Real Estate Agents

How NOT to Hire a Real Estate Agent

If you do NOT read this report you will almost certainly lose thousands of dollars when you sell your home…

Home sellers don’t know how to spot a good real estate agent

This is understandable when you consider that you will only buy and sell one or two properties in your lifetime. Your home is probably your biggest asset. So, be careful whom you choose to sell it; one slip-up from an agent will wipe thousands off your selling price.

Ask the right questions

Many home sellers ask the WRONG questions when they interview an agent. They ask questions such as “How much do you charge?” or “What’s my house worth?”. While these questions are important, they should only be asked after the agent has told you what they’ll do for you and how they’ll get you the best price.

This report is your guide to hiring a real estate agent. I’m going to show you how to spot and select the best agent to sell your home. After all, I believe there’s no one better to sell your home than a highly skilled agent. The problem is that highly skilled agents are hard to find.

WARNING! Don’t settle for second best. Too many sellers make the mistake of picking the ‘best of a bad bunch’. You could be better off without an agent

Check out your agent

It’s a sad fact, but many people don’t check-out their agent until after they have signed with them – by then it’s too late. After you sign you’re stuck; you could be locked into a ‘minimum 90 day’ contract.

The questions and information in this report will give you the knowledge you need to keep the power when you’re selling a house. After you sign you lose your power.

Agents love to say they are all different but basic research will prove most are the same. It’s the ‘cookie cutter’ approach when it comes to selling your home – every property is sold the same way.

What to look for when choosing an agent

In 2006 Neil Jenman (my Dad) was asked to provide a list of questions, comments, and hints to help home sellers choose an agent for a TV show he was hosting. He called his list of questions and comments, GUIDE TO GRILLING AGENTS. Over the last few years I have given the guide to many home sellers. This report contains many of the questions and comments in his original guide.

What does a good agent look like?

Most agents will be well dressed, on time, and prepared. But the best real estate agents will be the ones who put your interests first. They will offer solutions that suit you first, not them.

Agents who ask for money to advertise your home should rarely be hired. After all, if advertising was the only reason your home sold why do you need a real estate agent?

Questions are the answer

Sometimes the answer to one good question will give you the confidence you need to hire the best agent to sell your home. Good questions do the hard work for you. Before you jump in and start grilling real estate agents, take a step back.

Put your home buyer shoes on. And start with a mystery shop…

MYSTERY SHOP

Department stores do it, so why shouldn’t you? Use the ‘process of elimination’ to weed out the poor agents. Why bother interviewing a real estate agent who doesn’t bother to return buyer’s calls? Start with an email. Approximately half of all buyer enquiry arrives via email.

If you send out 10 emails to 10 local real estate agents, I can almost guarantee that you will not receive 10 replies. If only 5 reply, then you have just saved yourself having to interview 5 agents. Include your phone number in your email. Do they call you back? Or do they just email a standard response? An agent who follows up with a call has a much better chance of ‘closing a sale’ than an agent who sends a standard reply.

QUESTIONS ARE YOUR BEST WEAPON

If you don’t ‘test’ your real estate agent before you hire them – one thing is for sure – the buyers for your home will do it for you.

What follows are questions that have proven to be a huge help to sellers.

REMEMBER: You are the owner of the property. You are considering employing an agent to sell your property. You are the boss. You have the power BEFORE you sign up. Make sure you keep that power at all times. Control the agents, do not let the agents control you.

Your home’s selling price is determined by your agent’s ability to negotiate

• HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GET THE BEST PRICE FOR MY HOME?

When you ask this question many agents will start throwing around the word negotiation. You want to be certain that they are capable of negotiating a high price for your house, ask them to teach you something about negotiation.

Question their ability to negotiate.

Ask them what they know about negotiation. It’s a big point that most home sellers miss because they focus on what the agent says rather than on what they do.

Here’s one of my favorite questions to ask a real estate agent:

• WHEN/IF YOU BRING ME AN OFFER, HOW CAN I BE CERTAIN THAT IT’S THE ABSOLUTE BEST PRICE THAT THE BUYER CAN PAY?

Many real estate agents will have difficulty answering this question. It’s a question that’s rarely asked of agents. Ask it. The answer will tell you a lot about an agent.

Some more questions you can ask are:

• Are you a good negotiator?

• Can you tell me some of the main points you know about negotiation?

• Can you give me some examples of the results of your negotiating ability?

The Biggest Liar Gets the Job

When hiring a real estate agent, the biggest liar (the agent who quotes you the highest price) often gets the job. It’s an old (and very true) real estate saying.

Unfortunately many home sellers hire liars. This happens because people who hear what they want to hear don’t perceive the information as being a lie.

One of the best questions you can ask is:

• WHAT WILL YOU DO TO GET THE BEST PRICE FOR MY HOME?

Once you are satisfied with the answer then ask:

• WHAT PRICE DO YOU THINK YOU CAN SELL MY PROPERTY FOR?

Most agents will try hard to hedge around this question. They may be vague and say such things as “It depends on the market,” or they may use the common ploy of answering a question with a question, such as, “How much do you want?”

