Never Get Too Good To Be Interviewed

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with The Agent Guide LLC
Horse and dog nose to noseI was shocked last year to lose some buyers that I'd been working with in the 700K to 1 million price range. I referred them to a well-known agent who worked with many high end clients, and who was a "neighborhood expert" in their area of preference. I assumed it would be a perfect match.

Wrong. It turned out to be a good lesson in how matching personalities is just as important as being a competent agent.

These clients, a young couple, had taken the time to interview me carefully before we started working together. They had been told to find someone who was an expert in a certain city, and in answer to that question I told them that while I was very familiar with the area, I did not consider myself to be a specialist.

I went on to explain what I feel to be the complete truth - that while knowledge of an area is important, how well an agent handles the information available to them is one of the key determinants of a client's success. I've seen too many long-time agents price incorrectly in their own backyards to ascribe completely to the theory of the neighborhood expert having a magical eye.

I explained that to find a good agent you need a combination of:

1. Competence - so that the agent is able to accurately assess the market, give good counsel about whether a home will suit a client's needs, point out features that make for good and bad re-sale value, and analyze recent shifts in pricing in order to catch any trends in the making.

2. Integrity - so that the agent shares this information with the client.

3. Local market knowledge - so that no one is surprised later by the plans for the highway overpass, the smell from the soup factory when the wind blows from the north, or the traffic bottleneck on the commute to work.

(And if I had to pick the ones you can't do without, I'd pick #1 and #2 - a competent agent will at least do a good job of amassing local market knowledge.)

This couple was communicative, responsive, and reasonable the entire time (about 6 weeks) that I worked with them. Unfortunately, my follow-up after I referred them was poor, and I learned too late that they felt thwarted and dismissed in their attempts to go through any kind of interview process with the referral agent (who immediately summed them up as "not serious, and not committed".)

For the record: I can spot "not serious, and not committed" from twenty paces, and my gut response is straight out of "Monty Python's Holy Grail". ("Run away, run away!")

In talking with both parties afterwards, it became clear that I had sent my buyers to someone who was used to a steady stream of devoted clients, and who simply wasn't up for spending time justifying their own worth. Needless to say, it was an unpleasant experience for my buyers, and lost me a substantial chunk of money.

So think about it.

When someone comes to us for help with a home purchase or sale, essentially what they're saying is, "Please help me invest $700,000." Or maybe it's $300,000, or $2 million. Even if it's just $40,000, why wouldn't they expect to interview the person helping them spend it?

As our businesses grow sometimes we have experiences that act as checks and balances. This one reminded me that regardless of how accustomed we become to dealing with huge sums of money in the whirlwind of real estate, every client is potentially starting out at square one from a mental standpoint, and deserves the chance to be met there. (Otherwise, they might just "Run away, run away!")

Irene Dorang

From the July 13 issue of Agent Straight Talk

Comments (16)

Loretta Largo
Summit Realtors, Huntsville Branch - Huntsville, AL
Thanks for you input it will help me a ton I am about to start a team and never took that into consideration! Thanks for reminding me of the simple little things that really are not so simple and easy!
Jul 16, 2007 02:11 AM
Christina Ethridge
The North Idaho Dream Team powered by SKE Realty Group - Coeur d'Alene, ID
This is so true.  Thank you for giving us the reminder and well written too.
Jul 16, 2007 02:13 AM
Tony and Suzanne Marriott, Associate Brokers
Serving the Greater Phoenix and Scottsdale Metropolitan Area - Scottsdale, AZ
Haven Express @ Keller Williams Arizona Realty
I've learned over time in this industry, as in all others, it pays to do your "due diligence" and it costs not to.
Jul 16, 2007 02:15 AM
Marcus Valdez
Berkshire Hathaway Rocky Mountain Realtors - Fort Collins, CO

good post,  thanks.

