What do agents do to earn their keep? As consumers question agents’ value, it’s worth noting the duties agents perform outside of showing, selling and listing.
Cara Ameer, a top-producing broker associate from Northeast Florida, writes about working with buyers and sellers, sticky situations and real estate marketing in her regular Inman column that publishes every other Wednesday.
A real estate agent is a juggler-in-chief and wears many hats. Priorities continually shift and an agent is often doing multiple things at once: The idea of handling one thing at a time does not exist.
They might be simultaneously preparing a comparable market analysis for one customer, reviewing available properties for sale for a buyer and scheduling showings — all the while handling issues in transactions they’re overseeing.
Inspections, repairs and coordinating with appraisers — that’s all in the backdrop of everything else. All has to be responded to immediately.
There is no “I’ll get back to you tomorrow or by the end of the week” mindset. Twenty-four hours in a day might seem like a lot, but truthfully, putting time aside to get some sleep (which is already challenging), leaves very little time to typically accomplish all that an agent is trying to do in a day.
So, in the span of 10-12 hours (eight-hour days are pretty much nonexistent in real estate) what does an agent actually do? Just about anything and everything.
The job description has few boundaries. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Being a taskmaster and coordinator
This one is huge and consumes a ton of time. Unfortunately, it’s sad but true. Other people can’t be trusted to follow through with their responsibilities in the transaction — whether that’s the buyer, seller, other agent, lender or title company.
As much as agents like to work with trusted providers, that may not be possible depending on what side of the sale they are on. If they’re representing the seller, the buyer’s lender may be completely unknown to them.
After all, there are thousands of mortgage lenders, and new ones constantly cropping up. If they’re working with a buyer, they may not be familiar with the title company or escrow officer. This sector of the market has also exploded with new players in the game as real estate markets improve.
Buyers or sellers may have a different sense of urgency and depending on what else is going on in their life, they could be distracted. It never fails that at least one party in the transaction is going out of town as soon as the property goes under contract.
The seller may not understand the urgency of getting repairs completed and doesn’t realize you can’t just get a contractor out the next day. The buyer decides to shop for lenders for two weeks before applying for a loan — despite the contract timeline of five days.
Anyone who slips up or drops the ball in the transaction process can trigger a domino effect. By the time someone realizes what’s happened, the screw up has caused expensive problems for the parties involved.
Time is of the essence and the clock is always ticking: This is why agents are continually in contact with all parties to keep the train moving forward. They need to follow up to ensure that every task and timeline is being met. An agent can never follow up enough and confirm and reconfirm that whatever is supposed to have happened is actually happening.
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A big part of a real estate agent’s job is trying to proactively prevent situations and problems from happening in the first place.
Some of this goes back to making sure everyone else does their job and follows through with their obligations in a transaction. It also involves coaching and advising the buyers and sellers they are working with on what to do or sometimes more importantly, what not to do to ensure a smooth transaction.
This means encouraging sellers to get a pre-listing inspection and taking care of any repairs prior to putting their home on the market. You never know how a repair issue could be perceived by a potential buyer, no matter how minor.
For a buyer, it means ensuring they get pre-approved prior to making an offer on a property and that they have a good grasp of all costs involved on their side. It also means advising them not to do anything that could hinder their credit and ability to qualify.
A lot of preventative counseling and advice is continually being offered on everything from preparing a home for sale to maintenance.
While an agent can preach prevention all day long, unfortunately, things happen.
A real estate agent’s job often entails putting out a different sort of fire — one that involves flames created from situations, many common ones which I’ve listed below.
- The showing appointment that was supposed to occur from a very interested and serious buyer never did.
- The agent never showed up, and attempts to reach them were unsuccessful.
- There is an extremely upset seller who prepped their house only to learn that the appointment was a no-show.
- Signals get crossed about a meeting with another customer: A property that a buyer wanted to see, in which the agent was initially told was available, goes under contract a few hours later and as a result the agent looks like a fool.
- A home inspector did not leave the seller’s home in the same condition they found it and the seller returns to find dirty footprints and dust all over their clothes from when the inspector accessed the attic in the master closet.
- A buyer building a new home is upset to find their construction site a mess and sees all sorts of things that appear to be installed wrong.
Sigh! An agent cannot control the action or inactions of others, but it all falls on them to try to rectify situations and make all right. It involves assuaging, empathizing and mediating between parties and figuring out ways to prevent or minimize the chances of happening again. If something can go wrong to make an agent look bad, it will.
Blue tape, green tape, red tape
This sounds a lot like the title of Dr. Seuss‘ children’s book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Although that book was geared toward young children learning to read and understand colors, perhaps a book should have been written explaining the nuances of working with different colored tape to novice agents just entering the business.
In case the public was not aware, learning how to put tape on walls is part of the training to be a real estate agent. Not really, but don’t worry because every agent will get a crash course in this at their first new construction walkthrough.
