How Can I Help You?

mark pennAnyone who is in a career such as real estate is hopefully in the business because he or she wants to help people. I could probably write several columns about real estate “practitioners” who aren’t terribly skillful at providing genuine service to their clients, but let’s talk about what’s actually realistic. What should you expect out of me or any other real estate agent you choose to represent you?

To boil it down to the pure basics, a real estate agent is required to obey all laws, codes, etc. These state that an agent owes his/her clients the “fiduciary duty of utmost care, integrity, honesty and loyalty.” Those lofty words should almost be givens, but in this dog-eat-dog world they actually can fall below the horizon.

Legally speaking, that’s about it. But anyone who values his/her clients (and their reputation) will go much farther than that. Some of the ‘beyond-the-call-of-duty’ items might include meeting with clients after hours or on weekends, tailoring communications to a client’s preferences, spending as much time as their clients need, and maintaining a 24/7 mentality in thinking about those clients. These are just a few qualities that might set one agent apart from another.

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And there are a few other ‘behind the curtain’ items that you might not always think of. How well does the agent know their business? And note: That’s a different question from, “How long have they been in the business?” Knowledge and experience are not the same things. Is the agent up to speed technologically? How is the agent thought of amongst his or her peers? That last one is a biggie. If you want to be considered in a multiple offer situation, you’d better have an agent who is respected by his/her colleagues, or you might as well not even bother.

Now, to be fair, let me flip this over and let’s talk about what an agent would want to expect from his or her clients.  There aren’t any codes or laws that govern this, although I’m sure that some agents wish there were. I think the one thread that I hear many times is, “I wish they would listen to what I say.” You can’t always blame the clients for this, because sometimes the agent just doesn’t communicate well, but if you are choosing an agent for the right reasons – not because she’s your mother-in-law, or because he’s the cheapest one around, etc. – then you are choosing the individual because you respect his or her knowledge and advice.

And forgive my bluntness here, but just because you are following Zillow every day, unless you are out there doing the work, then you aren’t the expert. There is homework you can do, however, to help your agent to help you. Sellers, follow your agent’s advice in prepping your property for the market. Buyers, be very straightforward with your agent and yourself about what it is you can afford and what it is you are looking for.

A relationship between clients and agents can be fruitful in many ways. I don’t think anything is more rewarding than seeing my clients’ faces when I am handing them the keys to their new home, or following up with them and hearing how happy they are. Every situation isn’t perfect, nor is every agent a perfect match for certain clients. But if you do your homework in searching for the right agent, and the agent works hard to represent you, you are well on your way to success.

Next month: The dreaded topic- “Real Estate Fees and Commissions.”

A Bay Area native, Mark Penn has been a REALTOR® with Coldwell Banker since 2004. He is also active in animal welfare, and is a former educator, facilitator, and air traffic controller. Mark can be reached at mark@MyHomeInSonoma.com.