Jul 16, 2007 02:23 AM
Larry Bettag
Cherry Creek Mortgage Illinois Residential Mortgage License LMB #0005759 Cherry Creek Mortgage NMLS #: 3001 - Saint Charles, IL
Vice-President of National Production
Awesome...hit a home run on this...thanks.
Jul 16, 2007 02:26 AM
DDR Realty
DDR Realty - Newburgh, NY
Orange County NY

Very Good post. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Jul 16, 2007 02:34 AM
Donna Harris
Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - TexasRealEstateMediationServices.com - Austin, TX
Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator
Good post!  I've also lost lots of money on referrals when the referred agent dropped the ball.  I always ask the buyer to let me know if there are any issues as I can easily find them another agent if they feel it's not a good match.  Most don't like to admit they don't like the referred agent, so I usually find out too late.
Jul 16, 2007 02:52 AM
Tools for Real Estate
The Agent Guide LLC - Kirkland, WA

Thanks all, glad you found this helpful!  Donna, I totally agree that clients are reluctant to say it's not working out with the referral agent, good point on letting them know up front it's OK to say so.

Irene

Jul 16, 2007 06:40 AM
Fran Gatti
RE/MAX Integrity - Medford, OR
Managing Principal Broker - RE/MAX Integrity

Thanks for your insight.  This is one lesson I would like to learn without reinventing the wheel.

Fran

Jul 16, 2007 05:26 PM
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

I referred an agent once who did not even come to settlement, did not guide them to get the title , in short, wrote the offer and never saw them again.

Thanks for the post.

Jul 17, 2007 11:05 PM
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

I referred an agent once who did not even come to settlement, did not guide them to get the title , in short, wrote the offer and never saw them again.

Thanks for the  great   post.

Jul 17, 2007 11:11 PM
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

I referred an agent once who did not even come to settlement, did not guide them to get the title , in short, wrote the offer and never saw them again.

Thanks for the  great   post.

Jul 17, 2007 11:11 PM
Noelle Hipke TV
Realty ONE Group - Huntington Beach, CA
Need to SELL...Call NOELLE!
Aren't we all on a constant interview for the rest of our lives in this business?  Everywhere we go, anything we do, people are noticing and watching.  After all, we are plastering our names and faces all over the place. 
Jul 18, 2007 09:23 AM
Gail Robinson
William Raveis Real Estate - Southport, CT
CRS, GRI, e-PRO Fairfield County, CT

For most agents, their expertise in their market area and the level of their real estate skills becomes apparent through conversations about the market and the buying/selling process.  True, it's not a systematic, analytical approach to determining the competency of an agent, but a formal interview seems a bit odd in terms of choosing which agent to work with.  The referral might have worked better if you found out exactly what the clients wanted to know about the agent and did some research to get the answers before referring them.  I know that if I have "sell" myself to a referral, I'm going to feel annoyed about paying the referral fee.  I would assume that the referring agent has already pre-sold the clients on me.  If I have to start from scratch in selling myself to the referral, then it's what we used to call a "cold" lead in my old professiion (management consulting) instead of a "warm" lead and the referring agent would get less money as a result.

Jul 18, 2007 06:18 PM
Tools for Real Estate
The Agent Guide LLC - Kirkland, WA

Hi Gail,

I know what you're saying, but to me that's what an interview is - a conversation about the buying and selling process.  I don't think it's unreasonable for clients to want some of that conversation to take place before they actually commit themselves to the agent - and from the agent's perspective, that also saves them the risk of committing driving around time to people who might not work out as clients.  When someone refers me to a doctor I still want to be able to ask that doctor questions to make sure I (not just the referrer, even though I may have a high level of trust in that person) feel I can have confidence in them.  After all, ultimately it's my health, just like ultimately it was those clients' money.  As a professional, I don't like jumping through hoops unnecessarily and I value my time highly, but I still feel any client is worth talking with for 30 minutes to answer their concerns before working with them, referral or not.

Irene

Jul 19, 2007 02:06 AM
Gail Robinson
William Raveis Real Estate - Southport, CT
CRS, GRI, e-PRO Fairfield County, CT
Irene, I don't disagree with you.  Every client has the right to ask whatever questions they need to ask to feel comfortable with an agent before signing on the dotted line.  My point is just that some of this info can be obtained by the referring agent before referring the client out, so that the lead is a "warm" one rather than a "cold" one.  Even with a "warm" lead there will still be some questions and a chemistry check before the clients commit.  If the agent on the receiving end of the referral wasn't prepared for that, then she shouldn't have taken the referral.
Jul 19, 2007 02:15 AM