Posts Tagged ‘Real estate agents’
Friday, February 10th, 2017
Real estate agents wear many hats – from negotiator to chauffer to therapist, and that’s just for starters. A real estate agent often must take clients by the hand and walk them through the home search or listing process, as well as the subsequent purchase or sale transaction. But there is one thing that agents need to keep in mind during these busy and sometimes emotional times – responsibility for clients.
Responsibility for one’s clients as it relates to agency comes in many forms – some are spelled out in the ethics code (such as the duty to disclose), and some come from law (such as anti-discrimination, personal injury, tort and criminal law). But many situations with clients fall into a gray area when it comes to responsibility. One of those most important is the responsibility to accompany clients when viewing a property. If an agent does not do so there could be legal ramifications, say for example if an injury or property damage occurs.
Here are some tips to use when showing property to keep you and your clients out of harm’s way and avoid potential legal action:
1. Never let clients visit a property alone. While this seems obvious to many of us, I have read stories of agents giving clients one day lockbox codes or passing along entry instructions. As the representative of your clients you need to understand that this action can land you in hot water – unless you have been authorized by the property owners in writing to allow your clients to enter on their own (and I still would never allow that). Let’s just say there are a handful of legal issues here – from trespassing to other issues of someone gets injured or breaks something, or leaves a door/window open which could allow a thief to access the property.
2. Make sure you stay with your clients as they tour a property. Again, if you allow your clients to wander off it could cause problems. If it is a large property you especially need to stick with your touring clients. Make sure you and they have access to all areas of the property. If your clients have small children and there are potential hazards (steep or dangerous areas or animals, for example), make sure your clients do not wander off alone without permission and without you at their side.
3. Ask the owner or listing agent if you are allowed to access areas about which you are unsure. If there is a part of the property that you are not sure about, ask the listing agent or owner if you have permission to explore there. For example, a guest home, separate structure or animal pen, or flowing water. Oftentimes a listing agent will specify whether such areas are able to be viewed, but if not don’t ever assume.
The bottom line is that if your clients are not in your presence while touring a property, they could end up creating problems or suffering injuries to themselves or their property. If they were being careless and wandering around without permission, they likely will not have rights to recover for injuries suffered. Make sure to establish this right off the bat in order to protect yourself and your clients.
Monday, November 28th, 2016
If you have been looking for a home recently you may realize that doing so has become tougher: there is less inventory out there and when a great home lists there are often multiple offers. So how does a buyer get ahead to secure a home when many others are in the same situation? Here are some tips.
Hire a great real estate agent. This is above all the number one way to find a home in a tough market. Not only can your agent give you advice about what price and terms may get you that house you love, but they are also locally connected, which can make all the difference in the world.
Here is an example – After losing out on a few multiple offer situations I found buyers a home through my connections with other local agents – one that had not gone on the MLS yet. In another situation, I notified buyers of a home that was about to come on the market (they lost out on purchasing my listing in the same neighborhood), and they got into contract prior to the home going on the MLS. Some say this is unfair for the other buyers out there as they never had a chance to see or bid on the home, but many real estate sales work this way. Those of us who work particular areas often stay in touch and know when there is a listing coming up. Having that on your side as you search for a home is priceless.
Be Paperwork Ready: There is no better advice than to be ready to make an offer. This means you need to be preapproved with a lender (the lender should have all your paperwork so s/he is ready to go once you write an offer, and you should have a preapproval letter). Have a copy of your latest bank or investment statement showing proof of funds for your downpayment, in order to submit with your offer. Your offer should be as strong as possible so speak with your agent to determine what needs to be in there and what may be left out in order to avoid a multiple offer situation.
Know what you want: Often this is difficult when one is focusing on multiple areas or neighborhoods, but if you really know those you prefer, including floorplans and other amenities, you will be able to act quickly to see the home and make and offer. Even if multiple offers do come in, being first to present can often be helpful. Start looking at areas and homes before you are ready to purchase – the more information you have the better and more prepared you will be when the time to buy is right.
All in all, buying a home in a low inventory market can be tough. With interest rates rising every day counts – if you can lock in a rate prior to another rate increase that is great – and it just means you need to be ready when that right home becomes available. Of all the above tips, having a great buyer’s agent is the best advice I can provide. Many people think they can find a home without an agent, but a good agent is worth her weight in gold when it comes to finding the right home.
Happy home shopping!
