How to Keep a Real Estate Agent Honest

Listening to a real estate sales pitch makes people reach for poison. Agents droning on about how wonderful they are, how they’re number one, how their company is the best in Atlanta… This is how agents are trained; to use scripts, use talking points and continue to hammer things that however idiotic, are intended to impress a potential client. Many are instructed to close the deal right then; push a contract under the client’s nose while they’re in this dazed, mind numb state.real estate bobblehead 2

What if buyers and sellers turned the tables? What if they forced an agent to brief them off hand, without the use of scripts and props? What if they mandated evidence of everything an agent claimed? The answer to that “what if” is that everyone – clients and the real estate industry – would be much better off.

Instead of buyers and sellers being held captive to agent nonsense, turn the tables using these simple tactics. As soon as an agent sits down to start the pitch, stop them. Tell them that you have specific questions you’d first like to cover. This immediately tests their ability to react to change; clients will able to quickly separate the true professional from the talking point bobble head. And they will save themselves the horror of have to be represented by and deal with said bobble head.

  • Prepare a list of specific questions for the agent prior to the meeting. Include many “what if” scenarios – think of what can go wrong and ask those questions. Appraisal issues, closing delays, inspection issues, title issues, mortgage issues…what happens when it hits the fan?
  • Request a list of all transactions PERSONALLY completed by the agent. Many will push the company – do not fall for that. Do not fall for the “team” nonsense either. Find out how many deals this agent has personally handled.
  • Ask for a resume, evidence of all “designations” they claim and a verify everything. Most agents ARE NOT FULL TIME. This is not a part time business and that will be demonstrated when trouble hits. Verify volume of work completed and employment history.
  • Ask why they left past offices and why they work where they are now. As about their office staff, about their managing broker and who supervises them. Are there reviews, checks and balances?
  • Under no circumstances sign any agreements right away. If that is pushed, ask the agent why they would assume that further research wouldn’t be prudent.
  • Above all – treat this as business. This is a job interview and a major decision that will have financial, emotional and other ramifications.

Get the agent off script immediately. Make them put everything away & ask very pointed, unexpected questions and see how they respond.

Post interview:

  • Verify references. Actually call past clients – many of them and ask for an honest opinion. Ask if the agent is savvy, technologically advanced, responsive and able to handle stress.
  • Try to contact the agent as a potential client. How long does it take to get an answer? Check via text, email and phone. Do they return calls the next day? Next week? You can get a candid view of how an agent works by doing this.
  • Research other listings they have, how are they marketed?
  • Is the agent technologically sound? Do they have a custom and active website or a canned static site with nothing but agent pabulum? Are the active on Zillow and Trulia? Are they blogging and offering opinions and advice? Are they engaged with the market?

It is no secret that real estate agents are not well regarded by the public. It’s also no secret that the requirements to obtain and maintain a license are minimal. Apprenticeship requirements like that for appraisers would help but until the public demands more, nothing will change. Clients will not properly scrutinize agents, select them for the wrong reasons and then complain. Taking the approach above allows clients to properly qualify and select an agent in as little as ten minutes.  In this business, boring is good – the public’s objective should be working with an agent that makes it look like they have the easiest job around. It takes an incredible amount of work to make this business look boring.

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