Listing agent secrets you need to know

Listing agent Secrets

There are a number of topics that your listing agent probably won’t discuss with you, or can’t properly explain.  Here are several listing agent secrets that you need to know:

Your agent won’t sell your home

home for saleYour home will likely sell to a home buyer who is represented by a buyer agent. This notion is supported the 2016 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (nar.realtor), which reported that 88 percent of home buyers used an agent to buy a home.  The remaining 12 percent of home buyers purchased through other means, including with the help of the listing agent, or even a FSBO.  Although your listing agent may claim to have sold the most homes in the neighborhood, the truth may actually be that they are only facilitators.  The buyer agent who actually “sells” the home is labelled the “selling agent” by the industry.

Buyers are not finding homes in print

listing agent secrets
Agent secrets (infographic from nar.realtor)

Print advertising no longer is the means of selling a home. More information from the 2016 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers indicate that having a nice spread in a magazine, or posting open houses in the local paper is probably a sales ploy to get your listing.  The Profile reported that home buyers reported how they found their home as follows (nar.realtor):

  • Internet: 51%
  • Real estate agent: 34%
  • Yard sign/open house sign: 8%
  • Friend, relative or neighbor: 4%
  • Home builder or their agent: 2%
  • Directly from sellers/Knew the sellers: 1%
  • Print newspaper advertisement: 1%

Bigger is not better

Another one of your listing agent secrets is that the larger your agent’s brokerage or team, and having a high number of homes actively listed may actually be detrimental to your home sale!  An empirical study by Shiawee X. Yang and Abdullah Yavaş (Bigger is Not Better: Brokerage and Time on the Market; The Journal of Real Estate Research; 1995, Vol. 10, No. 1, pp. 23-33) reported the following results:

  1. The amount of agent’s commission is not indicative of your home’s time on market;
  2. The size of the listing firm does not affect your home’s time on market;
  3. Homes listed and sold by the same firm (i.e., dual agency) does not reduce time on market;
  4. The more active listings your agent has, the longer your home may sit on the market because they do not devote to the time to your sale.

Yang and Yavaş suggest that the larger the listing firm, the more incentive to “cheat” days on market by circulating new listings within the firm before entering it in the MLS, which also increases the chances of a dual agency situation.  “Private placement,” or pocket listings can have similar dual agency results.

Dual agency could cost you

Chances are that your listing agent doesn’t totally understand dual agency, and therefor may not be able to explain how it affects your sale and potentially your sale price.  The Maryland Real Estate Commission’s “Understanding Whom Real Estate Agents Represent” disclosure states:

The possibility of dual agency arises when the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent both work for the same real estate company…The real estate broker or the broker’s designee, is called the “dual agent.” Dual agents do not act exclusively in the interests of either the seller or buyer, and therefore cannot give undivided loyalty to either party. There may be a conflict of interest because the interests of the seller and buyer may be different or adverse.

One of the listing agent secrets is that dual agency may not be beneficial to you, and can even lower your home sale price.  There are a number of empirical studies that indicate conflicts of interest and other issues that arise out of dual agency.  But a study by Joachim Zietz and Bobby Newsome (Agency Representation and the Sale Price of Houses; Journal of Real Estate Research; 2002, Vol 24, No 2 pp. 165-91) found that a home’s sale price drops about 3.7 percent when the listing and buyer agents are from the same firm.  They stated:

the fact that buyers may obtain a lower price by engaging a buyer’s agent from the same firm as the listing agent raises the issue of whether or not the listing firm is shortchanging the seller. The evidence appears to suggest that the agency relationship between seller and listing agent may be compromised.

Copyright © Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Transforming real estate – whom do agents really represent?

transforming real estate
Real estate transformation over time (infographic from movoto.com)

The continuously transforming real estate industry continues to change because of two forces, consumers and real estate professionals.  It would seem intuitive that the forces should be complimentary, but a deeper analysis might suggest conflicting interests between consumers and real estate agents. Whom do agents really represent?