Tuesday, July 12th, 2016
Recently I was contacted by home sellers who wanted to talk to me about their home sale – they were in escrow with another agent and were very unhappy. There were some legal issues and the agent was non-responsive and not representing them to the best of her ability. They had no idea that they may be able to fire the agent, so I thought it was a good idea to again share this tidbit with all the sellers and potential sellers out there – and also for buyers.
If you are a seller who is unhappy with your real estate agent, you may have the right to cancel your contract in the state of California if the agent is not adequately representing you. There are a few things to keep in mind though, as you make your decision:
1. Contractual Breach or Valid reason – If your agent is not representing you to the best of his/her abilities, your first step should be to contact the broker. You need to explain your concerns and desire to cease working with the agent. If you cannot agree to a mutual cancellation, you may need to prove that the agent is not performing her/his contractual duties or doing their due diligence (does not call you, does not explain paperwork or provide details on the sales process, etc.) or provide some other valid reason to cancel. Brokers may want to try to resolve the issue first, or may want to personally step in to make sure you are well cared for during the remaining time the contract is in effect. Check over your contract to make sure you understand specific duties and can show they are not being done.
2. Mutual consent – this is an easy way to cancel a contract with a broker/agent – say your circumstances have changed and you no longer will be moving – most brokers will allow a cancellation at that point (no one wants to market a home that will not sell).
3. Legal termination – if you have tried everything above and the broker/agent will not consent to a cancellation, you may need to seek a legal remedy to cancel your contract. Check your contract to see if there is a legal remedy specified therein, like mediation and arbitration. If not, seek the guidance of a real estate attorney.
There are some other things you need to keep in mind when considering canceling a contract with your broker/agent:
1. Agent may be entitled to commission for prior showings: If a buyer came along while the contract was in place and they make an offer after it has been canceled, the agent may have a right to a commission. You need to check the language on the listing agreement and see how long this period will be in effect. On the California Residential Listing Agreement this is a fill in the blank – most agents will write 30 days but make sure. This can apply to prospective buyers to whom the agent showed the property, or those who saw it with another agent.
2. Costs and Fees – Check your contract to make sure that you will not be liable for any costs and fees to the agent if you cancel the contract. Brokers or their agents would have to specify such in the agreement and most do not, but make sure you know if you will be liable for any.
3. Marketing materials will not convey. Any marketing materials procured by the broker – photographs, flyers, advertising, etc., are the property of the broker. If you start all over with another broker/agent you will have to start all over with marketing as well (unless the prior agent agrees to let you use their materials, but that is doubtful if you are firing them.
My best advice is to make sure when you are entering into these contracts that you have a way out if you are not happy with the service provided. I tell ALL my potential clients that they can fire me at any time, so long as they first communicate with me any unhappiness so I can try to rectify it. But I would never force a client to remain under contract terms if they are unhappy – I don’t want anyone to be unhappy because that not only makes me feel bad but also affects my business.
Monday, April 25th, 2016
For years the idea of lowering real estate commissions has been the topic of conversation amongst many in the real estate industry. Since the discount brokerages came onto the scene in full force back in the early 2000s, many home sellers have sought out agents who will cut commissions to save sellers money. Could lower commissions eventually become the norm?
A recent study by Realtor Magazine indicated that 62% of buyers and sellers want lower fees in real estate transactions, yet of those 22% still want to receive quality service and worry that low fees do not go hand in hand with that type of service. So while sellers want to pay Wal-Mart fees, they obviously still want Nordstrom service.
I have written many blogs over the years about the benefit of working with agents who provide stellar service – not just in marketing a property or knowing a neighborhood, but with respect to the very important legalities of real estate transactions – negotiations (by the way, 89% of sellers in a recent study indicated that negotiation was the number 1 skill they desired of their real estate agents), paperwork, disclosures and other potential liabilities.
Many sellers for years have complained that it is not right that an agent can be paid 2 1/2-3% of the purchase price for a million dollar home and the same for a $300,000 home. The real question is how much work is that agent doing? I personally know of listing agents who “list and pray,” doing virtually no or little work to market a home and bring a buyer without spending time or money out of pocket. Also, what about the buyer’s agent who has been working for months with her buyers, showing them 20, 30+ homes, driving the around to show them areas and being there on hours of phone calls, writing offers…that agent gets nothing until she actually closes a sale, which may or may not happen.
