What Your Buyer’s Real Estate Agent Won’t Tell You – Part 1

Buying a house – The realistic approach

This article is not about the secrets of buying a rental property for no money down and half the price of the market value of the house. I am not Tom Vu or Don Lapre and I am not in jail.

In Canada, the no money down home did use to exist, but not anymore. Some banks and/or lenders were willing to lend you the 5% down payment so that you don’t have to pay a dime out of your own pockets to purchase a home. However, given the current financial situation with tighter lending restrictions, there will be no bank or lenders who can do that in Canada.

The buying home for half price did use to exist as well. At one point, foreclosures in Canada would allow foreclosed homes to be sold at rock bottom prices. The new law, which has been in placed for many years now require the homes be sold at the highest possible price for foreclosed homes or else the lenders could be sued. Hence, sometimes foreclosed homes sell higher because Canadians have the misconception that foreclosed homes are a really good deal causing it to have a reverse affect. There have been many people buying foreclosed homes believing they got a good deal and not doing a thorough check as to the actual value of the home.

Now, clearing out the quick money maker myths of buying homes, there are still many things you need to be aware of before starting.

If there exist ever an industry with more sneaky sales tactics and money motivated people, it has got to the Real Estate industry. As a buyer, you could be dishing out $350 000 and everyone wants a piece. The Real Estate Agents want a piece. The lenders want a piece. The lawyers want a piece and the sellers want piece. No wonder there are so many scams in this industry.

The first thing to be aware of is the Real Estate Agent. A Real Estate Agent is suppose to act on your behalf to buy or sell the home. Both the buyer of the home and seller of the home will have their own Real Estate Agent called a Buyer’s Real Estate Agent and a Seller’s Real Estate Agent.

In Canada, each Real Estate Agent gets an average of 2.5% and sometimes 2% for the commission of selling the home. Some Real Estate Agents provide cash back rewards. Canadian Real Estate Agents gets higher commission than anywhere else. In United States, their Real Estate Agents only get 1% of the commission and their homes are actually much cheaper. Even though Real Estate Agents are the least educated of the parties involved in the buying home transaction, they seem to be getting the biggest piece of the pie.

Real Estate Agents – What Sellers and Buyers Should Know About Them

For most buyers and sellers the prospect of dealing with a real estate agent brings forth unknown fears. While some agents are genuine and reputable and consider their clients best interest as their top priority, there is no dearth of unscrupulous individuals either who are just trying to make a quick buck at someone else’s expense. As a buyer or sellers of a property, it is your responsibility to choose a estate agent prudently. So, here is a look at what you should know about real estate agents before you approach one.

What does a real estate agent do?

Depending on which side he is working for (the buyers or the sellers), the realtor acts as an intermediary between the buyer and the seller and helps to complete the sale of a property. For his services, he is offered a commission from his client (seller, buyer or both). When working on behalf of the seller, the agent is responsible for putting the details of a property in the multiple listing services of the area and undertaking other efforts such as home staging to market the property.

In case of a residential property, a real estate agent may start off by putting up the details of the property on his personal or company website depending on whether he is a part of a realtor firm or works on his own. The next step would be to market the property through postcards and advertisements in real estate magazines offline as well as online.

Besides marketing the property, the agent who lists your home is also responsible for following up with other agents who might have clients that may have expressed interest in the property. An agent is also supposed to help you negotiate the best deal possible. He/She is with you every step of the way till the home is sold; advising you on all matters including procuring the services of a lawyer.

The agent does not charge the client/home seller for his marketing efforts; however, you will have to incur any legal cost involved in the selling process

When working from the seller’s side, a realtor is responsible for rummaging through the property listings of an area that his client is interested in. He coordinates with the real estate agent handling the property on behalf of the seller and arranges to show the premises to his clients. A real estate agent from the buyer’s side also helps to negotiate the best deal for his client and is with the buyer through out the purchasing process. He is also responsible for approaching a professional to get a property evaluation done. Some real estate agents may also offer other services such as advice and help for procuring home loans.

Real estate agents not only earn commission from the sale and purchase of homes but also when a property is leased. Usually the commission is paid to the real estate agent at the final settlement of the deal.

Who should you choose to be your estate agent?

Real estate agent can don three mantles that of an intermediary on behalf of the seller, the buyer or a dual agent. When buying a house, it would be best to hire the services of an agent who can work on your side, the same holds true when selling a home as well; you would be better of approaching a real estate agent who works for sellers.

