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May 13, 2011

Real Estate Agents Developing Specialties

bottles4_exb_HSTR2103.jpgJust as with flavors and caffeine levels of soda pop, the choices to be made among real estate agents has expanded over the years -- despite, or maybe because of, the down economy.

As Marilyn Kennedy Melia points out in her article, "1. Change, 2. Choices," you can now find agents to help with short sales, foreclosures, buying or selling a "green" home, and more.

Meanwhile, other agents have (according to seemingly good authority within the article -- namely me!) packed up their offices and headed for careers with less uncertainty and competition.

Marilyn also quotes me as saying it's worth asking agents about their negotiating style before signing them up. Indeed, carefully observing an agent's personal style and trying to get a handle on how he or she will represent you in front of the other party is particularly important for both buyers and sellers, because negotiations can get contentious.

Buyers have leverage in today's market, and they know it. Many deal have fallen apart over amounts of money both large and small, for example because the buyer negotiated hard over repair costs after the home inspection. It's all too common for either the seller or the buyer -- or both -- to start to "take a stand" on mere principle, forgetting that the ultimate goal is to transfer the house.

WIthout a skilled agent to smooth relations with the other party, not to mention provide a voice of reason when you yourself most need it, a deal that looked rosy one day can simply wilt and die the next.

By the way, I've got a whole list of other questions you might want to ask agents before signing them up -- you'll find it in the article "Choosing Your Real Estate Agent."
 
December 7, 2010

Real Estate Agent References: Ask for Negative Ones?

A friend recently told me about his novel approach to choosing a real estate agent to sell his house. He asked not only for the usual marketing plan and analysis of comparable properties, but for references - no, that's not the novel part yet - references from people who hated the agent, who complained of a bad experience.

One agent never called back. A couple of others ignored that  part of his request.

But one agent did, in fact, give my friend the names of people who'd been unhappy with her services. He listened to their complaints - for example, one homeseller felt she'd been slow to deal with a situation where a passing truck had knocked over the "For Sale" sign - and ultimately decided they weren't  fatal.

Impressed with the rest of the agent's presentation, my friend decided to hire her. He was delighted with the results, and now can't speak highly enough of her.

Would I recommend adding a request for negative references to your list of questions for agents? It's certainly unorthodox, and might send more than one agent running for the hills.

And even people who give glowing reviews can, with enough sounding out, alert you to an agent's weaker points. Furthermore, a savvy agent probably wouldn't give you names of the people who really, really hated him or her - more likely the ones who had a few small beefs. But if you're having trouble getting a good sense of a particular agent, or choosing which one among them you'd most like to work with, you might give my friend's approach a try! Let me know what happens.

September 13, 2010

Real Estate Ads: An Editor's View

Yes, I can get a bit nitpicky about words, and have been known to deliver tirades to anyone within earshot about my mixed horror and triumph upon finding a typo in, say, The New York Times. Okay, so we've gotten that little disclaimer out of the way.

Now, about the real estate ads. I've been receiving postcards from a local real estate agent, whom I've never met, excitedly telling me about houses she has just sold. The card enticingly tells me:

Originally price upon request

 Huh? When did she last look at the copy on her postcards? (It's got other errors, too, such as "Please call me for a complementary appointment." But getting the complimentary/complementary distinction right is becoming so rare that I'm too bored to dwell on it.)

These postcards are going straight into my file of "Real estate agents never to hire." She may have other fine skills, but if I were selling my house, I'd want someone whose ads wouldn't inspire snickers. And sure, potential buyers can look past the spelling, but carelessness about typos is often an indicator of carelessness in other matters -- like, say, about double-checking the address before you place an ad.

Sound like an unlikely error? It's not. My neighbors' agent put the wrong address on newspaper ads for their first open house. Oops, better luck next week.

I also see regular typos and other problems in our neighborhood free weekly newspaper, which has a thick real estate section.

Like in last Friday's edition, where one ad by a respected agent, which was headlined "Just Listed!" and "Open Sunday," gave plenty of glowing information about the house, including its street address, but failed to mention what city it was in. We're in an area where househunters may be searching in Oakland, Berkeley, Piedmont, El Cerrito, and Albany, so mentioning the city -- or better yet, the neighborhood -- is more than relevant for people who've narrowed down their search.

Or how about this one: "Quiet, Sunny Backyard w/A Jumble of Flowerso Great Location."

Hmm.

Anyway, may I recommend that before you hire a selling agent, you check his or her listing ads, to make sure they're clear, complete, and accurate? Then, even after hiring someone, insist that you cast your eyes upon every written word concerning your property that will be made public. Even the best real estate agents can miss something, or be mistaken about a factual matter. You don't want your ad to appear in my next blog entry!