassle, and potential liability.
Ways Realtors can add value beyond comps analysis:
- Home staging (proactive recommendations to help your property show as well as it can)
- Marketing strategy (how to position the property to target the right buyer)
- Advertising (outlets and reach)
- Quality and completeness of photos, descriptions, measurements
- Ongoing adjustments (based on showing feedback, sales activity updates)
- Accessibility of your agent (Are they there when you need them? Do they return your calls?)
- Negotiating skills of your agent (contract terms, repairs)
- Knowledge of contracts, including when and how to modify to best protect your interests
- Risk management to minimize your present and future liability (disclosures, repairs, insurance, etc)
- Communication “flow” with your agent (current steps, next steps – do you know them?)
- Post-sales support (does your agent disappear after the sale?)
The way these issues are handled can have a much greater impact on the sales experience, including the sales price, than a set of comps that’s a few thousand dollars off target.
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to gauge in advance how an agent will address these issues.
To find the right agent, whether you’re looking to purchase or sell a property, I recommend the following steps:
- Ask your family, friends, co-workers for recommendations. Gather a short list of 3 – 5 names.
- Visit their websites and search around the Internet to get a feel for their online presence and candid Internet reviews.
- Schedule in-person interviews with those who “make the cut.” Your goal is to learn about the agents’ services and philosophy.
- Ask for references from each agent and call them! Have questions prepared that will give you insight on issues that are important to you.
- Once you find the agent who you feel offers the best mix of services and personality fit, get a commitment in writing of what they promised during your interview(s) so you can hold them accountable.
- You should also insist that the Listing Agreement contain verbiage that allows you to sever the Agreement if the Realtor fails to deliver on what they promised to you.
The concept of “value” in a real estate agent is much easier to appreciate after you’ve had a positive or negative experience. With some due diligence up front, you’ll increase your chances of finding a Realtor that brings maximum value to the table, far beyond a good Comparative Market Analysis.