Although real estate agents who work from the sellers or the buyer’s side do not have different credentials, some agents choose to play on a single turf while double agents may work for both the seller and the buyer simultaneously earning commissions from both.

The Sellers Real Estate Agent: An agent working on behalf of the seller will have his loyalties towards his client an he/she will try his hardest to convince the seller to give his client the lowest deal. So, as a buyer if you were to ask the seller’s agent if his client would accept a higher deal, he will be obligated to not divulge this information to you.

The Buyers Real Estate Agent: Similarly agents who work on behalf of the seller owe their responsibility to their clients and will try to get their clients the highest deal possible. So, they will not be willing to offer information on how low their client will go in terms of the price.

A dual agent: A dual agent is obligated to keep the honest picture in front of both parties; since he is entitled to a commission from both parties, he owes his loyalties to both the buyer and the seller.

Most real estate agents have a list of buyers as well as sellers so it is not unusual for an agent to work on behalf of both parties or at least get another agent from his real estate firm to negotiate on behalf of the seller or the buyer.

The problem with real estate agents

While real estate agents are in the business of marketing properties, it is not uncommon for them to play up their credentials; after all, it is a dog eat dog world and there is certainly no dearth of realtors in the market. While this is acceptable, some individuals resort to lying blatantly about their accomplishments and often their customers end up paying for their tall claims.

So, make sure that you check all the claims that are being made by a potential estate agent. Do not hesitate to ask for references. If he has not mentioned his experience in the brochure, make it a point to ask him about it. Also, inquire about other properties that he may have sold which were similar to the one that you want to sell/buy; this would include properties in the sane area, of the same size and price range.

Finding a good and reliable agent can save you a lot of trouble while hanging out with the wrong guy can quickly turn into a nightmare so take your time when picking an agent to buy/sell your home.

Indian Real Estate, Property Portals and the 21st Century Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents? Hasn’t the internet gotten rid of them yet?

I hear this question all the time. Most people assume that property portals in India are working towards eliminating agents and facilitating direct interaction between seller and buyer. Though this is partially correct, real estate agents are the biggest customers of these portals and the portals are doing their bit to facilitate their growth. We interact with agents every day and we see most of them are doing good business. I want to take some time and explain the dynamics behind Indian real estate, the role agents’ play and how the role of agents’ is going to change in the future.

Note – Throughout this article, I’ve focused only on the rental and resale market and not gone into sale of new property by builders as the dynamics of that market are radically different. Also, the scope of this article is limited to Indian Real Estate.

“MakeMyTrip has eliminated travel agents. So why hasn’t the same happened to real estate agents?”

One needs to understand that ticketing is now a point-and-click industry – travel agents have been replaced by computers. The process of getting information about the journey AND purchasing the tickets can be done on the internet. Real estate is fundamentally an offline process. Though information aggregation is an important part of it, site visits, negotiations and paperwork all need to be done offline. Even from an owner/sellers perspective, renting out/selling a home isn’t as simple as listing it online – the process can stretch for months. This is where real estate agents step in – in guiding customers through the offline part of the transaction, bringing both parties to agree to the terms and finishing off the paper work.

Why aren’t property portals trying to eliminate agents and become virtual middlemen?

A property portal provides a platform for a seller and a buyer to interact (A seller can be an owner, builder or an agent). If we eliminate agents from this equation, portals are left with a C2C platform with property owners being the only source of inventory. Though many prefer a scenario like this, we need to figure out how the platform provider is going to monetize from this setup. They have the following options -

Listing fees – They can collect a fee from the owner/seller to list their property. There are few owners who’re willing to pay for premium listings (last time I checked, about 5% of owners listing online were willing to pay) but this is simply not enough to sustain the business. Indian consumers are ready to use a service which is free (free listings) OR pay for a service once it’s rendered (brokerage) but are not OK with anything in between.

Charge property seekers to get owner information – Another option would be to charge property seekers a fee to give them information about the owner who’s listed. This also isn’t a sustainable option because owners who list online tend to list on multiple portals and you can always finds a portal which gives you the owners information for free.

Brokerage fee when the deal is closed – This would be a great monetization scheme that everyone would be willing to pay for, but is very hard to implement. To do this, portals need to keep track of every deal that closes offline and that would be next to impossible.

