Real estate commissions loom large in the eyes of most sellers. I know, I sold six single family homes before I became a real estate agent. I must admit back in my pre-agent days I questioned the value of paying an agent I rarely saw and seldom communicated with such a large portion of the profit from the sale. Honestly, I do not even remember the name of five of my past agents. It was not until I met Pat that I realized what a great agent is worth–not what she costs, but the amount of value she brings to the closing table.
Great agents often work their magic behind the scene but sellers are frequently left out of the loop. Once the listing was signed, the only time the five forgotten agents communicated with me was to schedule showings or present an offer. Pat demystified and clarified the agent’s role and value for me. To honor her memory, and showcase the value of a great agent, I will use Pat as my example to reveal how she changed my opinion of a real estate agent’s worth and maximized my net by boosting the bottom line.
Reason 1: Pat put my desire to sell at the top of her priority list. If mine was not the only listing she had, and I’m sure it was not, she certainly made me feel like I was her most important client and my goals were her goals. It was not about her, it was about selling my property for the highest price the market would bear in the shortest time possible while keeping it as hassle free as a real estate transaction can be. That’s a lofty goal.
In order to accomplish the above mission Pat assessed my motivation to sell and discussed my timetable. She gathered the personal information needed to establish an “Action Plan.” Later, I realized how comforting those words “Action Plan” were to me, and within a day Pat dropped off a powerful plan of action. She began the listing with detailed knowledge of my wants and needs. She listened, and better still she heard.
I made the decision to sell, but Pat made it happen. I remember the sense of relief I felt after meeting with Pat. It felt good to pass the baton to an agent ready, willing and capable of moving forward with the sale of my property. Confidence and trust are essential elements in a successful agent/seller relationship.
Reason 2: Price Comes From Facts, Not Out of a Hat
Back in my pre-agent days my first five real estate agents, or The Forgotten Five as I like to call them, gave me a suggested list price without showing me a single comparable property. Actually I don’t think they called it a suggested list price–more like this is your list price. The first time, I was young and did not question how the expert agent arrived at his magical number. When it was time to sell house number two I was a bit wiser and asked to see the comps instead of simply being told about them. I saw the numbers and statistics but not the actual houses. Still, I felt better informed than my first time at the settlement table. And so it went as I moved from state to state and house to house for nearly two decades.
When it was time to sell house number six Agent Pat walked in with a large notebook with photos of recent sales (this was 1989) and “our” (from day one she was vested in the sale of my house) listing competition.
After showing Pat my house, guesthouse and pool we settled down at the dining room table and discussed recent sales, viewed listing information from the MLS and discussed the pros and cons of each property. I remember being impressed Pat was familiar with all the properties. Pat suggested we spend a couple of hours the following morning checking out the current listings vying for the same buyers my property would attract.
I dropped my children at school the next morning and by the time I returned Pat was waiting in my driveway. We toured several listed homes and drove the neighborhoods of recent sales. Once back to my place we agreed upon the most similar comp, threw one out of the mix and with calculators clicking we computed cost per square foot and evaluated amenities. We discussed current market conditions, number of homes on the market and the absorption rate of homes in the neighborhood. Within an hour we had “our” listing price.
The following morning Pat dropped off a net sheet. Wow, first time I ever saw one of those this early in the selling process. I shared my delight in being closely involved in the process of establishing a listing price.
Pat was tiny, but she possessed an unforgettable laugh. “Norma, it’s not magic, it’s numbers mixed with market knowledge.” I learned from Pat the market is always speaking to us. It takes a special agent to stop and take the time to share what it is saying with her clients. Pat did.
Reason Number 3: The value of a good agent far exceeds the cost of her commission.
The decision to sell was made. The agent chosen and the price established. Next, on the list was making sure the property was ready for its market debut. Agent Pat was a master at orchestrating a flawless performance.
The property received kitchen upgrades and a new master suite before I moved in a few years earlier. The previous owners refinished all the hardwood floors, and even with four children and a puppy I managed to keep the house in show condition with the help of my fabulous twice weekly housekeeper, Lucille. Pat provided the name of a professional window washer to make the numerous windows sparkle in the Florida sunshine, and in a very short time we were ready to hit the MLS.
Agent Pat had only three showing requirements:
1) House must be ready to show by 10 AM (a missed showing is a potential missed sale).
2) Turn a few lights on but let natural light do as much of the illumination as possible (natural is better than artificial when it comes to light, flowers and scents).
3) Leave the premises for every showing and take the puppy(and kids) with me–no exceptions. Cute puppies and kids are a distraction and a seller in the house can intimidate prospective buyers. Agent Pat said, “Norma, you’re a seller now, so step out of the picture and let someone buy your house.”