Efficiency, although not openly stated, is a main goal of both home sellers and real estate agents.  Home sellers want to sell their homes efficiently (as quick as possible and for the most money); while the real estate agent may be focused on collecting the most commission in the least amount of time.  A.W. Jenkins’ ground breaking research looked into why consumers continued to use brokers in a transforming real estate environment as a means of buying and selling a home.  Jenkins determined that the only reason why consumers did not use a more efficient “used house dealer” is because they don’t exist (Home, Sweet Home: Real Estate Brokerage in Canada, Vancouver, Canada: The Fraser Institute, 1989).  Jenkins discussed the incentive for consumers to sign commission based broker agreements, even when there are more efficient means of buying and selling a home; including a used house dealer, sell the house on their own, or even pay a flat listing fee.

Anglin & Arnott furthered Jenkins’ line of questioning and came to the conclusion that although a used house dealership (like the used car dealership) may be the most efficient means of buying and selling a home for the consumer, it is not an efficient business model for residential real estate professionals (Residential real estate brokerage as a principal-agent problem; The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics; 1991, vol 4, no 2, pp 99–125).  The cost of maintaining a used house inventory for the dealer is prohibitive because home resale usually takes longer than reselling an automobile.  Another reason for non-existent used house dealers is government regulation: The sale of residential real estate by individuals other than the owner is highly regulated and sets standards for real estate brokerage.

Furthermore, they hypothesize that there may be broker “collusion” in maintaining existing business models:

…Collusion, we argued, is particularly easy to sustain and enforce in the residential real estate market because transactions require cooperation between the buying and selling broker…

As the transforming real estate industry continues its journey, the notion of efficiency has taken a substantial turn in favor of the real estate agent.  The advent of buyer agency and dual agency has allowed agents to leverage their name and reputation to other agents through a “team.”  Much like the medical office business model of luring patients through someone’s name and reputation, only to see the lower techs; the real estate team has become a popular business mode because an agent can leverage their time by having other agents do their work.  To further the confusion, in some cases there are teams within teams. But to understand the structure of the real estate team concept, think of a Russian nesting doll.  The team is a smaller nesting doll which is embedded in the larger nesting doll (the broker); and the team members are even smaller nesting dolls embedded within the team nesting doll.  To be fair, there are various team models in use today; some are better than others with respect to transparency.  The transforming real estate industry has moved towards real estate teams, which essentially operate as a brokerage within a brokerage.

Real estate team advertising and disclosure have become the focus of regulation in recent years, but has not entirely thwarted unscrupulous advertising that intends to mislead the consumer.  Furthermore, agents who are independent contractors and sub-contractors of brokers and other agents, can not only muddy the waters of agency, but can further distance the agent’s incentive and duty to their client.

In his article about the dual agency controversy (From subagency to non-agency: a history; inman.com; Feb 27, 2012), Matt Carter reminded us about a 1993 treatise by the former National Association of Realtors general counsel William North titled “Agency, Facilitation and the Realtor.”  The essay was written at a time when transforming real estate was about acknowledging buyer agency.  Agency relationships between Realtors and their clients were under scrutiny.  North was questioning whom agents really represent and if agents actually knew their role.  To make it easier for agents to know to whom they have a duty, North made an argument for eliminating the independent contractor status that prevails throughout the industry.  He stated:

An approach more difficult of acceptance by NAR membership would be the abandonment of the independent contractor status…The prevailing independent contractor relationship between broker and salesperson encourages “quantity” over “quality…It is clear from the letters which have been received by Realtor News on the Agency issue that far too many Realtors and Realtor Associations simply have no concept of what an agent is, does or cannot do or that their status as an “independent contractor” vis-à-vis their broker has nothing to do with their obligations, as an agent, to the seller or the buyer.  It only compounds the public confusion as to the status of a Realtor when Realtors themselves do not understand who and what they are.

