As an established East Bay Realtor, I'm asked to interview for listings on a fairly frequent basis. Often I know the prospective client well, having helped him or her with a previous transaction and other times, I don't, having been referred by a friend or relative (thank you and keep them coming), OR having met them quite by chance at a recent Open House.
Last week, a very savvy client who falls into the first category surprised me by asking "What sets you apart?" (Realtors, like Buyers, also find themselves in heavy competition; you've no shortage of agents/friends/relatives from which to choose.)
Because we'd successfully worked together on a previous purchase last year, I was certain this client was already familiar with my credentials, my communication style, and my work ethic. Even so, he made it clear he'd be interviewing at least two other agents for the listing before making a final decision.
That's a fair question and a responsible course of action as buying a house and selling a house are truly, horses of a different color. Moreover, our homes typically represent a significant investment (if not our largest asset) so it's really important to vet the agent as there is bound to be a great deal of money on the line, AND you're about to enter a very intense relationship as well - if only for a finite period of time.
But to be entirely honest (and The Perspective is nothing, if not honest), I hadn't expected that question from this particular Seller and repeat client, so I hadn't been fully prepared with my "elevator speech," nor entirely satisfied with my answer, which true to my personal style, meant that I chewed on the missed opportunity until I penned him a follow-up response early the next morning, which went something like this . . . (drum roll please).
"Dear Mr. Seller: You asked me to identify 'What sets me apart from my colleagues?' Aside from the chocolate chip cookies (which I bake every Sunday morning before my opens) I like to think that I am extremely diligent, detail oriented and caring, but what agent doesn't? The reality is that NOT all agents are created equal and as sub-contractors, we've each evolved a little differently and independently.
In my case, that evolution includes a strong focus on the Internet via my weekly blog: The Piedmont Perspective, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Constant Contact; followed up by electronic flyers to Open Houses delivered by email to more than 1600 subscribers; and recurring contributions to the San Francisco Chronicle in their "Sound Off" column in the real estate section of the Sunday edition and SF GATE - all of which help your home's presence in the marketplace as well.
If you haven't yet explored my beautiful new website, I invite you to do so now: www.juliegardner.com to look at a few recent listings: 9535SkylineBlvd.com being among my favorite this year. Additionally, my background as a "serial renovator" means that the aesthetics and presentation of your home are critically important to you and me both.
With a full-time assistant, Jill and I make sure your home is always presentable and available to be seen at a moment's notice. A fully licensed agent in her own right, Jill delicately runs interference with my vendors which allows me to be "tough" when I need to be while she plies them with doughnuts and compliments. She also makes frequent trips to Home Depot, the wholesale nursery and Ace Hardware for light bulbs, smoke & CO detectors, plants, etc.
With Jill's highly-tuned skill as a project manager, I am free to concentrate on buyer showings, networking, contract negotiations, signings, etc. Together, we leave no stone unturned; you need only give us your keys, secure in the knowledge that we will take care of your home as if it were our own.
Moreover, I understand the bottom line is important to you so bringing you the highest and best result is critical to our success together. As such, leveraging the growing interest on your property is incredibly nuanced so that should your home receive only one offer (it does still happen, even in this highly-charged marketplace) it has been groomed to meet your high expectations. Of course,multiple offers are far more desirable so pricing your home strategically and correctly from the start is perhaps the most important step we will take together.(No amount of window dressing will override an overpriced property.)
Finally, I truly love my work and believe in the concept of home ownershipso that even in a marketplace where the numbers seem extraordinarily aspirational (and they are in many cases), I can comfortably make the argument for investing in a "home." Like so many others, I migrated to the East Bay from San Francisco and as such, moving to Oakland/Piedmont is not only an easy story for me to tell, but one I embrace wholeheartedly . . ."
Was my follow up response enough? I don't know yet, but I'm happier with the answer as to "What sets me apart?" In the end, I hope my follow up brings the clarity Mr. Seller seeks (and the listing), but it occurred to me that if this highly successful, well-educated client didn't know the differences from one agent to another (and why should he?) there's no reason the rest of you should either.From the outside looking in, I imagine it would be easy to assume we all do the same things. (We don't!) What's important and what this Seller intuitively understood is that there are SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCES and they are worth exploring.
So follow his lead and ask the question: "What sets you apart?" AND then ask a bunch more: "What are the costs to sell? What expenses do you cover and which ones do I? When is the ideal time to market my home? At what price will you list my house and why? What inspections/improvements/updating are required to sell my home for top-dollar? How accessible is your Broker should he/she need to step in? What is your personal policy on duel agency? Do you work alone or in a team? What do you need from me? What can I expect from you?"
These are just a few of the questions you'll want satisfactory answers to before selecting your agent (as well as a detailed marketing plan).
So let's talk. I'm fully prepared to answer any and all questions you have about the selling process (or buying) - and I'll arrive with my famous cookies to share (and that's never a bad thing). Now, let's get to work!
How can I help you?
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.