Good advice, and Agent Pat was right.
Reason Number 4: Selling a house is complicated, but the right agent keeps it simple by reducing the chaos. Agent Pat trained with Maria Tallchief, the noted ballerina, as a young girl and perhaps it was her training as a dancer that allowed her to move through the steps of selling a home with effortless ease. Pat’s marketing plan was a simple two-week plan. She did not believe in making promises for the distant future. Life changes, and houses sell.
Pat’s marketing plan consisted of giving me a one-sheet marketing plan every two weeks stating what she was going to do, then giving me the same sheet two weeks later stating the results of our marketing efforts. Agent Pat believed it was essential to keep the marketing plan fluid and easy to finesse. After all, there are numerous variables involved in the sale of an occupied home–people, schedules, weather, sickness, buyers, and the list goes on.
Keep it simple was Pat’s mantra, and it worked for me, the seller. She established my expectations and followed through as promised. An exceptional agent never leaves the seller out of the marketing loop. Agent Pat was always on her toes and rarely missed a beat. She made a demanding and difficult task appear effortless, and isn’t that exactly what a ballerina (or an exceptional agent) does as she pirouettes across the stage upon which she dances?
Reason Number 5: Trust, along with expertise and experience are qualities exceptional agents employ while keeping the client’s best interest and outcome in mind.
There is a preordained logical sequence to listing a property. Once the decision to sell is made, the property is prepared and the marketing goes into full gear with the desired outcome being the receipt of a reasonable offer. This is an exceptional agent’s time to shine and Agent Pat was a star in the offer evaluation department.
As the seller, I was excited when Agent Pat called to say she received an offer on my house. Pat’s tone gave nothing away and she did not discuss the offer during our short conversation. We agreed upon a time to meet the following day. Pat arrived with offer in hand, along with recently sold homes and our current competition. The first offer was not the best offer in this case–too low and too many conditions–we countered strong and never received a response. Pat remained professional and unattached to the outcome. She delivered the facts without emotional attachment. I followed her lead.
A few weeks later I received the offer that was ultimately accepted.
Reason Number 6: Negotiating is the exceptional agent’s time to shine.
There is no need to spill blood during the course of negotiating the finer (read that as tougher) points of a real estate purchase offer. “No” can be said without a verbal assault on either the buyer or seller or the agent representing parties to the sale. Raised voices and threats are not nearly as successful as an open mind and the willingness to give as well as take. Balance is an important negotiating tool. Agent Pat, the only agent I remember from a pool of six, always said, “I’ve closed more deals with sugar than vinegar.”
Anger and arrogance rarely set the tone for cooperation, and Agent Pat was all about cooperation. She was not concerned with out-smarting the other side of the negotiating table. Agent Pat kept a cool head throughout the countering stages of the sale of my house by keeping her emotions out of the equation and quieting mine. I remember the buyers insisted on seeing the house again each time we countered their offer. By counter offer number four I was “fed up” with their need to return for yet another look. Pat reminded me each time they looked, they also raised their offer price. She praised me for cooperating and increasing my net. I was focused on the buyer’s indecisiveness and Agent Pat shifted my focus to the final outcome–exactly where it needed to be.
Finally, an agreement to purchase was signed. I thought I sold a tad too low and the buyers thought they were paying a bit too much. Agent Pat said that was usually the outcome of a successful negotiation, and the sale moved forward.
Reason Number 7: In real estate relationships, escrow is the engagement period, and buyers can call it off for many reasons.
The contract to purchase my house was finally signed after enduring the see-saw of negotiating back and forth through numerous counter offers. The ink was not yet dry and I was feeling giddy with relief. The thought of no longer being required to have my five-bedroom house show ready by 9AM each day was cause for celebration. With four kids, a dog, a pool to skim and a large patio to sweep it was a daily challenge I was ready to let slip an hour or two.
“Ahh, not so fast, Norma” Pat warned. “This is the engagement period, not the marriage. You still need to put your make-up on each morning and keep working out.” Pat laughed, but I’m sure the smile vanished from my face.
It can be a treacherous road from signed contract to closed sale. Never has a seller’s need for an exceptional agent been higher. The house must pass the physical inspection test which can be much tougher than the buyer’s emotional test. Yes, they may love it, but now they are looking for the flaws. All parts of the house will be poked and prodded, its title history reviewed and the seller must tell all the “family secrets” of the property.
Meanwhile the seller must wait, along with the buyer, for the buyer’s loan to be approved. Plans must be made to move on, but there is also a chance a discovery will be made that will change the buyer’s mind. Perhaps their loan will not be approved. It is safe to say the real work still lies ahead. There are credits and repairs to be negotiated and agreed upon. Reams of documents to read and sign.
