2009 Apr 6th

How Do You Find the Willie Mays of Hoboken Realtors?

By Howard Turoff –

[email protected]

What is a 5-Tool Agent?

Today is opening day for my NY Mets, so let’s talk about 5-tool baseball players.  For those of you who might not be big baseball fans, the 5 tools that define great baseball players are (1) fielding, (2) throwing, (3) running, (4) hitting and (5)hitting with power.  There have been some truly outstanding players in baseball history that could not do all 5 well.  Mike Piazza was perhaps the greatest hitting catcher of all time, but he ran like he had a refridgerator on his back.  Ichiro Suzuki is a Gold Glove fielder who has lead the league in both batting average and stolen bases, but he has hit over 10 homers in a season only twice in his 8 year major league career. Manny Ramirez is such a great hitter the Dodgers are willing to pay him $45 million for two years, but many feel he’d be better suited as a DH in the American League because of his poor fielding.  Yes, true 5-tool ballplayers are rare and the ones that realized their full potential are in the Hall of Fame.  Players like Duke Snider, Micky Mantle and my childhood idol, Willie Mays.

There are 5-tool realtors too, and in today’s challenging real estate market, you ought to take the time to find one to work with, whether you are a buyer or a seller.  Can a realtor who only has one tool get the job done?  Sure.  But a home run from Albert Pujols is far more likely than one from Bucky Dent, and a realtor who can “do it all” is far more likely to help you achieve your real estate objectives than a one-trick pony.  So what are the 5 Tools of Realtors?

1.  Smart – Anyone can claim to be smart.  Do they have the credentials to back it up?  Is your agent a career realtor or a part-timer looking to pick up some extra cash.  Does your agent have a college degree or any other certificates of higher education?  More than book-learnin’, does he or she seem sharp?  This ties in to the third tool, Experience, but ask how long your agent has been in the business and what they did before.  If a week ago they were asking if you wanted fries with that shake, perhaps they’re not the right agent for you.  Ask them about their work background. Many realtors have other relevant experience in the financial, legal, construction or investment fields. Knowing how to do deals, negotiating skills, and general business savvy are important tools from which you will benefit.

2.  Energetic – Hard working, dedicated, detail oriented… these are all code words for hungry, aggressive agents who will bust their butts for you.  When the Hoboken RE market was hot, hot, hot a few years ago, a lot of people got their licenses because you just didn’t have to be that good to make a sale.  Those days are over.  Now you want a realtor who hussles, who double and triple checks to make sure the information for your listing is correct, or who calls you the moment a new listing that meets your needs hits the market.  As you interview agents, pay attention to who returns your calls, who forwards comps to you quickly and who offers clever innovative suggestions to solve your questions and problems.  That’s who you want to hire.

3.  Experienced – Experience is golden. If you needed surgery, the surgeon who has performed your needed surgery the most usually has the best success rate. The same is true when buying (or selling) real estate. The more transactions a realtor has handled the more likely they’ve encountered the same or similar circumstances as yours and will handle it well. Not only do you need to know how long they’ve been a realtor, ask them how many Hoboken condo sales they’ve handled. Many realtors do rentals and only rentals. That’s not the person you want helping you to make a major financial investment.

4.  Media Savvy – 86% of all apartment buyers go to the internet before approaching a realtor.  That’s a fact!  If your realtor doesn’t know a banner ad from a tweet, then they probably don’t know how to reach todays’ real estate buyer.  It takes a lot more than throwing a listing up on the MLS and waiting for the offers to roll in.  Your realtor should have their own website or blog AND it should be found easily in google, and that blog should have more than just canned articles purchased from a service, or stories and ideas ripped off from other, more creative writers.  Their agency should also have a site, and that site should be updated frequently.  If you go to a realtor’s site and you see open houses listed from a month ago, cross that firm and all its agents off your list.  Buyers won’t go to that site twice.  You agent should also be familiar with Trulia, Zillow, Craigslist and a dozen other sites, and should have procedures in place to make sure they are all notified if your property has a price change.  And for the buyers, your agent should be monitoring all of those sites looking for the property that meets your needs.  Just because this is a “Buyer’s Market” doesn’t mean your agent shouldn’t be working to find you the best of the buys!