Copyright © Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Retro-future of real estate – buyers like representation

For SaleWhen I wrote about the future of real estate brokerage seven years ago, I predicted that consumers would become increasingly reliant on the internet; while the process of selling homes would remain interpersonal. Once thought to free home buyers and sellers from real estate brokers, the internet has become ancillary to the home buying and selling process.

Some real estate experts point to home buyers’ perception of buyer agency as a reason for the integration of the internet into the buying process. The internet has become a prolific source of information that funnels buyers directly to listing agents. With information in hand, many buyers are seemingly ditching their agents when viewing homes; some thinking they can negotiate a sweat deal directly with the listing agent.

Consider this 2012 anonymous post from a popular real estate web site. The poster proclaimed to have fired their agent and on their own negotiated a $490,000 price, when a previous buyer backed out from a $515,000 contract. The poster stated that “it makes financial sense,” the rationale being that there is always a 6% commission built into the price. The post stated that the seller makes more money if there is no buyer agent to pay, even if the offer is lower; while also getting the listing agent to accept a lower commission.

The post’s rationale may seem ostensibly compelling; and if the tactic works, it most likely has nothing to do with commissions per se. The strategy of negotiating a better price based on commission falls flat when you understand how broker commissions are negotiated. Generally, commissions are negotiated between the listing broker and the seller before the home is listed; the negotiated commission is expressly stated in the listing contract. The commission belongs to the listing broker, not the agents. The listing contract is also specific to the amount of the commission to be split if the buyer is represented by a buyer broker. Trends in commissions vary; including variable commissions, which is an agreement to a reduced listing commission if the buyer is not represented.
(Continued below)

Of course this do-it-yourself (DIY) home buyer post (and many others like it) has garnered a lot of attention and unconfirmed corroboration. However, there is no additional information about this specific transaction; and two thoughts immediately come to mind, either: the home did not appraise at the higher price (this was 2012); or the buyer walked on the home inspection.

The truth is that many still value buyer broker representation, which goes beyond just finding a home and negotiating a sales price; and may include (among other responsibilities) identifying and guiding you through any obstacles that can arise during the transaction. Of course, not all agents are the same. If your agent is a strong negotiator, the probability on settling on a better price is higher; as well as other occasions during the transaction where negotiation is paramount – notably during the home inspection process.

What some experts proclaim to be evidence of a trend of home buyers purchasing sans a buyer agent, may actually be just a shift in buyer behavior. Sure, there will always be the “DYI” buyer trying to justify a price by reducing commissions. But the reality may be that, rather than ditching the buyer agent altogether, the internet has allowed many home buyers to put off signing a buyer agency agreement until they are ready to make an offer.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Buying a home – is it a product or service?

house for saleIf you’re like many home buyers, your home search is focused on a home’s specific features that are limited to your price range. Your search may seem “product” directed, at least initially. And unless you plan to go it absolutely alone; you’re likely to be using a number of real estate related services as well.

Before the multiple list service existed, when card catalogs were used to keep track of homes for sale, real estate listings were proprietary and buyer agency did not exist. Cooperation between brokers was not guaranteed; and as a result, real estate brokers mostly sold their own listings. Because the broker was the source of information about the home, as well as the home sale/purchase process; the real estate broker’s services were perceived to be one and the same as the product (the house for sale).

Today, everyone turns to the internet for answers, which has become the “go to guy” for information. It seems as if the information found on the internet is treated as gospel, even when it is not verifiable. And this is particularly true for real estate. Home buyers, sellers, and owners use the internet to search all types of information including: homes for sale, home values, property tax, and the home buying/selling process.

Like some other service industries, you could say that the internet has contributed in separating the product from the service; consumers are no longer required to go directly to the real estate broker to search for a house or other real estate information, and consequently get their services too. Finding and viewing homes for sale without your agent has become easier; as is selling your home FSBO (for sale by owner). The resulting sentiment is the obvious questioning of the value of the real estate agent.

