What Makes A Realtor Good?

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.

-rsh

  • http://www.salinemichiganrealestate.com/ Vance Shutes

    Rob,

    I’ve used a cliche regarding agent/client relationships for many years:

    “Agents get the clients they attract, and clients get the agents they deserve.”

    My first broker, years ago, also taught me:

    “Clients come, and clients go, and hopefully many of them become life-long friends. But you work with other agents every single day, so treat them as you would your best customer, and it will serve you well for your entire career.”

    Whether an agent is “good” or “bad” ultimately depends both on their clients’ assessment and on how they are perceived by their peer agents. We all know high-volume agents whom we (secretly) despise because of their (lack of) people-skills with their peers, just as we know fourth-quartile agents with whom we’d hoist an adult beverage any time. As long as the agent is serving their client to the client’s satisfaction, the agent is a “good” agent, and far be it for any of us to pass judgement on whether they should be in practice or not.

  • http://www.salinemichiganrealestate.com Vance Shutes

    Rob,

    I’ve used a cliche regarding agent/client relationships for many years:

    “Agents get the clients they attract, and clients get the agents they deserve.”

    My first broker, years ago, also taught me:

    “Clients come, and clients go, and hopefully many of them become life-long friends. But you work with other agents every single day, so treat them as you would your best customer, and it will serve you well for your entire career.”

    Whether an agent is “good” or “bad” ultimately depends both on their clients’ assessment and on how they are perceived by their peer agents. We all know high-volume agents whom we (secretly) despise because of their (lack of) people-skills with their peers, just as we know fourth-quartile agents with whom we’d hoist an adult beverage any time. As long as the agent is serving their client to the client’s satisfaction, the agent is a “good” agent, and far be it for any of us to pass judgement on whether they should be in practice or not.

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    @Vance –

    Thanks for the great comment. I have a followup question:

    As long as the agent is serving their client to the client’s satisfaction, the agent is a “good” agent, and far be it for any of us to pass judgement on whether they should be in practice or not.

    As a consumer, my realtor is serving me to my satisfaction. But how would I know otherwise?

    In other words, my agent could have listed my house at far too low a price, and struck some unethical deals behind the scenes, resulting in a quick transaction, but with me leaving $75K on the table.

    I have no way of knowing that my agent was, in fact, horrible, do I?

    Would other realtors have a way of knowing? If I then went to another realtor and asked, “Hey, is my realtor good?” how would that person be able to judge yea or nay, given that I’m satisfied (due to lack of knowledge)?

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    @Vance –

    Thanks for the great comment. I have a followup question:

    As long as the agent is serving their client to the client’s satisfaction, the agent is a “good” agent, and far be it for any of us to pass judgement on whether they should be in practice or not.

    As a consumer, my realtor is serving me to my satisfaction. But how would I know otherwise?

    In other words, my agent could have listed my house at far too low a price, and struck some unethical deals behind the scenes, resulting in a quick transaction, but with me leaving $75K on the table.

    I have no way of knowing that my agent was, in fact, horrible, do I?

    Would other realtors have a way of knowing? If I then went to another realtor and asked, “Hey, is my realtor good?” how would that person be able to judge yea or nay, given that I’m satisfied (due to lack of knowledge)?

    -rsh

  • http://www.retrove.com/ Jessie B

    Hello Rob,

    Nice post but isn’t the real question “What makes an agent good or bad to whom?”

    Peers, their broker, clients, industry as a whole? The benchmarks for good or bad qualities depends on your the point of interaction with the agent in question, hence the reason the question is so difficult to answer. I think this falls in line with what Vance’s comment above.

    Certain performance benchmarks are known:

    – # of sides annually
    – $ volume

    but these stats would not define a good agent to a customer but it’s the most common benchmark used from agents to consumers as displayed by the number of business cards that proclaim, “Million Dollar Producer”.

    Also if you read the NAR reports it would seem that most buyers are truly happy with their agents but yet that is not supported by stats of repeat transactions.