There might be more options, but I don’t really see them becoming huge ‘revenue making machines’. Running a real estate portal is a VERY expensive affair and portals would need a solid revenue stream to offset that cost.

This is where Real Estate Agents step in: Agents are willing to spend good money to market their properties on a platform which would give them good leads. Property portals see this as a steady, sustainable revenue stream. This, seemingly, is a match made in heaven.

So, you’re saying property portals have made no dent in the brokerage industry?

Undoubtedly, they have. In a BIG way! With many owners listing their properties online, agents are starting to feel the heat. Coupled with the fact that the number of real estate agents has almost tripled in the last few years, you’ll see that the average real estate agent earned a LOT less in 2014 that he did in 2011. Agents are beginning to realize that there’s a paradigm shift and it’s time to mend their ways, before the game gets taken out of their hands. There needs to be a shift in their mentality and it needs to happen NOW.

Role of the 21st century real estate agent

10 years back, agents pretty much charged money for information arbitrage – “I have the contact information of the owner/tenant and you need to pay me money to get this contact” was the mantra and it has worked. A disproportionate amount of money was charged for this seemingly simple service and the world went on without a qualm primarily because there was no alternative. But now there is. Increased owner listings on portals, multifold increase in number of real estate agents, internal portals in corporate companies which help employees find accommodation, Facebook groups, etc. have all impacted the brokerage industry and there needs to be an overhaul.

“What’s dangerous is to not evolve, not invent and not continuously improve customer experience” – Every Realtor in the country needs to latch these words said by Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon. Information arbitrage can no longer be the game real estate agents play – We’re moving towards a world where access to information is getting easier and this cannot remain the USP of why a property seeker goes to a real estate agent. I believe agents need to adopt the following practices -

Save time for your customers – In today’s world, nobody has time to do things (even if they do have time, people don’t want to spend their time house hunting). Saving time for your customers is probably the best value-add an agent can provide. Be up-to-date on the latest inventory that is available in the locality. If you’re not confident if the customer will like your property, just tell them so! Don’t drag them to a dingy apartment they’ll never never be interested in – they’ll lose trust in your sense of judgment and never come back to you again. Learn to truly understand what your customer wants, be equipped to find the most relevant inventory, accompany them during site visits and close the deal. A really good agent should be able to close a rental requirement in 7 days and a resale requirement in 1 month, tops.

Give as much information as possible – Instead of hoarding information, agents need to freely part with it. Tell your customers exactly which apartment society the property is in, tell them exactly how far from the bus-stop it is and tell them if the owner/tenant is not comfortable with someone from their demographic. In the longer run, this helps build a better rapport with customers. Sure, other agents (or your customers themselves) might get to the owner/seller without you, but in the longer run, this is what will work.

Adopt technology, don’t fight it – Apart from Whatsapp, agents don’t use their smart phones for any business related activities. Why is this so? For starters, there’re many CRM applications on the app store which they can use. This alone will improve their productivity 100 times over! Other applications for maintaining inventory, marketing, etc. are available but are not being consumed by agents.

Develop skills a computer/technology can’t do – A computer can never negotiate a good deal for the client – that’s a job that requires a human touch. A computer can never get a feel of what the customer truly wants – Agents can do that given you’re always with the customer. This is a relationship driven industry, make sure you always remember that.

Use social media as a marketing platform – When owners are using Facebook as a platform for marketing, why shouldn’t agents? Creating a Facebook group to marketing their listings is a great way to reach new customers. There are some agents who do this already and are getting good response from the same.

Be professional – Cliche as it may sound, going back to the basics is something every agent needs to do. Being punctual, dressing in formals and talking politely to customers are some key skills that agents need to practice. Again, there are agents who’re well mannered, but the number seems to be shrinking.

The list can keep extending, but I can summarize it this way – If you’re a real estate agent, think of what you were doing for your business 5 years back and compare that to what you’re doing today. If nothing much has changed, understand that you’ll become redundant within the next few years. The world is changing and only those who change with it will live to fight another day. Portals have evolved, house hunting has changed for end customers and it’s about time the role of the real estate agent changes as well.

How are we positioned in this complicated market?

Our vision has always been to build A Technology Powered Real Estate agency that works towards helping our customers find a home they truly love. We do that by mixing cutting edge technology and expertise brokerage. We’re adding great real estate agents to our team, giving them next-gen mobile applications/desktop products to better run their business, helping them understand the market as it is today, providing training sessions and learning material and eventually, helping them serve customers better. Given the amazing response we’ve received from customers and agents so far, we’re confident of the road ahead.