When asked what an agent can bring to your real estate transaction, the consensus is that they are housing market experts. Real estate agents are invested in knowing local listing and sale activity, as well as networking within the industry to keep on top of the latest trends. They can interpret the home sale data to help you formulate a buying/selling strategy (including price and terms). Experienced agents also typically have developed the ability to easily connect with buyers and sellers having a greater capacity to understand their specific needs to facilitate a smoother transaction. And although agents are often thought of as transaction facilitators; your Realtor® is a fiduciary, obligated to protect and promote your interests (while also obligated to treat all parties honestly). Agents are also required to be up to date on legislation that affects home buyers and sellers, which will help when structuring your transaction, including compulsory disclosures and obligations.

Unlike the consumer experience back in the day when there was little choice in real estate services, you now have the luxury of choice. But choose your agent carefully; agents are not all alike. Recent research indicates that veteran agents positively affect your transaction and are more efficient compared to rookies. Additionally, full-time agents have better outcomes than those who consider themselves as “part-timers.”

Savvy home buyers and sellers benefit from their agents’ experience and commitment. Smart consumers understand that experienced agents offer intangible services such as understanding the nuances of the housing market, as well as having an increased ability to engage the parties in the transaction.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of July 7, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

The Future of Real Estate Brokerage

by Dan Krell © 2007
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I am going to share my feelings about a recent article that appeared in the March issue of Realtor® Magazine. The article is one of a series of interviews with the innovators in the field. This article was a synopsis of a round table to discuss the future of real estate brokerage with some of the top Brokers in the field.

Although many responses made sense, other responses were disappointing. Reading about future developments such as one stop shopping, discount services, and internet leads sounded more like a rehash of the recent past rather than ground breaking innovations.

Where is the future of real estate headed? In an interview on National Public Radio (March 3, 2006), Economist Steven Levitt discussed the idea that the real estate agent is an endangered species and at that traditional six percent real estate commission may become a thing of the past because of the pressures of the internet and the economics of a housing boom. At the time, it made perfect sense. However, as the market has slowed this past year, home sellers are now offering higher commissions, and sometimes even a bonus, to sell their homes.

Ok, so what about the future? Like the Amazing Criswell, I may make some wild claims. However, the difference is that I look to history to help define where we are going.

Real estate brokerage started out as a means to bring buyers and sellers together while playing gatekeeper and controlling information. Over time, legislation and legal challenges have transformed the nature of agency and representation to become the present practice of real estate. Additionally, technology and the internet have forced changes in the type and amount of information available as well as how it is disseminated.

Generally, the core of real estate profession of tomorrow will be much like yesterday and today-people. Real estate contracts will continue to grow as brokers will continue to try to limit liability. Agency and representation may change from a transactional management model to a consultant or case management model, where the client can get assistance and direction in the buying or selling process.

Information technologies will continue to develop and will deliver high quality and detailed information as well as increasing efficiency to all users. Possibly one day, you wouldn’t have to go to an open house as you can experience any home in full scale 3D. Although contracts are getting longer and thicker, the use of the internet and email to execute and deliver documents has been helpful such that one day settlements may be conducted in a similar manner.

As economics and legislation played a large role in the development of real estate brokerage, it is difficult to predict future economic cycles and future government regulation. Even with this uncertainty, it is clear that these influences will impact the future growth of the industry. For example, economic cycles dictate the number of Realtors entering or exiting the marketplace as well as contraction and mergers of large real estate brokerages. Additionally, future legislation may impact compensation structures.

Although technologies, laws, compensations, and business models may change, one thing will continue to remain the same- the human animal. Developments will certainly make the process easier, but ultimately home buying and selling is an emotional and subjective process that requires human interaction.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This comlumn was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of March 12, 2007. Copyright (c) 2007 Dan Krell.