If you wonder what agents actually do, here is a list of some of the things your agent should be doing…so do not be afraid to ask your agent what he or she is doing for you.
1. Marketing – this varies vastly so make sure you understand the marketing plan that is proposed
2. Open houses – if desired
3. Broker caravan
4. Professional photography
5. Creating custom flyers and other marketing pieces (mailers, ads, emails, etc.)
6. Showing advice/preparation and staging, if necessary
7. Handling all paperwork and explaining it all to you
8. Showing the property (being available to do so – you’d be surprised how many agents are not)
9. Negotiations with the other party/agent – this does not stop after a contract is signed, as it is still often necessary for repairs/credits.
10. Providing a list of repair people if needed
11. Constant communications with all parties involved – agents, lender, escrow, title, and of course, you
12. Making sure you have copies of your entire file at the close of escrow, and helping with other things like finding agents out of the area if you are moving somewhere else, or helping you synchronize closings of current and new homes. I have even helped clients move out and clean up after everything is taken from a home.
Of course each listing may require a different plan, and some may need more pre-listing work or more marketing than others, which of course means more money. So, will lower real estate commissions eventually become standardized? That remains to be seen but hopefully if they do, quality service won’t go down with them.
Monday, February 8th, 2016
Big brokerages thrive on hiring as many sales people as they can to increase profits. Some will hire anyone and others are more picky, but some of the bigger corporate brokerages offer lots of training and support to new or unseasoned agents, which is a big lure when searching for a place to hang a real estate license. The support and mentoring provided by these firms tend to draw many to their doors. But could there be a new threat on the horizon for big brokerages?
The latest brokerage to hit the real estate market is called the “Freedom Brokerage” – virtual brokerages without brick and mortar offices, which allow agents to save lots of money in most cases. Keep in mind that brick and mortar companies have to pay for their building space, utilities and supplies, as well as online programs, printed materials, websites and insurance, to name a few. They have to shell out money to keep their agents learning and motivated so that they will make money for the brokerage, but most of that money that goes out is passed along to the agents in some way (office fees, seminar fees, supply fees, etc. – there are many names).
Freedom Brokerages allow agents to hang a license with a company that lacks the brick and mortar hub (which seems very passe in today’s real estate market anyway – why pay for an office when you can do everything from a home office or other space?) This keeps the costs down. The idea appeals to many agents, who want to avoid all of the big brokerage costs. But it also is probably not the best idea for new or unseasoned agents, unless they are self-starters and do not need any hand-holding.
I applaud the new ideas that are popping up to keep real estate exciting. Personally I do not think we need brick and mortar offices. There are many options available for those who need a true office space and do not want to meet clients at a home office or at Starbucks. There are hub offices, where space is shared with other members for a monthly fee, and there are executive suites – where you have your own office or might share it with one or several others, with a live human who answers your phone possibly included. These ideas allow an agent to have an office address and space for meeting when needed.
So if you are considering leaving a brick and mortar corporate brokerage, look into the options. If you are a seasoned agent and a self starter, or even a confident new agent with someone who can help mentor you (although personally I think new agents need extensive training, and may get it best from established brokerages), it is a great idea which will save much money. Why pay all your fees to a big brokerage if you don’t have to?
Friday, November 6th, 2015
There are some agents who may disagree with what I am about to say, but calling sellers whose listings have cancelled or expired can be annoying and disrespectful. If that is a method you use to find your next listing, and if it works for you, I am certain you won’t want to change your habits, but consider what some sellers think about the practice.
This week I took a cosmetic fixer listing off the market, as the seller was faced with several challenges and we decided this was her best course of action. I warned her that she would get a lot of phone calls and mail from other listing agents, asking her to list with them instead.
This morning my client received 10-12 phone calls by 9 AM, and one of the agents had even called her before 8 AM – this is extremely rude. She was so offended that she threatened to sue him for harassment should he call again. She disconnected her phone until next week to avoid any further calls.
Personally I have never used this method to find clients – I feel it is invasive and, as my client said, such agents are “hovering vultures.” I compare it to cold calling; many years ago when I was a graduate student I had a job cold calling people on behalf of bond salespeople. Most people were annoyed, as I often am when I get uninvited sales calls. Needless to say I quit that job.
Earlier this year other seller clients of mine had to take their home off market for personal reasons, and had decided to keep their home rather than move. They had SO many calls when we took their home off the market that they were overwhelmed – they said many of the agents were rude and pushy. They too stopped answering their phone for several days.
