How the business works, and how I work the business (buyer’s agent)

Does your Realtor send you tons of zero-value emails?

Does your Realtor burden you with tasks and paperwork?

Has your Realtor rushed your decision, or suggested compromises on your purchase?

Finally, does your agent wear snazzy suits or high heels to appointments?

Here’s a hint… Most do.  It is how the business works.  But it doesn’t have to, and it is not how I work the business.  It’s just that most Realtors® take the easy way out, leaving you to do most of the work they should be doing for you.  And the problem is so pervasive, many Realtors® scoff at the suggestion that there is another way, employing teams of assistants and companies to do the job you hired them to do.

For example, every Realtor® has a subscription to a Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  MLS is a subscription only database of realty for sale, and the source from which almost every other real estate website (trulia.com, zillow.com. realtor.com – the one’s you most likely use) pulls their active sales data (for my opinion of these sites, click here).  As part of that subscription, agents gain access to the MLS tools.  These tools, when used to their fullest extent, enable an agent to craft a false sense of caring about their leads, customers, and Clients.  Have you ever wondered how the listings most agents send you actually get sent?  As part of an agent’s subscription to MLS they gain access to a contact manager.  By entering your data into the system, and then attaching your client profile to search criteria, any and every listing that meets the criteria the agent has set for you will be delivered to your email looking as if the agent themselves did something on your behalf.  An agent can choose what information they wish to share with you as well – i.e. open house information, the addresses of the homes, and whether or not to send a photo summary report.  It even facilitates the sending of an automatic email telling you that no houses matching your needs have come on the market.

While of course I have a subscription to MLS, with most of my clients I choose not to use this feature.  It’s just not how I work the business.  I’ve found that while the database tries to capture as much information as possible, it’s not able to capture the details that make a particular home attractive to a particular client.  It cannot, via search criteria, indicate if a home has a mudroom, nor if there is a studio, nor a workshop, or space that could accommodate any of these needs.  It doesn’t identify if a lot is wooded or suitable for a game of kickball, nor if the bathrooms and kitchen have been updated, nor the overall condition of the home, nor if the home sits next to a cemetery, gas station, or dingle.  In addition, it is only as good as the information entered by the listing agents.  Frequently I see data missing from fields, and outright errors.  In short, due to these limitations, agents who choose to use this feature end up sending their clients listings that for the most part, do not fit what the client is seeking.  Or worse, the agent misses listings that may apply but did not show up on a search due to data missing from fields.  Agents that use this tool are not working for you, but hoping that you will work for them.  They, via email, throw a ton of homes up against the wall (your in-box), and hope that one will stick (strike your fancy) and in the best of circumstance (from their perspective) elicit from you a request to set up an appointment to see it.

As part of my service to clients, unlike other agents, I choose first to develop an understanding of what is important to my clients from aesthetic, functional, design, and geographic perspectives.  Normally this involves setting up a tour of houses and listening critically to my Clients’ reaction to them.  After documenting this understanding on a webpage created specifically for each individual client, using the search tools in the MLS system just as any other agent would, I have the system send the listings to me (on my phone and desktop) in real-time.  Only after reviewing it for factors that conflict with Client’s needs and wants that the system is unable to discern is it presented to you, the Client.  Of course, on a constant basis I review every property that comes on the market keeping in mind my client’s wants and needs such that outliers can be considered.  These extra steps taken by me ensure that my clients do not waste time reviewing houses that do not meet their needs, provides them notification independent of the desktop, and helps to keep their inboxes less cluttered.  The time I spend reviewing each listing prior to asking my clients to review it is called “working to save time for my clients” and it is a value you should expect and demand from any agent with whom you choose to work.

The client webpage that I just referenced above is another major difference between the way I do business and the way most other Realtors® do business.  MLS companies facilitate the creation of websites for Realtors®.  The tools they provide are the same throughout the industry.  While customizable via the insertion of graphics and photos, and the modification of typefaces and colors, since they rely on the same underlying technology, all of these websites are essentially the same.  They generally have links to either the agent’s listings or the listings of the agent’s brokerage, some graphics depicting the agent and brokerage, and a menu listing similar to the following:

  • Home
  • Search for Homes
  • Feature Listings
  • Client Login
  • Sign up Now
  • Your Home’s Value
  • Contact Me
  • Mortgage Calculator

This canned website is a tool for them.  They use it to seem tech savvy, and therefore to get more business – not to make your life easier.

The website I use doesn’t rely on these tools.  I designed myself, write all the content, perform all the maintenance on it, and work to keep it updated, relevant, and fresh.  While it of course has a marketing aspect, it serves a very important Client purpose — a password protected webpage specifically for each Client is created solely to make life easier for that Client.  On it discussions and plans are documented, and links to properties we have discussed or toured are provided.  Remarks made by the Client are recorded so that if necessary, memories can be jogged.  Reference materials are uploaded that aid in the process such as maps, town demographics, or other contacts.  In this manner the Client is prevented from being inundated with paper, provided a neat and orderly place where thoughts and activities are documented, and sharing listings with others in different locations is made simple via the web.  To see a sample buyer’s webpage, go to this link:  Sample Buyer’s Webpage

On to another topic…

It’s important to note that that when working with a potential buyer, the only time a Realtor makes money is when that buyer actually buys a house.  This is an inherent flaw in the independence of the Buyer’s agent / Customer relationship.  I don’t know how many people I have come across who have told me that they ended up in a house that they didn’t really like because their agent told them phrases like the following:

  • you have to make a choice sometime…
  • you’ve seen too many houses… something has to be right…
  • I can’t believe how picky you are being…
  • you’re running out of time – won’t this one do?

What these agents don’t get is that when you buy a house, it effects every facet of your life.  There should be no compromise, and the process will take as long as it needs to take.  And if the process ends up in a place where buying doesn’t make sense, so be it.  I’m married to an ICU physician who’s earning power provides for us a very good life.  I can look past the short-term sale and focus on the long-term Client/agent relationship.  But to most buyer’s agents, that isn’t an acceptable path as it nets them nothing short-term for their effort.  Don’t get me wrong – I like money and I want to get paid.  But more importantly, I want happy Clients who give referrals.  Unhappy clients do not result in referrals.  I’m in this for the long run.  These other agents clearly are not.

Finally a word about dress.  I have been to hundreds of open houses, and I seem to be the only agent walking around the homes with my shoes off.  I do this for two reasons.  First, I take the time to examine the outside of the homes I visit.  As crazy as it sounds, most agents simply do not.  High heels and soft ground don’t mix, and neither do polished shoes and wet grass.  I get my shoes dirty on the grounds, looking at the roof, the gutters, the drainage, the siding, the soffits, the chimneys, etc…, and take them off at the front door.  More knowledge equals fewer surprises at inspection and places my clients in a stronger position when making an offer.  The second reason I take off my shoes when touring homes is tactile.  We live in a colder climate.  The easiest way way for me to tell if floors are cold is to feel them with my feet.  Sure that huge room over the garage may be a great area for the kids to play, but if the floor is freezing do you really want the baby crawling on it?  This is a very simple thing to do, yet agents dress like they are seeking a date rather than gathering information for their clients…  Go figure…

There are many other more subtle ways in which the service I provide differs from that provided by others, but I don’t want to spill all my secrets.  I suggest you interview multiple agents and ask them how they will save you time and effort, and how working with them is better than working with someone else.  You can read my blog entitled 5 interview questions to learn more about what to ask.

To talk with me further I can be reached either by email or at 413-564-9468.