    Like you, I look forward to hearing some feedback…

  • http://www.retrove.com Jessie B

    Hello Rob,

    Nice post but isn’t the real question “What makes an agent good or bad to whom?”

    Peers, their broker, clients, industry as a whole? The benchmarks for good or bad qualities depends on your the point of interaction with the agent in question, hence the reason the question is so difficult to answer. I think this falls in line with what Vance’s comment above.

    Certain performance benchmarks are known:

    – # of sides annually
    – $ volume

    but these stats would not define a good agent to a customer but it’s the most common benchmark used from agents to consumers as displayed by the number of business cards that proclaim, “Million Dollar Producer”.

    Also if you read the NAR reports it would seem that most buyers are truly happy with their agents but yet that is not supported by stats of repeat transactions.

    Like you, I look forward to hearing some feedback…

  • Marc

    Here’s my take.

    When you dissect the variety of converging disciplines needed to really excel at the job of agent, arguably one would have to be highly versed in many skill sets to be considered technically good. They would need years of woodshedding and a lifetime of dedication to continuing education.

    And yet an agent with 3 months experience and a G.E.D. can close deals based on charm, luck, hustling or Twittering about nothing to friends.

    And while tenure and experience count for a lot, I have come across many veterans who are giving up because their “sphere” has dried up. Their primary boomer client is strapped, over extended, out of referrals and out of the market. Those “good” agents who never bothered to invest in Gen X and Y are succumbing to the realization that good means squat and that possessing a world of local knowledge means even less if they lack the communication skills needed to leverage it where it matters today – online where tomorrows client resides.

    So given the new rules of engagement, good and bad mean different things to different people.

    For me, a good agent is one who returns calls quickly and is organized. That’s it. I could care less who they know, whether they have a Website or not or if they Twitter. For others, good could be a completely different set of criteria.

    In the end, there is no real definition for good or bad because there doesn’t need to be. It’s all personal based on what the client needs and the agent they pick who provides it

  • Marc

    Here’s my take.

    When you dissect the variety of converging disciplines needed to really excel at the job of agent, arguably one would have to be highly versed in many skill sets to be considered technically good. They would need years of woodshedding and a lifetime of dedication to continuing education.

    And yet an agent with 3 months experience and a G.E.D. can close deals based on charm, luck, hustling or Twittering about nothing to friends.

    And while tenure and experience count for a lot, I have come across many veterans who are giving up because their “sphere” has dried up. Their primary boomer client is strapped, over extended, out of referrals and out of the market. Those “good” agents who never bothered to invest in Gen X and Y are succumbing to the realization that good means squat and that possessing a world of local knowledge means even less if they lack the communication skills needed to leverage it where it matters today – online where tomorrows client resides.

    So given the new rules of engagement, good and bad mean different things to different people.

    For me, a good agent is one who returns calls quickly and is organized. That’s it. I could care less who they know, whether they have a Website or not or if they Twitter. For others, good could be a completely different set of criteria.

    In the end, there is no real definition for good or bad because there doesn’t need to be. It’s all personal based on what the client needs and the agent they pick who provides it

  • http://waves.wavgroup.com/ Marilyn Wilson

    It is a difficult question to answer. It does seem like we need to look the customers of REALTORS for the answer though. The definition of “good” is different for every customer. The best agents, like the best sales people in any industry customize their approach and focus to meet the individual needs of their clients. They also doggedly measure and share feedback from their customers using services like QSC and others.

    I think it might be easier to answer what a good realtor isn’t. A good realtor doesn’t ignore phone calls or Internet inquiries. A good realtor doesn’t blow off a lead on one of their listings by saying “contact your agent” like we have seen on some MLS consumer websites, for example. A good agent doesn’t check their email “at the end of the day” like we hear from many. We live in a real-time world and we need to adjust accordingly. A good realtor doesn’t lose contact with all of its past customers and hope they will call them the next time they would like to do a transaction.

