2011 May 24th

How NOT to Choose a Listing Agent to Sell Your Hoboken Condo – Part 1

What’s Wrong With You People? (Part 1)

Let’s pretend for a minute that I was not a Realtor.  Suppose I was a pizza maker.  I make my pizzas with the finest quality ingredients.  Organic, vine-ripened, San Marzano tomatos imported from Italy and authentic, hand-made Hoboken mozzarella and I cook them in a real, wood-burning oven.  Let’s further assume I have multiple, conveniently located pizzerias and charge no more for my pizzas than mass-produced Domino’s pizza.  How angry and frustrated I would be to see people eating those inferior brands instead of my competitively priced and far better product.

Well, that sort of how I feel when I look on the MLS and see people listing their condos and brownstones for sale with clueless, inexperienced and incompetant realtors.  I know for a fact that buyers agonize over their choices when purchasing a home.  They spend days going on appointments looking at properties, and spend their weekends visting open houses.  They obsess over whether or not to make an offer, fight for every dollar during the price negotiations once they find the place they wish to buy and request every concession following the home inspection.  They shop for mortgages at length, looking to save twenty basis points.  But more often than not, they choose the realtor that they will use to sell what is probably their single most valuable possession based on the criteria that their kids play in the same play group as the realtor’s kids.  Or because that was the realtor that first sold them the place.  Or because the realtor is their cousin.  People – these are not good reasons!

Choosing the right agent can result in a faster sale and literally thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of dollars in your pocket.  I recently had a multi-million deal crash and burn because of the listing agent’s inexperience.  (That and a stubborn, know-it-all seller who wouldn’t listen to the advice of her own lawyer.)  But this rant is not about that one deal.  Every day I see examples of bad agents doing a horrible job (not just bad, horrible) on behalf of their sellers and I think to myself – how on Earth do these agents stay in business?  Why do sellers allow their properties to be so poorly marketed?  Don’t these sellers realize that the poor job their agents are doing is costing them real money?  Why do they hire them in the first place?

This week, in a series of posts, I’m going to focus on some of the more common atrocities I frequently see:

(Note – I’ll not be posting any photos in this post nor mentioning any realtors or real estate agencies because I am stuck doing deals with many of these people.)blur

Bad Photos/Few Photos/No Photos – This is the one that baffles me the most.  Perhaps it’s because my clients tend to be my blog readers (i.e., informed, educated, tech-savvy, young people) but I’m always fielding calls from my sellers asking if we can swap picture A with picture C, or get a wider angle shot of the living room, etc.  Our pictures are well-lit, the subject is the property when it is well-staged, and they are professional-quality photos taken with professional-level equipment.  How do sellers let their agents post dark, cluttered, out-of-focus pictures such as refrigerators covered in magnets, unmade beds and building facade shots which are rotated sideways?  Some look like they were taken with an iPhone.  An iPhone 3.  It simply boggles my mind.

Equally mind boggling are new listings with only 3 or 4 photos, or sometimes no photos at all.  Sellers need to realize their listings are only “new” once, and coming to market on all the on-line real estate sites, like Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com and many others, with awesome photos will result in more buyers being interested in their property.  If you list without photos or with bad photos, you’re squandering your opportunity.  Even if you put bad photos up “just for now” and fix them later, you’ve lost your best opportunity to make a good impression.

And how about video? We were the first, and are still among the only realtors in Hoboken, posting full-HD video of all our listings.  Note to agents – a slide show set to music is NOT a video.  Do you think video is unimportant?  Recently our buyer, who resides in Europe, made a full price offer with $1 million cash down on a property sight unseen based soley on our video.  What do you say now?

