- The client comes first
- Be frugal and be very deliberate about what you spend money on early
- Continue to up your game with professional development
Not Putting Listings in Zillow
Call it “Zillow Derangement Syndrome”. If you aren’t plugged into the real estate scene, go find your closest Realtor friend and just say “I love Zillow”.
Then I recommend running away very quickly.
When Zillow launched onto the scene over a decade ago, it rattled Realtors. Zillow was out to replace Realtors with a website, many agents feared. There is an entire “Stop Zillow” movement in the real estate industry. The logic is that agents freely give their data to Zillow (listings) and Zillow turns around and charges that same agent for leads coming to those listings (Zillow advertising). If agents just stop sending listings to Zillow, the massive real estate portal will crumble and agents somehow emerge triumphantly!
Zillow is the #1 most visited real estate website in America (28th most visited website in America as of this writing). And that is not including Trulia, which Zillow also owns.
At the end of the day, your seller does not care about your petty squabble with Zillow. They want their home where the buyers are. The buyers are on Zillow. Put your listing on Zillow.
Bad or Insufficient MLS Information
As an agent, you want to be careful what you are putting in the MLS. A small accident can mean the difference between your home being viewed or not.
For example, if your home is legitimately four bedrooms but you only put three, then everyone looking at 4+ bedrooms is never going to see your home. Other examples might be putting it in the wrong school district, or fat fingering the square footage to show 11,785 square feet instead of 1785 square feet. Everyone looking for a home between 1500-2000 square feet are not going to see yours.
Some agents seem to be reluctant to share too much about the home they are listing because they fear it might expose themselves to liability. “If I accidentally advertise that the home has gutters, but it doesn’t, then I’ll be responsible for paying new gutters!” Well, that is the risk of being a real estate agent. Do a good property intake and have your seller review and sign off on the MLS listing. But advertise everything you can about your home!
I regularly search by features or even keywords in the description. It can be the only way to find a home with the mature trees that are important to my buyer. Make sure you’re filling it out as completely as possible to give your seller the best chance of having their home found.
Scared of Foreclosures
Foreclosures are dirty, scary, broken homes that need $20,000 or more just to make habitable. That is, if you ever even manage to successfully close at all after many months haggling with a bank.
That is certainly not the case in the Fort Hood area, which has an unusually high rate of foreclosures due to elements like the VA loan and (until recently) flat home values.
Because the average age of a Fort Hood home is very, very, young, many of these foreclosures are newer, and in relatively good condition. Sometimes, the banks even put money into repairs, like new paint and carpet, and I have personally worked on several move-in ready foreclosures. Others often just need some paint, carpet, and a new oven and are good to go!
Moreover, while some foreclosure sites like Auction.com or Hubzu can indeed be a foreign territory or a pain for Realtors, the most prominent foreclosure “bank” in the Fort Hood area is the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA foreclosures are very simple to work with, and many are bought with VA and FHA financing, traditionally the most strict financing types concerning the condition of the home.
Meanwhile, the benefits of buying a foreclosure are immense for your buyer. Buying a foreclosure means starting equity, making it easier to sell or rent in a few years time when your buyer moves on.
Don’t be scared of foreclosures!
Using Active Listings in CMAs
I was doing a listing presentation for a seller once, who was quickly confused. He had interviewed other agents before me and didn’t understand why I wasn’t using some of the same comps as the other agents he had spoken with. He went so far as to even share the other agents’ CMAs with me, where I learned – egads! – some of the local agents are using active listings as comps!
Active listings are not sales. They do not represent the true value of a home. Instead, they simply represent what someone wants their home to be worth. I could list my $150,000 home for $700,000 today, and that would have no bearing on the value of my home or my neighbors. It just means I’m crazy.
What often happens, therefore, is that these agents’ recommended price is well above the price that the actual comps would recommend, which makes my puny listing presentation look weak. The seller who chooses an agent using active listings as comps is in danger of spending months on the market, overpriced, while trying to figure out what is wrong.
As a note – I do look at active listings in my listing presentation, just not as the comps. It is good to see what is active, if homes are going under contract quickly or sitting, and see what your competition would look like if you went on the market today. Just not as comps!
Spending Money on Stupid Stuff
“Hello! This is Sharon, your local Google specialist!”
I get these calls all the time. Which is sad, because it means that they work. Some Realtor out there thinks that this baloney cold call is legitimate, and ends up signing up for a service that this new Realtor doesn’t need and can’t afford with promises of 10xing their business.
Especially if you are a new Realtor, I recommend spending as little as possible. Trust me – I was there myself and have spent $10,000s on things that didn’t earn me a dime, and others that did not earn what they should have. Bootstrap! Lead with revenue! And thoroughly vet the resource you are spending money on before you do.
The most common money pits I see are advertising and website related. There are a lot of crummy Realtor websites. I wrote an article about what I do myself and recommend exploring in a website. Generally, I would steer clear from the “all-in-one” sites that try to be a website, CRM, and lead generator.
As for advertising, I will speak more about that in the next section. But I would recommend never spending money on advertising (e.g. Zillow leads) until you have a solid follow-up gameplan in whatever CRM you use, and never go in expecting to rely on them for business.
Not Building their Business
Some agents still treat real estate as a side gig or even hobby. The coming decade will be one of consolidation – fewer but bigger agents. The part-timer is going to go extinct.
If you aspire to be a serious agent, it’s imperative you start building your business. That means a real website. It means tracking your numbers. It means professional development. It means participating in the local association. It means going to the convention. It means building a business plan.
Unless you are a salaried agent on a team or brokerage like Redfin, you are a business and your own boss. Your mentality must be “I am an entrepreneur”. Like Mark Cuban says, “Work like there is someone working 24 hours a day to take it away from you.” The Army has a motivational poster that is similar. “Somewhere in the world, there is someone training to kill you. What are you doing?”
There is no reason to be cutthroat in our industry. But there is every reason to take it seriously and professionally and continually reinvent yourself to be better, just as a successful business does.
You would never see this in Austin. But it is everywhere in the Fort Hood market still.
I wrote an entire article on how important professional photography is when advertising a home for sale.
Historically, our area has very low prices, which means lower commissions. Add to that the fact that Fort Hood homes aren’t guaranteed to always sell, and local Realtors developed an allergy to spending money on their listing. But that time is in the past. In order to be a quality agent in the 21st century, professional photography should be standard.
This isn’t a slam on any local agents. Our area has some great ones! And I’ve made mistakes myself along the way. But these are just a few of the items I’ve run across multiple times that I think are mistakes.
If you are in the Fort Hood area and looking for a local agent, I would be honored if you considered interviewing me, a local professional who knows our industry and how to serve you!