What makes an ideal real estate agent?

A reader asks. I respond:

•The ideal agent listens to what his clients say, and to what they don’t say.
•Has market knowledge. Knows local neighborhoods, their pros and cons, and has at least a general idea of what’s on the market at any one time. Or can catch up quickly.
•Knows the options different neighborhoods and cities offer his clients. If they want something they can’t afford, is there an acceptable substitute five miles away?
•Knows how to write winning, and unambiguous, purchase offers, without exposing his clients to more risk than current market conditions demand of buyers to be successful.
•Can quickly size up the chances of his clients to be successful.
•Can educate his clients, bringing them up to speed quickly to minimize their frustrations and failures (and his). Enjoys teaching, and never stops.
•Never gives up on his clients until they give up on themselves.
•Can convey to listing agents, always on the look-out for flakey buyer’s agents, that he isn’t. “You want to do business with me.” This message, subtly yet persuasively delivered, gives his clients opportunities they would not otherwise have.
•Is able to network among agents and establish relationships, or at least make positive impressions.
•Knows how to negotiate without polarizing and alienating the other side (or his side, for that matter). Because, despite what some people think, it’s not productive to have the other side hating your guts.
•Treats all parties to the transaction with respect, while, of course, advocating forcefully and effectively for his own client. The old “iron fist in the velvet glove” approach, so often admired in theory and poorly executed in practice.
•Listens to his clients’ verbal and non-verbal cues.
•Has a thorough understanding of basic (very basic) real estate law, in particular, seller disclosure issues, without thinking he’s the last word on legal matters. Knows a real estate attorney who is.
•Understands the basics of lending, escrow and home maintenance, but realizes that he can’t be the last word on any of these highly specialized and ever-changing fields. Knows people who are.
•Has a professional, committed attitude to his work. Passion, that Silicon Valley cliché, is also helpful, as is a tendency to obsession.
•Is detail-oriented without getting bogged down in details. Willing to deal with minutiae, but without losing sight of the big picture.
•Is analytical, but not in love with his spreadsheets.
•Is a natural leader, or, more likely, has learned how to lead—and learned that someone has to lead, so it might as well be him.
•Is both a thinker and a doer, although if I had to choose, I’d say doer is more important. Like all good things, thinking should be done in moderation.
•Stays positive, around his clients and around agents, although he doesn’t need to be, and in fact, shouldn’t be, a Pollyanna. Leaves the rah-rah to the pep squad.
•Has integrity and knows ethical behavior. Failing that, has a clear understanding of the legal, financial, professional and psychical consequences of not properly representing his clients.
•Is the long-time friend or acquaintance of lots of people, likely to buy homes and preferably rich, who take him seriously enough to use and/or recommend him.
•Looks like he has a few miles on him, but not so many miles that his transmission is slipping.
•Is incredibly persistent and focused, without being overbearing.
•Knows lots of cheap, reliable tradesmen, and knows how to coordinate them. Can also turn water into wine.
•Knows his professional life will never be smooth and predictable, and is cool with that.
•Can set a schedule and stick to it, but knows how to adapt to the inevitable unexpected.
•Can triage, dealing quickly yet satisfactorily with critical cases.
•Has what might be called “real estate smarts”, which is basically common sense, intuition and a grasp of other people’s character.
•Understands the transitory nature of opportunity, both for his clients and for himself. Knows that, in real life, tomorrow is often too late. Can get this message across without appearing pushy.
•Is pleasant but not a people-pleaser, because people-pleasers give away the store just to be liked.
•Can stand up to intimidation.
•Has a healthy ego—he’ll need it—without being egotistical.
•Has a year’s worth of living expenses in the bank, liquid, so that he won’t be desperate if he hasn’t sold a house in a month or two. Having a modest lifestyle also helps.
•Comes across as confident and successful, and is. Knows that he adds value to anything he touches. Believes he’s the best agent for his clients, and should have reasonable grounds for this belief.
•Has strong opinions about what will work best for his clients, based on experience, but never forces those opinions on his clients.
•Treats his clients and fellow agents as he would wish to be treated. Never takes the easy way out, because then he’d be denied the pleasure of being critical of those who do.
•Doesn’t consider his occupation to be “sales”, even though it says that on his tax return.
•Knows when to ask his manager for guidance, and isn’t reluctant to admit to his manager that he needs guidance. In fact, enjoys “talking tech” with his manager.

Pretty exhaustive, but I’m sure I’ve left something out. And note that I haven’t mentioned super-human computer skills—this business is more than tech support—or the letters MBA after your name—this is small, human-scale business, not the great big corporate world.

Can anyone measure up? Yes, a handful, most of the time, but at a higher price than the average agent is willing or able to pay. Which is why you’re unlikely to find one of these Ubermensch at Discounts’R’Us.

copyright © John Fyten 2012

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