"We're interviewing Buyers Agents and wonder if you have time to take a call?"
At which point Sarah and I set an appointment and met up with the prospective out-of-area clients via Zoom.
"What type of communication do you prefer?"
"What's your timeline?"
"What's your budget?"
"What's your avenue of financing?"
"Do you have kids?"
"Do you have pets?"
"Are public schools important?"
"Is walking for coffee a priority?"
"What neighborhoods have you identified?"
"What are you looking for in a house?"
"What style do you prefer?"
"What's on your wishlist?"
"Will you take on a house that needs work or do you prefer turn-key?"
"What's non-negotiable?" (There will always be compromises.)
"Who else are you interviewing?"
I never use to ask this question, figuring that it wasn't really pertinent to how I conduct my practice . . . if we were a "fit," great, and if not, God bless, and God speed, but I've had a change of heart recently, especially given the high stakes at hand.
Approaching two decades of selling real estate, I'm squarely among the majority of Agents who believe we've never seen a more competitive marketplace. Couple that with the rise of online discount brokerages that promise rebates to Buyers, and the influx of young new inexperienced Agents anxious to get their piece of the pie, and you have a slurry of options when it comes to buying or selling, and NOT all of them are created equal. In other words, whom you choose to work with IS important.
With news that there are more than one and a half million real estate agents but only one million listings nationwide, it creates a significant disparity among those making a good living selling real property and those driving for Uber Eats. This doesn't speak to the number of active Buyers, compared to the number of available listings. Suffice it to say, that most East Bay communities are selling their available housing stock in less than two weeks which speaks to the incredibly high demand for homes, in spite of soaring prices. The truth is, getting a license to sell real estate is easy. SUCCESSFULLY selling real estate is hard.
My best advice to Buyers is to choose a local Agent who is actively engaged in both buying and selling, as real estate - perhaps more than any other business I can think of - is highly localized, and therefore, requires someone who knows the lay of the land and the players involved. You want someone who will guide you, but not push you; who will advise you, but recognize the choice is yours; who will raise red flags when necessary, and work through any challenges presented, and someone who will also suggest you walk away if the hurdles are too high. You want someone who can analyze the market, but also explain why each new sale resets the bar. You want someone who has access to off-market opportunities, and someone who can call other Agents to ask what is in the pipeline. In short, you want someone who will put your needs in front of their own and someone who will work diligently on your behalf, even if that means referring you to someone else who knows the territory better.
When it comes to buying or selling real estate, there are a million moving parts, and an untold number of variables to navigate. Moreover, there are dreams and dollars on the line; there are expectations, disappointments, egos, bad behavior, greed, and fear all mixed into the pot. (I'm talking about the Agents - have you seen "Million Dollar Listing?") Let's at least start the highly charged process knowing we're a "match" and then work to achieve the goals with respect and good intentions all the way round. If not, we'll happily refer you to someone who is a better "fit" - as we should; as any professional should.
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Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.