2011 Feb 14th

Finding a Great Realtor May Be Difficult, But Spotting a Bad One is Easy

Five Questions You Should Be Asking When Interviewing a Hoboken Realtor to Represent Your Interests

1.  Do You Have a Smartphone?oldphone

I actually spoke with a agent the other day who bragged that he did not own a smart phone.  He said he only checked his email when he felt like it.  That kind of swagger may work if your buyers and sellers are as technology-resistant as you are, but the majority of today’s buyers and sellers are very tech-savvy and expect instantaneous response.  The days of 24 hours being acceptable to respond are over.  Now, if someone emails me and I don’t reply within an hour, they’ll find another agent who will.  If you’re a seller and your agent is stuck in the mesosoic era you’re going to be hurt by that and miss out on potential buyers.  If you’re a buyer and your agent isn’t updating you with new listings and current data and market information, you may miss out on your dream home.

2.  Do You Have a Website, a Blog, a Facebook page and Do You Tweet?

Most agents utilize at least one of these technologies, but “just one” will not cut it in 2011.  Sellers’ agents should be utilizing technology to reach buyers through as many avenues as possible.  Buyers’ agents should be sprinting to get new listings into their customers’ hands before another buyer snaps up the property.  If your agent advertises your home for sale by sending a “Just Listed” postcard, that postcard is more likely to wind up in the recycling than in the hands of a qualified buyer.  I guarantee that qualified buyers ask their tech-savvy agents to text them the second new listings hit the market.  Those same agents  tweet new listings to their home-hunting followers.

A facebook page is a great place for an agent to share information about the market and the local community.  Twitter is a way for an agent to connect with his or her audience of followers.  If your agent’s idea of using twitter is to spam followers with nothing more than tweets of their own listings, and they use facebook to post those very same listings on their personal profile page –  they really don’t get social media.  Find an agent who does.

3.  How Many Listings Do You Have?  (More is Less.)

When an agent tells you they currently have 45 listings, your initial reaction might be “Wow, this guy (or gal) must be some super-duper agent!”  What it really means is that he probably has a team of people working for him, and that he devotes very little of his own time towards his customers after that listing agreement is signed.  If you’re comfortable dealing with the junior team member or non-licensed staff assistant then this type of arrangement may be fine for you when you sell.  However, if you want the agent you hired to take a hands-on role in selling your most valuable asset, you should seek someone with a manageable number of listings who personally sees to all aspects and details of your transaction  throughout the entire course of the deal.  How much personal attention can you reasonably expect to receive from an agent serving 45 masters at once?

4.  Do You Work Exclusively with Buyers, Sellers or Both?

Many agents are specialists.  Some work almost exclusively with buyers, while others only work with sellers.  (There are plenty who specialize in rentals too, but that’s a blog post for another day.)  They will pitch themselves to you as an “expert”, but in actuality they’re more like outfielders who can only hit and can’t field.  (Check out this HREN blog post from April ’09 about “5-Tool Realtors.”)  Working with buyers informs an agent of what buyers look for when they shop for a home.  The agent gets to see the buyers’ reaction to different home features and can see firsthand mistakes other sellers have made which turn the buyers off.   Similarly, working with sellers teaches a realtor what special features need to be pointed out to buyers and what pitfalls are to be avoided.   If possible, try to find a realtor with a balanced perspective  who understands the viewpoint of both the buyer and the seller or work with a team of realtors whose skill sets and experience compliment each other.

5.  References May be Biased, but Photos Don’t Lie

If you ask an agent for references, do you think he’s going to tell you to call the guy who thought he did an awful job?  Of course not!  References are often meaningless when produced by the subject of the referral.   Instead, ask the agent to email you links from the MLS to all his listings (not a sampling – all of them) for the past year.  Then read the descriptions and look at the photos.  You’ve heard me complain in the past about terrible photos and poorly worded descriptions.  Look at his actual work and determine for yourself if the listings show the degree of professionalism and attention to detail you would demand when selling your home.  Be wary if it takes him days to honor your request.  Proof reading, deleting typos and swapping out bad pictures takes time.  Sending links from the MLS is easy and takes 5 minutes max – if you don’t get an email by the next day at the latest, he may be doctoring his past work.  While you are at it, ask for samples of all his marketing materials:  flyers, signage, blog posts, market analysis, facebook posts, tweets, property websites, property videos, trulia, zillow, realtor.com, craigslist and any other internet postings he or she will be doing for you.  Yes, you should expect all of these services to help market your home.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about choosing the right realtor, and offered advice on asking the right questions when buying and selling a home.  Check out these gems from the HREN vault:

The 10 Worst Things About Hoboken Realtors

The 3 Most Important Questions to Ask When Selecting a Hoboken Realtor

The truth is, if you want to find a good realtor, start with one whose judgment you trust.  Someone who knows and understands both the Hoboken real estate market and the economics of the real estate market in general.  Someone who has a proven track record of excellence but who is not afraid of technology and who keeps up with the latest trends.  Someone with a well-rirounded financial, legal, economic and business-related background.  Someone who blogs and writes all of his or her own content and never relies on a paid, third-party service for content.  Someone who never rips off her ideas from other agents and who believes in honesty and transparency.  Finding a great agent doesn’t have to be difficult at all.  Sometimes the answer is staring right at you.

Posted by Lori Turoff | Currently No Comments »

2008 Jul 18th

Does Your Hoboken Realtor Live in the Past?

Technology Rules the Business World Today

Anyone who is in marketing or sales can attest to the importance of the internet. With the recent release of the new G3 iPhone, mobile browsing grows ever more powerful. Real estate transactions, however, still require a good deal of personal interaction and face-to-face meeting (even hand holding). Using the same person you used last time, or a “friend of a friend”, may not be the best way to select the most up-to-date, tech savvy agent. To really take advantage of the power of the internet, the person you want working for you when you are selling a Hoboken property must be on the cutting edge.

When You Sell a Hoboken Condo, Money Matters Most

Just because a certain Hoboken realtor sold you your condo years ago does not mean that they are necessarily going to do the best job for you today. You may have a relation with that agent and you might even be neighbors or friends. That doesn’t mean they are the best choice when it comes to selling your property. Yesterday’s way of doing business has changed dramatically. In just the past few years, the on-line presence of real estate listings has multiplied geometrically. Your friend may ‘know a few people’ but may not know his or her way around Zillow, Trulia, or Craigslist. Craigslist is only the beginning. Look out for virtual tours, video, and podcasts to hook the buyer on your Hoboken condo. You need to reach the largest possible audience of Hoboken buyers to maximize the sale price of your Hoboken condo or home. That means your realtor better know how to utilize technology and the internet to the nth degree and do it well.

Does Your Realtor Pass The “Email Attachment” Proficiency Test?

Do you get emails on your blackberry (or palm or iphone) that are gibberish? I know I do every day. With literally hundreds of messages a day, if I can’t read your message right off the bat chances are I will skip it. Many realtors try to send mass email flyers to other agents and customers but have no clue how to do it. Instead of seeing a mobile screen of useful info, a bunch of html tags appear. Knowing nothing about today’s most popular technology platforms these agents are simply failing to communicate well. If they can’t send an email message well do you think they are going to do a good job of reaching potential customers?

Did The Message Come Out of A Box?

Some agents realize that they need to ‘keep up with the times’. They buy a pre-packaged website/mailing program. You’ll know when you are looking at one of these because the actual content of these sites and emails is so dumbed down as to be pablum. If you are selling a Hoboken condo you need to reach a young, sophisticated, technologically advanced audience of potential buyers. They are not going to read template generated form letters. To reach these buyers your agent must provide them with meaningful and engaging content that will make them desire your for-sale property.

Invite Her Over For Pie Instead

Of course, loyalty is an admirable trait. When someone in the business world has done right by you, then you should absolutely stick with them. Assuming they are qualified. If you are not willing to lose money because your ‘friend’ the agent hasn’t got a clue about today’s way of doing business, here’s a suggestion. Continue to be his or her friend but instead of engaging them to sell your Hoboken condo, invite them over for pie. Then hire the best, most qualified agent you can find to sell your home. There are many to choose from.

