Rules for Real Estate Agents

Thursday, March 15, 2007 | 10:30 AM

We sold our house last year -- priced it reasonably, and at our first open house (Thanksgiving weekend!), got a reasonable bid. We ended up selling the house to that couple.

Whenever you hear talk of a Real Estate bubble, remember that it matters much less if you own (versus rent). In effect, we rolled out of one over-priced property and into the next over-priced property. When you are a homeowner, actual prices matter less than the spread between properties.

We closed yesterday.

In the process, we dealt with a lot of different agents on our buy and the sell. Some were terrific (who we would not hesitate to recommend and/or use again), a few were jackals, and one or two were deeply disturbed psychopaths who were obviously off their meds, likely violating a condition of their parole.

Along the way, we developed somes Do's and Don'ts. (I'm sure readers have their own suggestions; use comments and let fly!)

This is a free lesson for the smarter, blog reading agents out there. Its a tough residential housing market, and if you want to earn your living selling real estate, pay attention and heed this advice:


1. Don't waste our time.

I know some people do not know what they want, and you should feel free to schlep those poor bastards all over creation, burning valuable weekend time in the process.

However, when someone gives you a very specific list of attributes and a broad price range, don't drag them around town(s) showing them everything but.

This is rule #1 for a reason: If you waste my time, I won't do business with you PERIOD. If I tell you I DO NOT want a house with X and Y characteristics, and you drag me to 3 X & Y houses in a row, you are toast. Next agent, please.   

2. Don't lie to us

In nearly every real estate transaction, the truth will eventually reveal itself. If a prior deal fell thru due to an engineer's report, I will find that out. If the prior owner paid 1/10 of the selling price 25 years ago, that will be discovered also (not that it matters).

Some of the lies were so transparent as to be laughable. Others were more skillfully concealed. If I ask you a direct question, and you lie directly back, and I discover this lie via an expensive engineer's report (which would have been unneccessary had you told the truth when asked), I will present the bill to you -- and your corporate HQ. (Then collect in small claims court on a theory  of fraudulent misrepresentation).

Stop bullshitting, start adding value, and you might get a sales commission out of it.

3. Don't tell us what is right before our eyes.

This is one of those nervous R/E habits: chattering on and on about the obvious. If you want to point out small details we might miss -- for example, the kitchen drawers pull out all-the-way, or there is a built-in water filter in the kitchen sink, that's fine. Even telling me the floors under the wall to wall are all hardwood adds something.

But seriously, I have two good eyes and so does my wife. I can see that THIS IS A BATHROOM; I can tell that THIS IS A WALK IN CLOSET.  We actually had one agent solemnly intone: THIS IS THE KITCHEN. Really, how can you tell? Were the fridge, stove and dishwasher clues?

Its not helpful and is actually very annoying. STF up occasionally.

(continued below)


4. Don't tell me how much a neighbor is "asking."

All it does is tell me how much inventory is around. One agent told me the owner of the shitbox across the street was "Asking $1.2m." I replied "Well, I've been asking Anna Kournikova to sleep with me -- and that will happen sooner then they will get $1.2m." (Right in front of the missus . . . And bless her heart, she laughs out loud every time).

On the other hand, comparables in the neighborhood that have already sold are valuable info. Show us that (I have a sneaking suspicion why some agents weren't passing that around).

5. Don't show me architectural plans

This seems to be the latest in RE agent nonsense. There will be spread out on the Dining Room table pages and pages of architectural blueprints. I guess they think they are showing the potential of the plot, but in reality all it does is point out the shortcomings of the existing dwelling at present on the property.

Its totally idiotic to show prospective buyers what spending another $350k on the same parcel will get them; Lets just look at $X + $350k houses instead.

Whenever confronted with this annoyance, I always yell "Where is the Heliport? I must have a Heliport!" That ends the blueprint discussion quickly.

6. Don't upsell us way beyond our price range

We've done the math already. We are in contract on our Sale, and we know what that will net us. We are pre-approved for a mortgage, we have our down payment together -- we know exactly what we are comfortable spending each month. (This is our 3rd buy, and we demonstrably know what we are doing).

We went over this in explicit detail with you.

If you take my wife to a house (without me) that is a $500,000 more than I told you I am willing to spend -- and she falls in love with it -- then you best get your personal affairs in order. In my garage are several large bags of lime and a shovel; I doubt you will be missed.

7. Dont make up phony competitive bids

We've had agents blow all sorts of smoke up our arses. We heard all too many times "There's another bidder! Get your offer in quickly!"  Even in in 2005, when things were very hot,  that was mostly nonsense.

Whenever an agent said that, my response was without fail:  "Too bad -- we REALLY liked this house, but we don't want to get into a bidding war. Let's not make an offer on this house. Take us to the next one."

Somehow, the other bid never materialized, and we always got a follow up call on the house. ("Gee, they didn't want it; I wonder what's wrong with it? No thanks!")

If you want to fabricate fake bids, go to eBay; that's what its there for . . .



1.  Ask intelligent questions.

Inquire as to what we are looking for in terms of style, size, age, location, lot size, taxes, details.  How many bedrooms do we want? Fireplace? How important is proximity to the water, school district, train station, shopping, marina?

You'd be surprised how few agents actually ask these things.

2. Tell us what we may not know.

New school superintendent? Property Tax relief program? Local museums?  Prize winning concert series in the local park? These are the sorts of things a casual home shopper is likely to be unaware of. Providing this information is value added. Tell me more of this.

3. Show us things we cannot find on our own

We had one agent drag us around to four open house listings we had already seen online. We can do that w/o you, and minus the 2nd agent's fee leaves more room for negotiation the price down.

Instead, take us to things we couldn't find without you. New listings (that aren't online), contracts that recently fell through, off the beaten path homes. Now you are adding value.

4. Give us insight into the history of the listing

Is this a newer listing? Is it on the market for a while?  Is the seller flexible, firm, or unreasonable? I'm not asking you to breach any confidences (if you are a sellers agent), but I would appreciate some insight into how the negotiation process might go, and where to begin my bidding.

5. Help out the negotiation process

You have a good feel for what your client might accept, would reject outright, or might consider. This information is helpful to anyone debating making an offer on a given house. Again, we are not asking for confidences to be breached; rather, are looking for your informed advice. If you KNOW FOR A FACT that offering 15% below ask will be rejected outright, let us know. 

6. Shut the f$%# up occasionally.

If I am interested in a house, your verbal diarrhea is often no help at all; its frequently a negative distraction. If I want to speak with my wife for a minute, leave us alone and wait patiently in the other room.

Thats a baker's dozen suggestions. I'm sure you guys have more -- feel free to share.

I want any of the agents who are here to also share there own horor stories they may have about buyers and sellers.

The thread's open:

Thursday, March 15, 2007 | 10:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (81) | TrackBack (1) add to | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post



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» Buyers and Sellers Advice to Real Estate Agents from True Gotham
This is perhaps the absolute best advice I have ever seen posted for real estate agents and it comes directly from a seller/buyer. The Big Picture's Rules for Real Estate Agentsis a MUST READ for ALL Real Estate professionals and... [Read More]

Tracked on Mar 19, 2007 4:04:49 PM


All of that is wonderful advice for the agents in the process however the old adage of price it correctly and it will sell is still true even in a buyer's market. The problem now is pricing, sellers are unwilling to take a hit and will not lower the price. When the bills start adding up they will be forced to drop it below the price that was reasonable for the market conditions....or the bank will short sale it. All about expectations and the sellers expectations are out of touch with reality.


Posted by: Michael Shumacher | Mar 15, 2007 10:48:42 AM

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