In a prior blog I wrote about my early real estate career and working under a Principal Broker’s directive of; “We don’t want rockstars, and we don’t want newbies.” There are one or two Rockstars in every market, but the general public is more likely to encounter a Newbie (especially during a boom in the housing market). My heart goes out to Newbies… I mean, we all have to start somewhere! But if you want an experienced agent, here are some quick ways to identify Newbies:
- They seem uncomfortable during the initial meeting or a listing presentation (e.g., talking fast, fidgeting, not making direct eye contact).
- They try to impress you with their real estate company instead of their personal service.
- They have another full-time job.
When real estate agents first enter the real estate profession, we have completed hours and hours of education and passed a licensing test. It’s a lot of work, but this only puts us at a very crowded starting line. It can be a slow, difficult start for new real estate agents. A licensee could easily go months or years before making their first sale. This is why it can be difficult to figure out how experienced your real estate agent is even if they disclose how many years they’ve been in the business.
I had the good fortune of being a Newbie during the housing crisis as I was able to practice real estate without being a risk to the homebuying/selling public – that’s right, Newbies can be hazardous for your financial health! If you had interviewed me 10-12 years ago, I would have checked every single box in the above list, but my full-time job was still in real estate. At one point I was working for three different brokers, doing everything from drafting up earnest money dispute letters to double-checking contracts to attending inspections and walk-throughs. Like every good assistant, I was doing all the work! and actively learning the profession at the same time.
Most agents don’t have the luxury of being an assistant, and many would turn up their nose at the thought! After all, we go into the real estate profession to be our own boss… why would I work for someone else? It is common for new agents to want to “hit the ground running” without partnering with a mentor or seeking out practical experience through assisting. These are the Newbies you certainly want to avoid; they don’t know what they don’t know! I frequently come in contact with “experienced” agents who have learned a plethora of bad habits, and I can only assume they did not have enough quality training when they entered the profession.
So how do you ask a real estate agent about their experience? They could say they have been in the business for ten years, but what if that means they have only sold one house over a ten-year period? It’s also worth noting that one cannot determine how experienced an agent is by their age. The perception is that younger real estate agents have less experience, however, it is not uncommon for a middle-aged person to become disillusioned with their career and strike out at something different, or for a newly retired person to become bored and take up real estate as a hobby. I would encourage anyone in search of an experienced real estate agent to disregard the age factor.
I left assisting after about a year and got a job as Compliance Manager at a real estate brokerage. I still had not sold any houses, but my knowledge skyrocketed in reviewing the listing and sales contracts of over 300 agents. When I finally had the opportunity to sell houses, this is what it looked like:
- Sold my condo
- Bought a house (with my new husband) and renovated it
- Sold the renovated house
- Bought another house
I’m not ashamed to say my first few transactions were my own, and I honestly wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. By the time I got my first real client, I had four sales under my belt and three years of real estate experience from my assistance and management work. I was so much more prepared to navigate someone through the real estate process. Would you want someone with any less experience handling the affairs of your largest investment?
With all that said, how can you tell if an agent is truly experienced? Let the agent sell you on themselves (or their company, if they must), but also do your own research. An experienced agent will have a website and a Zillow presence, including client reviews. If an agent has blogs or social media accounts, you can get a great idea of the kind of person you will be working with – you don’t want any surprises after you’ve signed the dotted line!