Pat was my fearless guide through the 60 days from contract to sale. She helped me determine appropriate credits and say no to the unreasonable ones in a gracious manner. There was a “standoff” or two, but in the end we reached our goal and I was thankful to have Agent Pat, an exceptional agent, watching over every detail of the sale.
Reason Number 8: My exceptional agent helped me have fun when I was “homeless.”
Your buyers have loan approval. Those are sweet words, but they also mean the move is on. In my case, it also meant I had to store my furniture as my California house was in the middle of a remodel. I also needed to find temporary housing while my children finished the school year in Florida. Once again Agent Pat flew into action.
The same day the buyer’s loan approval arrived, with Pat’s help, I scheduled a moving company to move my furniture to storage. The following day once the children were off to school Pat and I went to the beach–St. Petersburg Beach. I needed a furnished 3-bedroom with easy access for the children, ages 4 to 14, and dog to go outside. The beach seemed like the perfect answer and it was–Pat drew up the lease, I signed it and the landlord approved it. I still remember those three months at the beach with fond memories. Pat helped make it a hassle free transition.
Move-out day arrived. When the moving crew left at the end of a very long day, the only personal effects remaining in our very large house were five suitcases–one for each child and one for myself–we said our goodbyes to 1650 Beach Drive, loaded our suitcases in the Volvo wagon and headed for our new digs at the beach! Agent Pat was there for the send-off with pizza for the kids and more documents for me to sign.
I don’t even recall the final closing day. The overwhelming task for me, as the seller, was to have the house ready to turn over to the new buyer. It was ready. It sold, but Agent Pat continued to stay in touch during our stay at St. Petersburg Beach. Agent Pat was an exceptional agent, and always went above and beyond my expectations. She made the process of moving memorable instead of miserable.
Reason Number 9: The Afterlife of a real estate transaction requires expert management by an experienced agent.
The ceremonial exchange of keys occurred. I passed the large bundle of keys for my house to Agent Pat and she handed me the single key to my temporary housing at the beach. That joyous moment could have signaled the end of our business relationship. Mission accomplished. Given my past experience with my “Forgettable Five” agents of past sales I did not expect much. After all, I was moving out-of-state and on to a new chapter in life.
Imagine my surprise when shortly after the sale closed I received a letter with Pat’s distinctive handwriting on the envelope. It was a thank you letter expressing gratitude for my business and a for being an important person in her life that year. She even told me she recorded some of our “fun” experiences and a few memorable quotes from my adorable two-year old in her journal. Pat referred to him as “the talking baby” as his verbal skills far exceeded his age. What a sincere way to let me know I was not just a number in her production line, but a real person. Agent Pat knew how to be a hard-core businesswoman without losing the personal touch.
The week before I was schedule to fly to California and relegate Florida to my past life, Agent Pat invited me to lunch. During the course of our conversation she mentioned I should get my real estate license. I filed the suggestion away and did not give it serious consideration until I was firmly ensconced in life in California. By the way, my California real estate agents could not hold a candle to Pat. Thanks to my experience with Agent Pat I knew exactly what type of agent I wanted to be, if and when, I decided to add Realtor after my name.
25 Years later, I am the owner / broker of Charlemagne International Properties located on “the other coast” on the beautiful Palos Verdes Peninsula in the South Bay of Los Angeles. If Pat knew how much of my business is modeled after my experience of buying and selling a property with her as my guide, I think she would be very pleased indeed.
Reason Number 10: An exceptional agent stands head and shoulders above most of her peers.
This final installment of my Agent Pat series is devoted to determining what made Pat’s services and style, her brand of real estate, and my experience as a seller stand out from the service provided by the agents from my past. The “Forgettable Five” as I like to call them. They were all competent (to varying degrees) and all completed the job of selling my properties, but Pat wrapped up the job with panache and put a bow on it. I felt it was a gift to work with her.
I can say without a doubt, Pat was the best real estate agent I ever had because:
1. She approached every negative with a positive attitude.
2. She asked what I wanted and did her best to deliver it.
3. She skillfully combined communication with genuine caring.
4. She listened more than she talked.
5. She was enthusiastic, responsible and reliable.
6. She kept her word and delivered on promises made.
7. She kept her emotions and ego out of the deal.
8. She was knowledgeable and professional.
9. She possessed unquestionable ethics and integrity.
10. She enhanced the quality of my life during the six months we worked together by bringing her expertise, her enthusiasm and her ethics to work with her each day.
In the end, Pat made a difference by performing each task with the utmost care and attention. Was she perfect? No, but she was exceptional.
Norma Toering, Broker at Charlemagne Intl Properties, along with Josh Toering, will make every effort to ensure your real estate experience with our company is exceptional.