I called a past client’s mother whom I had been in touch for months since I closed a deal for her daughter from whom I received a great review and referrals. When she told me she has delegated the task of selling the family investment property to another family member, I was disappointed. She knows me and how I work well but the other family member does not know me at all. My heart sank a little more when I saw the Realtor they hire in another city has the following in the signature block of every email from his office —
Top 1% Realtor in XYZ City
#1 Top Producer Company Wide – 1st Quarter 2017
#1 Top Producer Company Wide – 2016
#1 Top Producer Company Wide – 2015 & 2013
#1 Office Top Producer – 2014
Top Producer 2005-2012
Top 1% in XYZ City? A math whiz kid in high school (I represented my high school for the city-wide competition in math), I immediately wonder what that means. According to the Realtor Association of XYZ City, they have 5000 members. The top 1% will consist of 500 Realtors. The worse case scenario of being the top 1% could mean that there are 499 Realtors better than our top producer here. Four hundred and ninety-nine Realtors are quite a few. And top 1% of what?
As for “#1 Top Producer Company Wide,” that’s another meaningless statistics. How good is a top producer from a mediocre company? Also these days, sales production is achieved by a “team” of real estate professionals each of who specializes a portion of a real estate transaction. The top producer is usually the lead, the person who brings in the business. Clearly, the top producer is really good at bringing in sales. Is he great at contract negotiation? Does he know the neighborhood and local market condition? How involved will he be in each sale or transaction? How about marketing your property (instead of marketing his business)? How is the customer service? Is there someone to answer your questions and to think for you when you need guidance, based on your personal situation and circumstance? Do you have to explain what is going on every time you reach a team member? Does your top producer who manages hundreds of transaction annually know all there need to know about your deal, including the seller or buyer and the community where the house is? At last, in a top producer team, how many are topnotch real estate professionals?
Real estate transaction is complicated. For example, I am helping a client purchase a home. I am with her every single step, from our initial consultation, applying for a loan, discovering and comparing neighborhoods, showing homes, researching seller’s motivation and options, bidding, contract negotiation, inspections, more negotiation, vendor referrals, etc. Along the way, I learn about her temperament, her competency as a homeowner and mortgagee, her fears and wishes, and her long-term goals related to where she lives and works, all of which are sometimes communicated non-verbally. I am able to leverage on facts her an there in our negotiation to get the deal best for her because I know everything about the purchase as well as her wants and needs.
Sadly for me, most consumers do not understand these aspects of my work because too often their real estate sales and purchases are treated like just another transaction by a “salesperson,” top producing or not.
Looking around, I seldom see my industry promotes a service mindset; instead, everywhere I go, all the talks are about making more sales. We have transaction management system called “Top Producer.” We have coaching program called “Peak Producer.” We have to rank by sales volumes. We are taught to measure our success by the number of transaction sides, the average price per transaction, the percentage of commission earned per deal, gross commission, number of referrals, conversion rates, etc. Never was I asked by my manager, trainer, and business coach, how well am I serving my clients and the community?
As service professionals, we are probably the only one that brags about how many more widgets we sell than our competitors. Can you imagine Ritz Carlton brags about having the most guests for the year in the hospitality industry? And our clients spend way more on their real estate transaction than a stay at Ritz Carlton, even for a starter home.
So I opened my own brokerage as soon as I was allowed. Many fellow agents were puzzled why I wanted the responsibilities of being a broker, the responsibilities of being the one who is ultimately accounted for all my clients’ real estate transactions. This is another part I don’t get about my industry — we pocket the commission but think others should bear the consequences of our incompetence or negligence! However, that’s a topic for another day. I told those who asked, “I like to do things my way.” The truth is that I am not willing to compromise my service. When it requires 36 continue education credits to renew my license, by the time I met all my requirement this July, I counted that I had had over 90 credits. All my buyer offers are accompanied by a carefully crafted cover letter that makes my buyer stand out among the bidders. I spend more time preparing a package for the appraiser, making case for the price than the time for the appraiser to complete the official report. And it is not unusual that the houses I sell are professionally staged and photographed in a way you only see in the luxury home market. These are just a few examples of many things I do. At the end of the day, the only way I can afford to give my clients all my best is for me to own my own brokerage.
My clients have learned by working with me that I earn my keep. Several of them are former real estate brokers, many are experienced real estate consumers and once in a while, I have first-time home buyers whom I admire greatly. All of them, fortunately for me, value my services. As my business grows, I learn that I will never be a “top producer,” but you know what? I can easily be the best agent you can possibly ever have — and that is what I want.
P.S. Fast forward, the mother of my past client called me this spring saying she wanted to give me a referral because I did a great job with her daughter. She also said I should give away a portion of what I earn like the other real estate agent she hired…, “She does a lot more businesses this way.” The referral client asked me to give them 50% of what I earn in commission after I have started my research for them. I had to let the business opportunity go. My integrity will not allow me to give one client a discount but not all of them and I don’t know how to discount my service to achieve the best result. I get it. You are a savvy consumer and want to shop prices. That’s fine. There are ways for DIY and still get things done. Ask for my price sheet. I look forward to working with you. (2/23/2018).