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What Makes A Realtor Good?

January 14, 2009

I originally had a different post planned for tonight, but an online conversation with a friend, followed by an interesting set of exchanges on twitter with @onehappyguy led me to want to ask this instead.

What makes someone a good realtor?

Seems like a simple question with a simple answer, no?

But like many seemingly simple questions, this one turns out to be all kinds of complicated.

First, you get a sort of “initial response” that seems to speak to some sort of underlying assumptions about what makes a realtor good or bad.  For example, this was the answer my friend provided initially:

a good agent is also a psychologist
good list agents = good marketers, good pricers, good negotiators
good buy agents = a knack for matching the need with the home (good listener? paired with market knowledge?)
and a good negotiator, and the ability to develop a comfort level with the client…

Jessie Beaudoin of Retrove, who twitters as @onehappyguy, wrote in a Twitter exchange:

personal traits how about 1- persistent 2 -detailed 3 – outgoing. Bigger question is what’s good? I.e 15, 20, 30 sides a year etc.

Note that his initial impulse for classifying a realtor as “good” was dependent on # of transactions.

Second, you start to get all kinds of qualifying questions approaching the philosophical as people start to drill down into what’s good and (almost more importantly) what’s bad.

“How are we measuring quality?”

“What constitutes good?”

“It’s a relationship business, so it’s all about the relationship.”

And so on.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Why do I care at all about this?  More importantly, why should you care at all about this?

Because in every conversation I have had about the real estate industry — including during a fun session at RE Bar Camp NYC on issues facing the industry — I have had people tell me things like:

“We need to raise the bar, and get all these crappy agents out of the industry.”

“Brokers need to enforce quality and stop hiring all these bad agents who give the rest of us a bad name.”

“NAR needs to strengthen requirements, so these terrible realtors aren’t carrying the REALTOR designation.”

“The barrier to entry needs to be much, much higher.”

And so on.

In other words, there is a very strong feeling in the real estate industry — and in particular, among realestistas — that one of the biggest problems confronting the industry is the proliferation of “bad realtors” who ruin it for everyone else.

But no one can define what makes an agent “bad”, since no one can define what makes an agent “good”.

Benjamin Button can be a realtor who knows zip about his local market, doesn’t return client phone calls promptly, doesn’t know how to price listings, doesn’t know how to stage or show a home, is terrible at transaction management, and couldn’t negotiate his way out of a paper bag.  But if he’s got strong relationships, and his clients think he’s good (since they don’t have anything to compare him to), then he’s making millions of dollars and would be considered a “good agent”, no?

What if Mr. Button is a supreme negotiator, but doesn’t know a thing about what appropriate comparables should be.  Or he’s a moron about local market data, but has a way with clients to make them feel comfortable even while making horrible, terrible decisions?

It is a curious case indeed.

Objective Standards?

In theory, designations like REALTOR, e-PRO, ACRE, CRE, GRI, and so on should be a quality filter that shows someone who holds that designation is a “good agent” in one respect or another.  As yet not a single person has said that designation = good agent, nor the converse, which is that lack of designation = bad agent.

Instead, people have said things like, “It depends on the client” thereby strongly implying that there are no objective standards at all.

But that can’t be 100% right either, because of that “initial impulse”.  When folks say, “We need to drive the bad agents out of the business”, surely they have a picture in their minds of what they mean.  And all the head-nodding agreement suggests that there is some sort of an idea as to what makes an agent good or bad.

It just hasn’t been defined.

So… many of you are realtors, many are brokers, some are association executives: What makes a realtor good?  And what makes a realtor bad?

Inquiring minds want to know.



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