Jun. 17, 2007
Categorized in: Current Exhibits
Times certainly have changed!! When I first started selling real estate, back in the early 1980’s, the listing contract and the purchase contract were both less than 1 page each. When I went out for a listing presentation, I would almost always walk out of the house with the listing signed. The “For Sale” sign would go up the next day and I would schedule a broker tour and an open house for later the same week. With a bit of luck the sellers would clean house and cut the grass before then. There were no disclosures and it was up to the buyer to arrange whatever inspections he or she wanted after we went into contract. The buzzword back then was “Buyer Beware.” Preapproval basically did not exist, although a smart buyer would be “prequalified” before submitting the offer.
Back then, agents were the only people who knew what was for sale and the details of the listings. The agent’s job when working with buyers was to taxi the around to show them the inventory, and then hopefully write an offer on whatever house they selected from those that they saw. If the offer was accepted, the buyer’s agent would then order whatever inspections were called for and review them with the buyer once they were completed, and decide whether to continue the transaction, renegotiate with the seller, or withdraw from the transaction.
Well, that was way back then and this is now!! On the seller’s side, once the listing is signed the work has just begun. It becomes a major production, with painters, landscapers, cleaners, and stagers. All the inspections are completed prior to even putting the house on the market, and there are disclosures by the dozens. The complete package is made available, usually on line, for interested buyers to read prior to even making their offer. As for promotion, putting the listing in the MLS and running a simple newspaper ad is no longer enough. Now there are ¼ page and ½ page color ads, sleek property flyers, exposure on multiple websites, video tours, and professional photographers and graphics artists to put it all together. All this takes a substantial amount of time and organization. It is not uncommon to work with a seller for at least a month or two, sometimes longer, before the house even hits the market. The agent has become a general contractor, marketing specialist, moving consultant, and more.
As for the buyers, they tend to do their own research on the internet before even contacting an agent. By that time they already know what is for sale, what has sold recently, the neighborhood demographics, school details, and much more. The old concept of agent as taxi driver is definitely out the window, unless it is a relocation buyer. What the agent brings to the table here is a knowledge of the real estate transaction itself… what make a good offer, how to present an offer in the best light, how to interpret the disclosures and report, where to go for advice whenever red flags appear, and the ability to negotiate, especially in multiple offer situations.
I have worked in both markets, and I can honestly say that real estate is more demanding, more difficult, and riskier now that it ever was in the past. I seem to be working longer and harder than I ever did before, because people expect more and because my job is to get my sellers and my buyers the best possible result, even if I do have to work harder to obtain that result.
I often wonder why so many people are so resistant to paying a professional fee for my services when they are demanding professional representation. It is true that housing prices have gone up substantially, so agent income has gone up correspondingly. But so has just about everything else… the price of gas, the cost of doing business, living expenses, overhead. Not only that, I bring to the table almost 30 years of experience, the kind that you can’t get out of a book or off the internet. That alone is worth something. Personally, I think it is worth more than the 6% I normally charge for my services, and sometimes I do change more.
I am not being greedy here, but I know it takes a whole lot more than just planting a sign to sell a house. And I know that with my expertise, my sellers will probably take more away from the transaction than they would with a discount or inexperienced agent who either cannot do what I do so well or could not possibly do everything I do to market my listings and still make a profit. Buyers and sellers, go ahead and interview as many agents as you like. But make careful comparisons. If the agent says “I will advertise you house on the internet” ask exactly what internet sites they will advertise on. Do not settle just for real estate specific sites such as Realtor.com and the company website. Buyers are everywhere and your listing should be too!! If the agent says “I will advertise your house in the newspaper,” ask which newspapers? How large will the ads be? How often will they run? Only by asking specific questions will you begin to see the difference between a true “full service” agent and one that professes the same but give only partial service. Ask yourself an agent might be discounting their service in the first place. Could it be that is the only way they can get enough business?
This is not a diatribe against discount agents. There are some good ones out there. And there are some agents out there who charge a full 6% or more and really, honestly don’t do a better job. All I ask s that people think carefully about what is probably one of the most important decisions of their lives, and make sure you have all the facts before making a decision.