5.  Local – This seems obvious but many realtors do not live in the neighborhoods in which they work. There are realtors in Hoboken who drive in from the suburbs, park at the municipal lot, walk a block to their office and rarely venture much further around town. Do you think they really know what it’s like to live next to the light rail? Or how hard it might be to find a parking spot uptown on a Saturday night? Can they tell you which gym has the best aerobics classes or even which supermarket has the best produce? It’s the accumulation of all the little things that may make a difference in your ultimate happiness when deciding where to buy. A realtor who lives in Hoboken has more to offer than an outsider.

All too often I see people choosing a realtor because they are a friend, or because they used that person 3 years ago.  Sometimes they just wander into an agency and get the person assigned to “floor time.”  If this works out for you, great.  Congratulations.  Even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Understand however, that doing so may be like hoping for a homerun from a lesser hitter.  Everyone remembers that Bobby Thompson hit The Shot Heard Round the World in 1951, but if you had bet your house on the Giants that year, wouldn’t you have rather seen the on-deck hitter up.  The guy on deck was the rookie Willie Mays!

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  1. Res Ipsa

    I absolutely loved this post. I’ve thought about it many times since it was posted almost two weeks ago. I’m fairly new to the Hoboken condo scene. I currently rent in town and am looking for my first home. I selected a realtor not too long ago and to date we’ve seen almost 10 places together. It seemed like a good match at first, but as we go along, I don’t think it’s the right fit. To put it bluntly, the 5 tools are just not there.

    As I get closer and closer to finding “the” place, I think I need to find a new realtor. I want someone who knows more than I do about this. I feel badly about it, but I feel like I do more work than my realtor does. S/he hardly ever suggests places for me, and when s/he does, I have already seen the listings online myself (and wasn’t really all that interested). When I started my search, I thought my realtor would be more “service” oriented. I mean, at the end of the day, when I buy that $400-$500k condo, s/he is going to receive upwards of $10k. At the very least, I think it’s reasonable to expect my realtor to find new listings that fit my criteria before I do. Returning phone calls/emails the same day is also key – is that asking too much?

    What are your thoughts – am I being too high maintenace about this? And more importantly, if I’m not asking for too much, then the big question is how do I dump my current realtor?

  2. Tiger

    Res ipsa – No you are not! You are about to make one of the biggest purchases of your life, you definitely need to work with a professional who gives you their attention. I personally had a ‘floortime’ realtor at first who showed me the most horrible condos I have ever seen; a fifth floor walk up with a FRIDGE that smacks you right in the face as soon as you enter – a 2 bedroom with a windowless room – a condo with a ‘backyard’ that’s on jackson and 4th… so I politely told him that this is not working for both of us and switched. I didn’t see the point in wasting his time or mine.

    My second realtor was actually forced on me – I asked about a property and before I know it I didn’t get ot see the property, but he took me on a tour on a couple of properties (only listed by his office), so again I politely excited because it didn’t work.

    Third time is a charm. I met my realtor in an open house. I was immediately impressed by his knowledge of things in Hoboken – and he was the only one who mentioned that buying a condo is for living (not for investing as many tried to convince me). He also made an effort to pronounce my foreign name right, worked with my crazy schedule (typically weekends only) yet kept in touch with me via email and phone to keep me posted.

    We saw over 70 units together. I was actually the one that found the unit I ended up buying, the seller agent was CHEEKY and tried to convince me that he should show me the unit otherwise it will get sold (My unit was not even listed on MLS – i guess he did that so that he gets the whole 4% commission I guess!) But I owed it to my realtor to wait for him (he was out of town), and asked HIM to get the keys for us to see. And he did, and I loved the unit, and he made the offer for me. A year later we are still friends.

    So I say – dump him and go for someone you enjoy working with, but also appreciate your good realtor :-)

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