July 16, 2007

Never Get Too Good To Be Interviewed

by Irene Nash

Dog and horse interviewingI was shocked last year to lose some buyers that I’d been working with in the 700K to 1 million price range. I referred them to a well-known agent who worked with many high end clients, and who was a “neighborhood expert” in their area of preference. I assumed it would be a perfect match.


It turned out to be a good lesson in how matching personalities is just as important as being a competent agent.

These clients, a young couple, had taken the time to interview me carefully before we started working together. They had been told to find someone who was an expert in a certain city, and in answer to that question I told them that while I was very familiar with the area, I did not consider myself to be a specialist.

I went on to explain what I feel to be the complete truth – that while knowledge of an area is important, how well an agent handles the information available to them is one of the key determinants of a client’s success. I’ve seen too many long-time agents price incorrectly in their own backyards to ascribe completely to the theory of the neighborhood expert having a magical eye.

I explained that to find a good agent you need a combination of:

1. Competence – so that the agent is able to accurately assess the market, give good counsel about whether a home will suit a client’s needs, point out features that make for good and bad re-sale value, and analyze recent shifts in pricing in order to catch any trends in the making.

2. Integrity – so that the agent shares this information with the client.

3. Local market knowledge – so that no one is surprised later by the plans for the highway overpass, the smell from the soup factory when the wind blows from the north, or the traffic bottleneck on the commute to work.

(And if I had to pick the ones you can’t do without, I’d pick #1 and #2 – a competent agent will at least do a good job of amassing local market knowledge.)

This couple was communicative, responsive, and reasonable the entire time (about 6 weeks) that I worked with them. Unfortunately, my follow-up after I referred them was poor, and I learned too late that they felt thwarted and dismissed in their attempts to go through any kind of interview process with the referral agent (who immediately summed them up as “not serious, and not committed”.)

For the record: I can spot “not serious, and not committed” from twenty paces, and my gut response is straight out of “Monty Python’s Holy Grail”. (“Run away, run away!”)

In talking with both parties afterwards, it became clear that I had sent my buyers to someone who was used to a steady stream of devoted clients, and who simply wasn’t up for spending time justifying their own worth. Needless to say, it was an unpleasant experience for my buyers, and lost me a substantial chunk of money.

So think about it.

When someone comes to us for help with a home purchase or sale, essentially what they’re saying is, “Please help me invest $700,000.” Or maybe it’s $300,000, or $2 million. Even if it’s just $40,000, why wouldn’t they expect to interview the person helping them spend it?

As our businesses grow sometimes we have experiences that act as checks and balances. This one reminded me that regardless of how accustomed we become to dealing with huge sums of money in the whirlwind of real estate, every client is potentially starting out at square one from a mental standpoint, and deserves the chance to be met there.

(Otherwise, they might just “Run away, run away!”)

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