Sellers should stand firm and press the agent on this point by making such comments as:

You are the agent, you sell lots of properties in this area, surely you know how much you can sell my property for – even if you have to give me a range. After all, you are the expert, aren’t you?

Once the agent has given a [verbal] quote, ask the following:

1. Will you give me that quote in writing?

2. Do you usually sell properties for the price that you quote the sellers?

Regardless of the answers, don’t dwell too long on any point at this stage. Just keep the questions rolling…

It’s not what you pay an agent, but what they cost you, that counts.

• How much commission do you charge?

Most agents will talk about ‘standard rates’ or they will say that the rate is recommended by the Real Estate Institute – this is to soften the shock. Sellers should make comments such as:

Is your fee negotiable?

Have you ever reduced your fee for anyone?

If you should ask me to accept a lower price than the price you have quoted me, will you also accept a lower fee?

NOTE: Be wary of agents who cut their commission to get your business.

These agents are often poor performers who rely on discounts to get you to sign with them.

• What is it about you and your agency that makes you better than other agents?

This is a great question. The agents all want to say that they are “the best” but they will struggle to define what is meant by “best”. Of course, “best” to a seller means the highest price with the lowest risk and the lowest cost.

The Issue of Advertising

With almost every agent, advertising will be a big point. Be careful, this is the most common way in which thousands of home-owners lose thousands of dollars without selling their homes!

The Golden Rule when selling a home: Never pay any money for any reason to any agent until your home is sold and you are satisfied.

The Silver Rule is this: Don’t sign anything that requires you to pay any money [in the future] for any reason if your home is NOT sold.

Some agents will say “you don’t have to pay for advertising until your house has sold” but what they fail to mention (or make clear) is that if your home fails to sell you will still have to pay.

Here are some comments and questions that can be made to an agent which show the absurdity of the advertising policies in most real estate offices.

• Why do you expect me to pay for the advertising to find a buyer? Surely the commission should include advertising?

• Why should I pay twice – once for advertising and once for commission?

• If you put ads in the newspapers [and charge sellers for those ads] and the buyers are going to come via you, what are you doing that sellers can’t do for themselves?

• If you advertise my home and I pay for the ads and you get calls from buyers and those buyers buy a home other than mine, do you give me any money back? If not, why not?

• If I pay you [thousands of] dollars for advertising and you do not sell my property, what happens to the money I paid?

• I notice that your advertising has your name and the name of the agency prominently featured. Surely I don’t have to pay the cost of advertising you and your agency?

• Based on the length of time you have been in business and the number of people who contact your office, don’t you already have a list of buyers on your books?

• I am not going to be paying any money to any agent for any reason until my home is sold. Once my home is sold within the price range that you quoted me, I will be delighted to pay you a GENEROUS commission as a reward.

This is my firm policy as a seller. Do you accept my policy?

Random comments and questions… [or other ways to make the same major points] might include…

• I want an agent who will get me the highest price at the lowest cost with the lowest hassle and, of course, without any risk of loss if there is no sale. Are you comfortable with being able to meet these simple requests of mine?

• How many properties do you sell? (Let them ask you if you mean weekly, monthly or annually, to which you reply that the time frame doesn’t matter. You just want to know that they are capable of getting results).

• What provisions do you take to ensure the security and safety of my home when it is being shown to prospective buyers?

• If I find a buyer – such as a close friend or relative – will you want me to pay you any commission?

• Have you ever had any unhappy clients?

• What were they unhappy about?

• If I employ you and I am not happy with your performance, I want to be able to dismiss you without any penalty to me. Is this okay by you?

• The agent I choose will be given an initial time period of 30 days on the selling agreement between us. If my property is not sold in 30 days and if I’m happy with the performance of the agent, I will be happy to extend the term of the agent’s appointment. Is this okay by you?

SELLERS’ TERMS & CONDITIONS

Get the agent to agree to your terms BEFORE you agree to the agent’s terms.

Finally, the biggest and most important point of all for home sellers – DO NOT SIGN the document that the real estate agent asks you to sign – at least NOT on the agent’s first visit.

Ask the agent the following questions:

• If I decide to employ your agency to handle the sale of my home, what document will you be asking me to sign?

• Can I have a copy of that document so that I can get some independent advice about it?

• The following is the start of your final words to the agent at the end of the agent’s first visit…

As I am the owner of the home and as I will be employing an agent, I will be preparing a list of my own terms and conditions under which I employ an agent. I will be asking the agent to sign my terms and conditions before I sign any terms and conditions prepared by the agent. Further, if any of my terms conflict with the agent’s terms, then, of course, my terms will take precedence.

• Are you okay with me, as the owner of the home, telling you, the agent, what I require you to do?

Thank the agent for coming and tell the agent that you will be in touch should you require the services of his/her agency. Stand up, shake hands, walk towards the exit or front gate. Wave goodbye.

Smile, you have done well. You are in control.

Lloyd is founder and chief of The Real Estate Helpers – a real estate start-up based launched in November 2010.

He’s the son of real estate ethics crusader Neil Jenman, and at 29, he is an 11 year veteran of real estate

His concept of offering help to home-sellers is set to revolutionise property selling in Australia.

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