Top 7 Mistakes Rookie Real Estate Agents Make

Every time I talk to someone about my business and career, it always comes up that “they’ve thought about getting into real estate” or know someone who has. With so many people thinking about getting into real estate, and getting into real estate – why aren’t there more successful Realtors in the world? Well, there’s only so much business to go around, so there can only be so many Real Estate Agents in the world. I feel, however, that the inherent nature of the business, and how different it is from traditional careers, makes it difficult for the average person to successfully make the transition into the Real Estate Business. As a Broker, I see many new agents make their way into my office – for an interview, and sometimes to begin their careers. New Real Estate Agents bring a lot of great qualities to the table – lots of energy and ambition – but they also make a lot of common mistakes. Here are the 7 top mistakes rookie Real Estate Agents Make.

1) No Business Plan or Business Strategy

So many new agents put all their emphasis on which Real Estate Brokerage they will join when their shiny new license comes in the mail. Why? Because most new Real Estate Agents have never been in business for themselves – they’ve only worked as employees. They, mistakenly, believe that getting into the Real Estate business is “getting a new job.” What they’re missing is that they’re about to go into business for themselves. If you’ve ever opened the doors to ANY business, you know that one of the key ingredients is your business plan. Your business plan helps you define where you’re going, how you’re getting there, and what it’s going to take for you to make your real estate business a success. Here are the essentials of any good business plan:

A) Goals – What do you want? Make them clear, concise, measurable, and achievable.

B) Services You Provide – you don’t want to be the “jack of all trades & master of none” – choose residential or commercial, buyers/sellers/renters, and what area(s) you want to specialize in. New residential real estate agents tend to have the most success with buyers/renters and then move on to listing homes after they’ve completed a few transactions.

C) Market – who are you marketing yourself to?

D) Budget – consider yourself “new real estate agent, inc.” and write down EVERY expense that you have – gas, groceries, cell phone, etc… Then write down the new expenses you’re taking on – board dues, increased gas, increased cell usage, marketing (very important), etc…

E) Funding – how are you going to pay for your budget w/ no income for the first (at least) 60 days? With the goals you’ve set for yourself, when will you break even?

F) Marketing Plan – how are you going to get the word out about your services? The MOST effective way to market yourself is to your own sphere of influence (people you know). Make sure you do so effectively and systematically.

2) Not Using the Best Possible Closing Team

They say the greatest businesspeople surround themselves with people that are smarter than themselves. It takes a pretty big team to close a transaction – Buyer’s Agent, Listing Agent, Lender, Insurance Agent, Title Officer, Inspector, Appraiser, and sometimes more! As a Real Estate Agent, you are in the position to refer your client to whoever you choose, and you should make sure that anyone you refer in will be an asset to the transaction, not someone who will bring you more headache. And the closing team you refer in, or “put your name to,” are there to make you shine! When they perform well, you get to take part of the credit because you referred them into the transaction.

The deadliest duo out there is the New Real Estate Agent & New Mortgage Broker. They get together and decide that, through their combined marketing efforts, they can take over the world! They’re both focusing on the right part of their business – marketing – but they’re doing each other no favors by choosing to give each other business. If you refer in a bad insurance agent, it might cause a minor hiccup in the transaction – you make a simple phone call and a new agent can bind the property in less than an hour. However, because it typically takes at least two weeks to close a loan, if you use an inexperienced lender, the result can be disastrous! You may find yourself in a position of “begging for a contract extension,” or worse, being denied a contract extension.

A good closing team will typically know more than their role in the transaction. Due to this, you can turn to them with questions, and they will step in (quietly) when they see a potential mistake – because they want to help you, and in return receive more of your business. Using good, experienced players for your closing team will help you infinitely in conducting business worthy of MORE business…and best of all, it’s free!

3) Not Arming Themselves with the Necessary Tools

Getting started as a Real Estate Agent is expensive. In Texas, the license alone is an investment that will cost between $700 and $900 (not taking into account the amount of time you’ll invest.) However, you’ll run into even more expenses when you go to arm yourself with the necessary tools of the trade. And don’t fool yourself – they are necessary – because your competitors are definitely using every tool to help THEM.