Posted by Lori Turoff | Currently No Comments »

2008 May 29th

One Hoboken Realtor May Be More Than Enough

With a Multiple Listing Service for Hoboken Real Estate, Everybody Wins

I had an interesting phone conversation this morning with a potential buyer of a Hoboken condo. He wanted to see condo properties in both Hoboken and Manhattan. I was explaining the difference between how real estate brokerages work in Hoboken (and New Jersey in general), where there is a multiple listing service (MLS), vs. Manhattan, where there is not.

If you are a Hoboken condo buyer and find a nice property on-line, say at trulia.com or notice a “for sale” sign on a building while walking down the street, chances are pretty good that the property is listed on the MLS. The agency that listed the condo has agreed to cooperate with every other agency in town to allow all agents to show that property. The more times a condo is shown to buyers, the more likely it is to be sold and at a higher price which is better for the seller. The sales commission agreed upon by the seller and the listing agent, typically 5% in Hoboken, is divided 50/50 between the listing agent and the agent that finds a buyer for the condo. If you’re a buyer and have developed a good working relationship with a particular agent, he or she can show you the place you found on line as well as any other property on the MLS. The buyer wins because the agent gets to know the buyer’s likes and dislikes, doesn’t waste the buyer’s time showing inappropriate properties, and by being loyal to that agent, he or she works that much harder to find the perfect property. After all, agents don’t make a penny working with the buyer unless the buyer actually buys a condo.

Agents Don’t “Compete” For the Buyer

At this point my caller objected. He said he would not work with a single agent because that would not be in his best interest. If all the different agents are competing with one another, he explained to me, he would pay less for his condo. Huh? I pointed out that if he were to buy a condo directly from the listing agent he would still pay the full commission. The entire commission would go to the listing agency. Listing agents don’t give up half the commission when they sell their own listings! Furthermore, I explained, the listing agent represents the seller. It is often debated whether it is a conflict of interest for a listing agent to also represent a buyer (called dual agency). How can a seller’s agent work for the buyer and act as a fiduciary of the seller with an obligation to obtain the highest possible price for the seller’s property? He still didn’t get it. If he didn’t want to work with a single agent and instead went to every agent in town telling them he wants them “to compete for him.” Outstanding agents with knowledge and skill are in high demand and don’t have the time or patience to deal with a “high maintenance” buyer who thinks he’s going to outsmart the world. This buyer may only outsmart himself winding up with an novice agent, and will end up paying the same commission anyway. The really good Hoboken agents often have more business than they can handle.

The Commission is Just “Wrapped Up” in The Sales Price

My caller may have thought that, as a buyer, he had some ability to change the commission to be paid. Maybe he erroneously thought that the seller pays the listing agent only half the agreed upon fee for selling the condo herself or that the fee varies depending on which agent he uses to find the condo – wrong again. The commission is set no matter who sells the home. Sometimes, a seller and listing agent do agree when listing the property that if it is sold “in-house” that is, by the listing agency, the fee might be 4% instead of 5%. That has to be disclosed in the listing information which every agent can see. Which agent finds the property for you has no effect on the sales price. With one exception.

An Agent’s Negotiating Skills Do Matter

When a buyer finds the condo of his dreams and makes an offer, it is the realtor who presents the offer to the seller’s agent. Although the offer is made in writing, hopefully in contract form, there is usually some verbal back and forth over the price until the offer is accepted. It is during this very important stage of offer and counter-offer that your agent’s negotiating skills are crucial. Who do you want working with you when you are a buyer – an excellent negotiator who has worked exclusively for you and know your financial constraints or the inexperienced novice agent who you just tried to scam out of a half a point? Of course, having an agent who communicates well, can express the buyer’s intentions accurately and clearly, avoids emotional entanglements like anger and disappointment, doesn’t make empty threats, and is smart and professional is in the buyer’s best interest. Negotiations can become complicated and heated, especially when there is more than one potential buyer involved. Having a good agent working for you when you find the condo of your dreams may be a great payback for having been loyal to that agent while house hunting. As for my caller, I wish him luck but I have no time for games.

Posted by Lori Turoff | Currently 9 Comments »

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