After writing about the "perfect" Buyer and Seller, last week, I asked readers to send in their thoughts about the "perfect" Realtor and as expected, received several responses to my inquiry (thank you). Topping the list of attributes was: "A good listener." For many people (including Realtors) that can be a very tough skill to master, but obviously,"listening" is the starting point for any and every successful transaction. (Um, Cliff, are you listening?) If we don't listen carefully to what our Buyers and Sellers really need and want, we are likely to waste everybody's time with little success and mounting frustration along the way (Hmmm, that explains a lot about my 22-year marriage and why my husband's clothes still can't find their way to a hanger??) When that happens, one can burn through months (even years) with little change in the status quo.
"Our Realtor kept sending us to houses that didn't make any sense for us . . ." a new client recently shared.OR "Our Realtor barely sends us anything, WE usually find the houses we're interested in on the Internet ourselves." OR "We told our Realtor we needed X in order to sell, and then our house sat on the market for months!"
I hear you (I do) and I share your frustration. The truth is, we need to listen to one another and work in syncopation in order to get the best results - whether that's on the buy or sell side of the equation. Which means your Agent need to really know and understand the marketplace in order to have frank and honest discussions about whether or not your expectations align with reality - or do not . . .
For starters, this means you should always work locally. Real estate, probably more than any other profession, requires insider knowledge. Which isn't to say that your "out-of-area" Agent doesn't stand a chance in this highly competitive Sellers' market, but that over the course of time, you will very likely be missing a certain segment of the market that is traded outside of the MLS (the off-market sale).
Without local representation, you simply won't have the inside track for these stealth opportunities. And trust me, it's much easier to listen to your clients' needs, if you actually know the inventory and the agents involved and can respond in kind.
Still, whether or not your Agent finds you the house, or your own due diligence does, it is less important than your Agent's ability to secure the deal once you are in the hunt. A good Realtor needs strong negotiation skills, uncanny intuition about the other side's intentions and movements, and fantastic working relationships with the other parties in the industry, from title officers, to lenders, to inspectors, to handymen. Think of buying or selling a home as a high-stakes game of chess in which he/she needs to be aware of the board at all times. Which is why "negotiating the contract, being available, and meeting contractors," were repeating themes as well.
And can I add: your Realtor should also be able to: anticipate your needs, expand your thinking, keep all parties calm, quickly adjust as the market demands, inform, educate, stay in touch throughout the process, and place your needs above their own - even if that means referring you to an area specialist. It's not enough to simply have your license - you need to know your community inside and out. Now that's how one earns your faith and your trust; that's how one earns your business.
Give me a call, I'm listening . . .
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.