As the President and managing Broker of TR Realty, currently supervising more than 95 agents, I get to touch numerous transactions every day. In some of those transactions, my agents are representing buyers, some sellers, some both. As most of my readers also know, I am also a real estate trainer, and in my classes, I have the pleasure of interacting with brand new licensees, seasoned veterans, and agents everywhere in between.
Over the years, I have ascertained the issues that seem to arise most often. And even though every real estate transaction is unique, and comes with it its own set of challenges and strategies, I have discovered that there are 5 specific common denominators that cause agents the most problems. Today, I will give you my opinion of those, in no particular order.
1. Lack of education. Most states require licensees to do some amount of continuing education. Many agents find even this bare minimum requirement to be a hassle. They have it backwards. Serious professionals understand that not only is furthering their education not a hassle, it is a necessity. In fact, the most serious professionals pursue education way beyond that which is mandatory. The agents who do the best job and close the most transactions with the fewest complications are the ones who take advantage of any training provided by their broker, their Realtor association, and anyplace else they can find it. They read, they study, they research, they attend seminars, and seek professional alliances. I know for myself, every day in this business provides me with a new learning experience. I am far smarter today than I was yesterday, and nowhere near as smart as I will be tomorrow. And in every class that I teach, I learn something, too. I am an avid and perpetual student of real estate, and so is any licensee who wishes to avoid trouble and stay in business. We owe education to our customers, to our brokers, to our fellow agents, and to the general public. And any agent who thinks they will seek out education when they find their next customer is already a day late, a dollar short, and frankly, undeserving of the next customer.
2. Not listening. Real estate agents talk way too much, in my opinion. They often talk themselves right out of a sale. They often tell irrelevant stories, perhaps due to nervousness or insecurities. They opine on matters they know little if anything about. They puff and exaggerate. They purport to be experts when they are not. They make referrals to electricians, painters, plumbers and the like they have never used. They even sometimes misrepresent themselves, their experience or their business. The best real estate agents talk much less than they listen, and they act like professionals, not drama queens. They need to understand that most of their stories are interesting only to themselves. Most customers are not amused by their anecdotes; they want answers to their questions, not stories about what happened with other clients or in other situations. Smart agents focus on the customer at hand, and provide that customer with the most accurate answers possible, and little more.
3. Writing too much. Over and over and over again, I read offers and other real estate documents that agents have “doctored” up. In other words for some reason, the language in our standard purchase agreements, listing agreements, buyer’s brokerage agreements, and the like is not good enough for them, so they feel the need to elaborate and get creative. This is a monumental mistake. Standard agreements have been prepared and reviewed by numerous attorneys and seasoned industry professionals. Believe me: 99.9% of stuff that an agent can think of, has already been thought of by someone else before and covered adequately in the standard paperwork. So my advice to agents is: STOP WRITING STUFF! In most cases, it is poorly written, contradictory, and at the very least, redundant. The vast majority of real estate agents are not lawyers, and therefore, should not be taking on the liability of creative writing. After all: once it’s in the contract and signed by both parties, it’s too late; the damage could be done. My best estimate is that maybe 5-10% of items that I see written by agents are valid. The rest are a waste of time, and quite possibly, a legal liability for themselves, their brokers, and their customers. And that leads me to item 4, which is closely related.
4. Not reading. As I said in item 3, agents write too much. I have found that usually, this is derived from the fact that they have not read the documents that they are attempting to manipulate. They simply do not know what is contained in the standard language because they have not read it carefully. Consequently, they think they need to create new language. Every agent needs to read and study every document BEFORE they attempt to use it. And I believe that if agents read the contracts disclosures and addenda more carefully, they would be less inclined to make up new potentially problematic language.
5. Being distracted. Over the years, I have seen licensees with outstanding potential have their careers completely derailed by distractions, most of which are personal in nature. A real estate sales license is not a job; it’s a business. And as such, it is up to the business owner (agent) to decide and determine his or her own fate. As an example, if someone took a job managing a store, there would be certain hours that the person would need to be at work. But in real estate sales, it is up to the agent to figure out when he or she would like to work. Furthermore, with the recent advent of the 100% commission company (TR Realty included), agents are expected to work independently. The days of vast spaces full of bullpens and workstations are mostly behind us. Agents need smart phones, laptop computers, electronic faxes and other technology to perform and compete. But the very technology that can propel forward the best of us has the propensity to distract the worst of us. And not just technology, but children, spouses, domestic tasks, other jobs, and countless other interferences that agents allow to intrude on their careers. In my example of retail management, those things would most likely not happen. But agents are responsible for themselves, so in our industry, where no one is punching a clock, distractions are ubiquitous and pervasive. The best agents minimize their distractions, focus (at least during normal business hours) on their sales careers, and treat their license as the business is truly is.
In real estate, like in almost any other field you get out what you put in.