A) MLS Access is probably the most expensive necessity you’re going to run into. Joining your local (and state & national, by default) Board of Realtors will allow you to pay for MLS access, and in Austin, Texas, will run around $1000. However, don’t skimp in this area. Getting MLS access is one of the most important things you can do. It’s what differentiates us from your average salesman – we don’t sell homes, we present any of the homes that we have available. With MLS Access, you will have 99% of the homes for sale in your area available to present to your clients.

B) Mobile Phone w/ a Beefy Plan – These days, everyone has a cell phone. But not everyone has a plan that will facilitate the level of use that Real Estate Agents need. Plan on getting at least 2000 minutes per month. You want, and need, to be available to your clients 24/7 – not just nights and weekends.

Real Estate Agents and the Internet – How to Buy and Sell Real Estate Today

Then and Now

Ten years ago, a search for real estate would have started in the office of a local real estate agent or by just driving around town. At the agent’s office, you would spend an afternoon flipping through pages of active property listings from the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). After choosing properties of interest, you would spend many weeks touring each property until you found the right one. Finding market data to enable you to assess the asking price would take more time and a lot more driving, and you still might not be able to find all of the information you needed to get really comfortable with a fair market value.

Today, most property searches start on the Internet. A quick keyword search on Google by location will likely get you thousands of results. If you spot a property of interest on a real estate web site, you can typically view photos online and maybe even take a virtual tour. You can then check other Web sites, such as the local county assessor, to get an idea of the property’s value, see what the current owner paid for the property, check the real estate taxes, get census data, school information, and even check out what shops are within walking distance-all without leaving your house!

While the resources on the Internet are convenient and helpful, using them properly can be a challenge because of the volume of information and the difficulty in verifying its accuracy. At the time of writing, a search of “Denver real estate” returned 2,670,000 Web sites. Even a neighborhood specific search for real estate can easily return thousands of Web sites. With so many resources online how does an investor effectively use them without getting bogged down or winding up with incomplete or bad information? Believe it or not, understanding how the business of real estate works offline makes it easier to understand online real estate information and strategies.

The Business of Real Estate

Real estate is typically bought and sold either through a licensed real estate agent or directly by the owner. The vast majority is bought and sold through real estate brokers. (We use “agent” and “broker” to refer to the same professional.) This is due to their real estate knowledge and experience and, at least historically, their exclusive access to a database of active properties for sale. Access to this database of property listings provided the most efficient way to search for properties.

The MLS (and CIE)

The database of residential, land, and smaller income producing properties (including some commercial properties) is commonly referred to as a multiple listing service (MLS). In most cases, only properties listed by member real estate agents can be added to an MLS. The primary purpose of an MLS is to enable the member real estate agents to make offers of compensation to other member agents if they find a buyer for a property.

This purposes did not include enabling the direct publishing of the MLS information to the public; times change. Today, most MLS information is directly accessible to the public over the Internet in many different forms.

Commercial property listings are also displayed online but aggregated commercial property information is more elusive. Larger MLSs often operate a commercial information exchange (CIE). A CIE is similar to an MLS but the agents adding the listings to the database are not required to offer any specific type of compensation to the other members. Compensation is negotiated outside the CIE.

In most cases, for-sale-by-owner properties cannot be directly added to an MLS and CIE, which are typically maintained by REALTOR associations. The lack of a managed centralized database can make these properties more difficult to locate. Traditionally, these properties are found by driving around or looking for ads in the local newspaper’s real estate listings. A more efficient way to locate for-sale-by-owner properties is to search for a for-sale-by-owner Web site in the geographic area.

What is a REALTOR? Sometimes the terms real estate agent and REALTOR are used interchangeably; however, they are not the same. A REALTOR is a licensed real estate agent who is also a member of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS. REALTORS are required to comply with a strict code of ethics and conduct.

MLS and CIE property listing information was historically only available in hard copy, and as we mentioned, only directly available to real estate agents members of an MLS or CIE. About ten years ago, this valuable property information started to trickle out to the Internet. This trickle is now a flood!

One reason is that most of the 1 million or so REALTORS have Web sites, and most of those Web sites have varying amounts of the local MLS or CIE property information displayed on them. Another reason is that there are many non-real estate agent Web sites that also offer real estate information, including, for-sale-by-owner sites, foreclosure sites, regional and international listing sites, County assessor sites, and valuation and market information sites. The flood of real estate information to the Internet definitely makes the information more accessible but also more confusing and subject to misunderstanding and misuse.