Every agent should have an ample supply of colored tape in their car at all times because you never know how much of it you are going to need.
Attending new construction walkthroughs is one of those tasks that takes several hours. It is never just the two hours that was scheduled.
The walkthroughs are often scheduled in the morning, but they quickly go past noon. Each construction manager chooses to handle these meetings differently. Some let buyers and their agent go crazy with tape and others want to personally walk over and tape the spots that you point out and then write it down on a list. The latter takes umpteen times longer.
Often, the construction manager never has enough tape, hence the need to have a supply in different colors to address paint, drywall and red for “other.”
If you’re trying to reach an agent and they haven’t gotten back to you in a few hours, it’s likely because they are attending a walkthrough. And if it is a new construction community, cell service may not be the best so you can expect them to be off the grid until they can get a signal again.
The agent is expected to be the inspection chief, chief drywall gauge, cracks-and-paint-on-the-cabinets spotter. Oh, and also don’t forget the ability to call out bad grout jobs and tile that was installed crooked. And those drywall corners that don’t look quite flush? The agent needs to call those out, too. The walkthrough can often be an exercise of good cop/bad cop as the buyer wants to feel that their agent is in their corner and making a concerted effort to point out all the flaws. The construction manager secretly is hoping that no one notices.
What are my closing costs? How much I will net from the sale of my house? How much will my mortgage payment be? What will the taxes be based on the new sales price? How much does this repair or improvement cost?
So much of an agent’s time is spent crunching numbers or running them down from contractors, mortgage lenders, title companies and so forth for the buyer or seller. “How much is …” seems to be the question of the day and is central to a lot of decisions made by buyers and sellers. The agent has to review the draft loan estimates, closing disclosures and repair quotes closely to ensure that they are accurate, and all items clarified before imparting to the consumer.
When it comes to listing a property, photos and video are everything. Attending photo and video shoots are of utmost importance to agents when listing a property in order to find the money shot.
After all, image is everything when it comes to marketing a property. Attending doesn’t mean just standing there. Agents assist with “photo styling” and making sure everything looks its best in pictures. This means moving or rearranging furniture, decorative objects, plants, straightening/fluffing up pillows, blankets and comforters.
This also means picking up or putting away any stray items that shouldn’t be in pictures, such as the pair of shoes left by the door or dishes in the sink. This also can also entail getting out the broom or blower to clear the driveway or any deck or patio spaces. Did I mention the agent should have a portable stash of cleaning supplies at all times for photo shoots? You never know when you have to quickly shine up a front door, mirror or window!
Creative director/media host/music creator/social media maven
Speaking of photo and video shoots, the agent often assumes the role of creative director at these events, coaching and guiding the photographer on what to capture and from what angle.
The creative input does not just end with listings. Many agents are actively participating in the production of property videos from writing the script to choosing the talent appearing in videos. They may even voice the script, and in some cases create the music that will go in the piece or hire a composer. Some agents have their own production companies to handle all of their creative aspects of the business.
An agent’s creative input does not stop at just listing a property. Agents are expected to be attention-getters and are now devoting a significant amount of time to creating content.
While all of this may look easy, it requires a significant amount of planning and time to commit to producing content on a consistent basis and keeping it fresh and engaging to draw in viewers, followers, likes and shares.
Red tape slasher
Speaking of tape — and not the kind you put on walls — there is always an element of red tape that comes up in real estate.
There are often restrictions, limits, rules or regulations of some kind that may stand in the way of whatever it is a buyer, seller or real estate agent is trying to do.
Having protections in place for a variety of things that arise, such as building restriction lines, historic property renovation approvals, architectural review boards, maximum lot coverage or height restrictions, and homeowners association rules is understandable.
But there are roadblocks that often don’t make sense and if an agent is not resourceful, could block a potential sale.
I recall an example of a home I had listed for sale in a high-end gated community. The home had a very small backyard and putting in a pool could prove challenging. As a result, the home was not marketed with the potential of a pool.
However, the question continually arose from potential buyers — despite seeing a copy of the survey and the building restriction lines.
The architectural review board (ARB) of this community was extremely difficult and not exactly buyer/real estate friendly. (This is just the impression you want to give to someone that wants to become part of the community!)
When questions about a pool were asked, the architectural review board responded that they would not give any approvals unless a full set of architectural plans were submitted down to the specific materials that were going to be used for the pool and surrounding space.
Recognizing that most buyers were not going to engage a pool contractor to that level of detail before they were solidly under contract with the home and on their way to closing, I was able to engage with a highly reputable pool contractor who had built multiple pools in the community, and who had a connection to the architectural review board.
They did a basic sketch following the homeowner association’s requirements with enough information to get preliminary feedback from the ARB.
If I had not been able to cut through the red tape in this situation, this house could have suffered a much longer and more difficult marketing process.
The job description of an agent continues to evolve — and there are no limits. Showing homes and writing offers pales in comparison to so much else that is expected of the modern agent in today’s climate.