I am sure there are some agents who are so good at being “salesy” that they actually obtain listing appointments as a result of such calls, but I still personally disagree with the concept and feel it is not classy.
I believe most people nowadays place a high value on privacy, since technology has made it difficult to maintain. If a seller does not have a number listed chances are he or she does not want to be contacted. If you are an agent who chooses to solicit sellers with expired or cancelled listings, my advice is to use the mail – that puts the choice in the sellers hands whether to contact you, and saves a lot of aggravation.
Thursday, September 10th, 2015
Recently I had a sale fall apart at the 11th hour, and it could have easily closed had the buyer’s agent been in constant communication with his client’s mortgage professional. It was very frustrating for my seller, who was trying to accomplish a 1031 exchange and close the sale prior to closing a purchase – she ended up canceling a sale after issuing a notice to perform and close escrow. This could have been prevented, but a few people dropped the ball, including the agent.
If you are a buyer’s agent, please read on. If you are a buyer, also please read on and make sure your agent is doing his/her part to assure you close escrow on your next home.
If you are a buyer’s agent you must stay in constant communication with your buyer’s mortgage professional. You can never sit back and assume things are going smoothly. It is NOT the listing agent’s job to chase your client’s mortgage professional.
All buyer’s agents need to do the following in every sale, even if the mortgage professional seems to be on top of things – because the minute you know there is a problem, the better chance you have of helping to remedy it.
- Call and email the mortgage person immediately upon getting an offer accepted – introduce yourself and provide all your contact information.
- Forward the contract and related documents to that person right away, including a synopsis of deadlines (I like to email this and highlight it – even though the mortgage professional will have all the information in the contract, it helps to remind them).
- Check in with the mortgage person several times a weeks to get a progress report, or let him/her know right off the bat that you would like a progress report emailed to you on Tuesday and Friday, even if there is not much to say. If you don’t get it, call or email.
- Make sure you get any further documentation to the mortgage professional right when it is requested.
If you already have a relationship with a preferred lender you know how that person works, and that will undoubtedly help you and your buyer. I know when I am working with my preferred lender, and a few others out there who have great communication skills, that I will always know what is going on with my client’s loan and there will be no surprises.
As the old adage goes, no one can do it better than you can do yourself – so buyer’s agents: please take those words to heart and make sure you are on top of your transactions. You will make your clients very happy in doing so and you will be more successful.
Wednesday, April 8th, 2015
Dear Listing Agent,
Have you asked yourself whether you are truly representing your sellers to the best of your abilities? There may be other agents who would argue that you are not doing so. Maybe you do not like your job or are overwhelmed (in which case, you need to make some changes, get some help, or get out), or maybe you just need a little advice. The most important way to get that home sold is to make sure you do the following:
1. Be courteous to buyers’ agents. This is a business built on COOPERATION. In fact, without it no homes would sell. With that in mind I have to tell you that you need to be nice and respectful to buyers’ agents. If you are rude, non-responsive, curt or make snide remarks to other agents who may sell your listing, then you are not adequately representing your seller.
2. Answer your phone/return calls. If I had a dollar for every time I have called a listing agent and that person did not get back to me for a long time, I would have a lot of money saved. Many agents do not answer their phones on the weekend (hello? Does your seller know this?), which is precisely when many buyers are out there looking at homes. I have had buyers want to write offers but needed questions answered, and the listing agent was nowhere to be found. If you cannot answer your phone then you need to forward the calls to someone who can.
3. Make buyers’ agents and their clients feel welcome. This may be similar to #1 above, but there are actually agents who come to the showings and hang around, making buyers feel uncomfortable. I recently had this happen. When we came back for a second showing the agent stepped out, but made some comments to me later about how long my clients stayed at the property that I felt were rude. (Obviously they were deciding whether it would work – the property needed a lot of updating and was over priced, but they liked it and wanted to be sure. I would rather that happen then instead of once we were in contract).
4. Make sure your listing is easy to access. I know it can’t be helped sometimes, but listings that require 24 hours notice or have crazy viewing times make it difficult for buyers. Many buyers work during the day and want to see properties after work or on the weekends. The easier the home is to see, the more opportunities for your seller.
The bottom line is that listing agents need to be present and involved with their listings. I am sure sellers in most cases are not aware when their agent is not cooperating/being rude, etc. I am also sure that if sellers knew these things, there are a handful of listing agents who would not get many listings.
