As an active agent I am in the field every day meeting clients, submitting contracts, showing my listings or viewing other agent’s listings. To me real estate is not just a job or a career, it’s a lifestyle. I’m “at work” from the moment I wake up until the time I go to sleep. One of the beauties of my profession is that you can put as much or as little of yourself into it depending on how much you have to give and how much you desire to get out. As with many things in life this flexibility is also one of real estate’s most formidable curses. In this series I will attempt to portray examples of how we as Realtors earn our commission and where we have room for improvement. One of the largest problems I see is that while new agents have to go through a class and a pass a couple tests to obtain a license, these tests are strictly about real estate law. Nowhere in the curriculum is there anything that has to do with how to succeed at real estate and be a positive member of the community of Realtors. The result often times is an agent who thought they would succeed simply by obtaining their license. This may have been true before the bubble burst, but the times they are-a-changing!
Earning Your Commission – Part 1: Lock Boxes are for Lazy Realtors
As we approach the end of the Home Buyer’s Tax Credit, business has been picking up quite a bit. Buyer’s agents are busy showing listings to prospective buyers and listing agents are busy showing their listings… or are they? Speaking from personal experience, I am more and more frequently greeted by a lock box at the door instead of an actual agent. I find this a little concerning for several reasons.
Call me old fashioned, but when I want to sell something you’d better believe that I’m going to be in attendance leading the presentation! As Realtors we have a fiduciary responsibility to our clients to keep their best interests in mind at all times. When selling a listing this means that we owe it to our clients to earn them the highest net price possible for the sale of their home and in the shortest amount of time. In my humble opinion failing to show up to present a unit, especially a single family home or one that is in a building rich with amenities, is a violation of that responsibility.
A Few Exceptions
I know that a lot of people reading this diatribe will be thinking of situations where a lock box is perfectly acceptable. Here are a few I can think of:
1. You’re doing a favor for a friend selling their dilapidated old investment property and the listing is a $20k foreclosure in an area that is 45 minutes one-way from your office. On top of that 90% of the interested parties are cash investors that have such a long list of properties to view that half the time they don’t even show up for the appointment, and the other ten percent are those poor misguides souls that are hoping to buy that property with a loan of some kind. I get it! To me putting a lock box on this property makes sense. There’s nothing to sell about this property, it’s distressed, it has mold, it smells, most likely there are no appliances and some of the copper pipes have been removed. No presentation in the world is going to shed any light on this property. Just make sure that you regularly get out to the property and test the lock box to make sure it’s still there (no joke) and functioning properly. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to trudge around a snow bank looking for a lock box that isn’t there with a car full of clients watching or trying to open the lockbox with a screw driver even though it’s frozen solid because you hung it underneath the overflowing gutter.
2. You’re going out of town. This makes sense too. Though when I’m going out of town I always find a fill-in, I understand that some agents working very much on their own may not have the luxury of a friend in the business. In this case, it seems understandable.
3. You have two showing appointments at the same time and can’t be in two places at once. This is one area where I feel, as a whole, we can improve. If someone calls me for a time to view my listing, and I’m busy at their requested time the response by the buyer’s agent is usually, “okay thanks anyway.” Typically this is followed by me attempting to figure out an alternative time that I may meet them during their trip. If this is not possible, a lock box makes sense. Many times though we are able to work something out where I can be present. One key to earning your commission is flexibility!
If I’ve left something out, I encourage feedback from those reading… Please leave your comments below.
Typical Showing with a Lock Box
I show up to a multi-unit building. My clients and I locate the lock box (hopefully) and access the unit (hopefully). Now that we’re in the unit looking around my client is interested but has some questions. Having no listing agent around or available by phone we write these questions down and continue looking. We notice some discoloration on the ceiling tile in the bathroom. This could have been the result of a leaky toilet above that was resolved a year ago, but without an agent there to explain this to us, all we see are signs of water damage. Now my clients want to know about amenities. The listing sheet mentions that there is a roof top deck but there was no key in the lock box for this, and no directions on how to locate it. It also mentions storage, again no key, and no directions. Often times these lock boxes are not big enough to fit multiple keys in so the lazy Realtor will just leave them out. As a result, my clients who are very interested in the amenities never get to see the pool, recreation room, movie theater, or whatever else could have been unlocked by the key that was not included. On top of that many times the full list of amenities is not even included on the listing sheet. Because of a lazy listing agent, my client takes a pass on this unit and buys elsewhere.
Combating this challenge
As I encounter (or don’t encounter) lazy Realtors often these days I have found it necessary to become something of a detective while on site – I stop residents and ask them about the building, and if there is a doorman, I’ll ask him as well. Almost every single time I show a home in a multi-unit building I find out something noteworthy that was not on the listing sheet. Surprisingly enough it is usually something important such as a fitness room, a dog run, or even a pool on the roof! Not all buyers have unlimited weekends to shop and therefore may only get one chance to view your listing. It may or may not surprise you but the fact of the matter is by being absent from the showing, the listing agent is hurting themselves, their client and the prospective buyers. Too often, when acting as a buyer’s agent, I am left to do my job and that of the listing agent (yet only collect half of the compensation!). One of the ironies is that after a showing I will be put on an auto-email feedback campaign that repeatedly asks for feedback once a day until I respond.
How it should go
When someone shows up to one of my listings, I give the buyer a full brochure detailing the unit?s benefits. This brochure also contains a list of the building amenities as well as a site guide (a map and list of common interests such as neighborhood hot spots, restaurants etc) for the surrounding area. I then show them the unit, pointing out every part of it that may not be caught on first glance; the level of fixtures, the quality of the construction, the exposures of the windows and how that will affect the light in the unit, etc. If they are still interested after seeing the unit, I will then take them to see the building amenities all the while attempting to learn more about the buyer’s needs and make an effort to relate how those needs may be met by my listing (let’s see a lock box do that). Along the way I answer any questions the buyer has on the spot instead of leaving them to wonder or hopefully remember to ask later. There is no question that giving a full presentation increases the chance of obtaining an offer.
Even if these buyers are not interested in my listing, I did my best to present it to them. I also was able to get feedback based on their reactions to my listing to report back to my seller.
Working Smarter not Harder
I am all for working smarter not harder. I just don’t feel that lock boxes qualify for this designation. I am sure that many of you reading have an experience or twenty where a lock box prevented you from doing your job. I have too many to recall without sounding like I’m on a rant… suffice it to say, if you are a Realtor who regularly uses a lock box even though you know in your heart that you could and should be there to present your product it may be time to re-think your strategy. Without having statistics to back me up, I would like to speculate that units that are shown by the listing agent have lower market times and higher sale price verses market value than compared to units that were sold using a lock box. I challenge anyone who disagrees to please speak up!
Please bookmark TheChicago77.com and return for more of my series “Whatever Happened to Earning Your Commission?” I would like to thank all of the excellent Realtors out there including the people who taught me the right way to do things. I would also like to thank those lazy Realtors out there for giving me something to write about.