Bad/inaccurate descriptions – Nothing turns buyers off more than walking in to what they believe is a 2BR listing only to learn it’s a 1BR that can be easily converted into a 2BR.  Or a 1 bedroom plus den.  Then there are the listings that call a basement apartment the 1st floor.  Or a 4th floor walk-up on floor 3.  I see this all the time.  Some agents describe dingy, old kitchen cabinets as Euro-style.  Or call a fire-escape a balcony.  Whether you’re running a hotel, cooking a meal or selling real estate, the key to customer satisfaction is often managing your customers’ expectations.  If you over promise and under deliver, your customers are going to be disappointed – even when the product may be right for them.  Bad descriptions do just the opposite – set buyers up to be disappointed.  Don’t get me started on typos and bad grammar.  I once saw a listing where the description said the unit included “beautiful stain glass transients.”  This may not prevent your place from being sold, but if your agent doesn’t know a “transom” from a “transient”, do you really want that person negotiating your half a million dollar property?

Stay tuned for the next installment of “How NOT to Choose a Listing Agent”.

  1. Jackie

    I think there is a difference between inexperienced and incompetent. All agents were inexperienced once, even you. How are you supposed to become a great agent if nobody gives you a shot? I’ve only been in the business a few months, but I can tell you I’m already better than some people who pull the “I’ve been an agent for 15 years” BS.

  2. Lori Turoff

    Of course everyone is a new agent at first. The difference is knowing when you need to ask for help and thinking you know it all. Oh, and any agent who lasts 15 years in this business (and I mean an active, full-time agent who makes a living at it) is likely to be a pretty good agent. The ones who aren’t, don’t last – at least not in Hoboken.

  3. Jackie

    No, she wasn’t from Hoboken (JC in fact)- but did pull that line out after she was called out for listing a property on MLS and neglecting to mention it was a short sale ANYWHERE. I think the exact words in the listing were “motivated sellers-quick closing!”. I’m just saying that sometimes “inexperienced” agents can have a fire in their belly to do a great job where other more experienced agents are set in their ways – the good AND the bad

  4. Lori Turoff

    Neglecting to mention a short sale in a listing is more than just inexperienced! It’s a requirement of the RE Commission, I believe. The “fire” does nothing to obviate such a serious error. Yes, there are also bad agents who have been around for a long time. So what? That’s exactly my point.

  5. Jackie

    Oh, I know it’s serious. I guess that was my point-that I as a new agent called it out and was told “i’ve been a broker for 15 years” -she saw no problem with it. I think we both agree there are good and bad out there. I think I just took offense to what I saw as you equating inexperienced to incompetent. I just feel they are two different things.

  6. Lori Turoff

    I do agree. They are two different things and not mutually exclusive. And as you’ve learned, there are many incompentent agents with lots of experience and no knowledge.

  7. stan

    Good points Lori.

    I will never forget the picture you posted of the room wih the Baby crawling on the floor.

    Just hilarious, ‘Buy my place, I’ll throw in the kid’

  8. w

    Lori –

    I know one person who doesn’t want to give you their listing after I suggest that they use you several times. They were worried that if they didn’t end up using you, if you disagreed with their asking price or for some other reason, they would end up being ridiculed on this blog.

    Is there anything I can say to them? Maybe a non-disclosure agreement or some sort?

  9. Lori Turoff

    If they are that worried, they obviously don’t read this blog and don’t know anything about me. If I believe a seller’s asking price is drastically off base – I won’t take the listing. Furthermore, I’ve never “outed” anyone publicly. My ridicule, if you want to call it that – I prefer to call it citing examples – is always anonymous.

  10. w

    Okay – I really don’t remember any…. They use to read the blog and remember a few instances. Does some guy that didn’t retain you on his sale ring a bell?

  11. Lori Turoff

    Your question reminds me of when my bicycle tour clients would ask me if I remembered the town in Italy on a hill with the church on the square and the gelato place.

  12. Lori Turoff

    Your question reminds me of when my bicycle tour clients would ask me if I remembered the town in Italy on a hill with the church on the piazza and the gelato place.

  13. Tiger

    Been reading this blong since early 2008 and I don’t think Lori has ever ‘outed’ everyone in her posts. I think what happened, though, is that a reader once took offense and kinda outed themself in the comments section.

  14. San Marzano Tomatoes

    If I am selling a pizza with the finest ingredients in town and you are selling a pizza with the finest ingredients in town, and there is a generally accepted price for the pizza, then why are you selling them at a discount similar to a Dommino’s pizza price?

  15. Lori


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