The most important thing to keep in mind when listing a property is that you owe a FIDUCIARY duty to your sellers – if you are not representing them in the best capacity possible then you are breaching that duty. Please, consider your actions and always remember to treat other agents with the respect they deserve. It will benefit all parties in the long run and you will have a solid reputation (within the community and with other agents) as a listing agent.
Wednesday, December 10th, 2014
It never fails – every year I always think I will have a quiet holiday season and be able to catch up on personal errands and have extra family time. But every November things always start to heat up in my real estate business. Offers on listings tend to increase (often multiple offers), there tend to be a flurry of showings, and buyers step out in force to see properties.
I hear many real estate agents say that the end of the year is accompanied by a slow down in the real estate market, but I have not yet found that to be the case. Those agents who decide to not work as hard or to take a break miss out on the plethora of opportunities at this time of year. But for those who continue to work hard with existing clients, answer their phones and tap into their client base, this time of year can be lucrative.
Busy Time for Sellers
As for sellers, I have written blogs over the years as to why the holiday time is a great time to sell. The main reason is that there is not a lot of competition, so the buyers who are out there searching for homes (and believe me, there are many) don’t have as many options. If you list your home at this time and it is priced and shows well, you may be surprised at the amount of interest you get… and of course there is the potential for multiple offers. If you are a seller, make sure to speak with your agent about the best way to market and stage your home during the holidays, because that will have an impact on its selling potential.
The other reason it is a great time for sellers is because interest rates and inventory are still low. This makes it an optimal time for buyers who may have otherwise decided to wait until Spring.
Finally, it is fair to say that the majority of buyers who are out there looking at this time of year are very serious, not just looky-loo buyers. Many people would rather not focus on purchasing a home during the holidays, so as they say “the early bird gets the worm.”
Busy Time for Buyers
The end of the year/holiday season is a great time for buyers, for many of the same reason outlined above. There is less competition, the listings that are active are usually placed there by serious sellers who need to sell, and right now interest rates are still very low. In my opinion many properties are priced more accurately at this time of year than say in the Spring, when many sellers test out the market to see how high they may be able to list above comparable sold properties.
Buyers, sellers and agents can all benefit during the last quarter and during the holidays if they continue to work extra hard into the New Year. Happy buying and selling, and I hope everyone has a prosperous and happy holiday season!
Thursday, December 4th, 2014
“The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.” – Andrew Carnegie
There is nothing wrong with being average – in fact, some people are quite content with the moniker – not fighting to break glass ceilings and striving to be “better,” however that may be defined. Societies rely on a mixture of those who are happy with “average” jobs and those who are not and need to achieve “more.”
I find the old adage that 20% of people do 80% of the work to be true in the real estate sales profession. The industry exemplifies the average/exceptional delineation: the average agent sells 4-6 homes a year (personally I think it’s probably more like 2-3), and makes $34,000-45,000. The main reason is most agents are part-timers, which means they have other jobs and consider real estate a second (or third) job, or even a hobby. They do not put in enough hours and dedication to make real estate a profession, for many because it is a tough thing to do and income is never consistent (except for those who are top producing agents).
To excel at any job one needs to put in sweat and time, and real estate is no exception. Those who spend years building relationships with clients will eventually benefit from referral business; those who stick to their own proven way of doing business and work hard at it on a daily basis will see results, which will allow them to climb out of the average category. This is true in any profession. The question becomes”is average good enough for you?”
Many real estate agents and brokers lament over average agents and the problems that can accompany them – mostly issues related to ethics, not working hard enough or not being careful enough from a legal standpoint. After all, there are legal ramifications galore in this business, so one can ever be too careful, stop learning, or fail to stay on top of current laws and rules. I have written many blogs about the need for stricter rules and licensing standards in the industry, so I will not go into that here, but the irony is that if those things existed the profession would be treated more like a profession, and people would have to hold themselves to higher standards (brokers too would have to hold salespeople to higher standards).
So, are you average in your industry and want to get out of that rut? If so, you may want to ask yourself why you feel that way. If you are a person who strives to be above average but are not in that space, you should figure out how to excel. Evaluate your business, make a business plan, educate yourself further, reach out to all your clients and find a mentor. There is no need to be an average agent. On the other hand, if you are happy where you are then stay there, but make sure you do not ignore important issues like learning new rules, laws and forms. Either way, decide where you want to be and be the best you can be in that position.