    There are some universal truths, but beyond that, we need to let consumers define what they want from each of us and do our best to satisfy their every need.

  • http://waves.wavgroup.com Marilyn Wilson

    It is a difficult question to answer. It does seem like we need to look the customers of REALTORS for the answer though. The definition of “good” is different for every customer. The best agents, like the best sales people in any industry customize their approach and focus to meet the individual needs of their clients. They also doggedly measure and share feedback from their customers using services like QSC and others.

    I think it might be easier to answer what a good realtor isn’t. A good realtor doesn’t ignore phone calls or Internet inquiries. A good realtor doesn’t blow off a lead on one of their listings by saying “contact your agent” like we have seen on some MLS consumer websites, for example. A good agent doesn’t check their email “at the end of the day” like we hear from many. We live in a real-time world and we need to adjust accordingly. A good realtor doesn’t lose contact with all of its past customers and hope they will call them the next time they would like to do a transaction.

    There are some universal truths, but beyond that, we need to let consumers define what they want from each of us and do our best to satisfy their every need.

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    So Marc, Marilyn (and others) –

    If “there is no real definition of good or bad”, and it’s “all personal” and “different for every customer”… what do you make of the widespread call to tighten requirements, get the “unqualified” agents out of the business, and so on and so forth.

    Whoever could they be talking about? Since every agent is good to some consumer (who may not know any better, having dealt with precisely ONE realtor) somewhere…

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    So Marc, Marilyn (and others) –

    If “there is no real definition of good or bad”, and it’s “all personal” and “different for every customer”… what do you make of the widespread call to tighten requirements, get the “unqualified” agents out of the business, and so on and so forth.

    Whoever could they be talking about? Since every agent is good to some consumer (who may not know any better, having dealt with precisely ONE realtor) somewhere…

    -rsh

  • http://www.retrove.com/ Jessie B

    The issues that Marc points out above is also supported by NAR home buyer reports. Good in eyes of customer is one who is responsive and follows up. Something like 60% of clients selected their agent simply because they were the first one to return a call.

    Fact is, alot of consumers are spending 4-9 months researching areas looking at real estate porn… many know a specific market more than the agents themselves and they know it. Also alot of them now want to speak specifically to listing agents as they want detailed information about properties they are interested in, they don’t feel need to have agent to filter property details from listing agent.

    Service is also the #1 reason why a customer selected a particular agent per NAR reports.

    Good agents for customers & other agents = responsive & detailed?
    Good agents for brokers = independent & profitable?

  • http://www.retrove.com Jessie B

    The issues that Marc points out above is also supported by NAR home buyer reports. Good in eyes of customer is one who is responsive and follows up. Something like 60% of clients selected their agent simply because they were the first one to return a call.

    Fact is, alot of consumers are spending 4-9 months researching areas looking at real estate porn… many know a specific market more than the agents themselves and they know it. Also alot of them now want to speak specifically to listing agents as they want detailed information about properties they are interested in, they don’t feel need to have agent to filter property details from listing agent.

    Service is also the #1 reason why a customer selected a particular agent per NAR reports.

    Good agents for customers & other agents = responsive & detailed?
    Good agents for brokers = independent & profitable?

  • http://www.kirstenmohan.com/ kirstenmohan

    Rob-

    What a great post, and interesting answers so far to an interesting question. It seems like I’m noticing a few themes.

    1- people equate the number of deals or number of $ earned with a “good agent.”

    2- others argue that an agent that satisfies their client is a good agent (the assumption then being that an agent that doesn’t satisfy their client is bad, I presume…)

    I think both of these are overly simplistic views. Neither really addresses the problems of an industry where for years people were satisfied with their agents, and at the same time getting into deals they shouldn’t have or leaving $ on the table from poor marketing all the while. Agents were successful ($$$), deals were being done right, left, and center, clients were happy, and now here we are in a heck of a mess.

    **So what does make a good agent?**

    I would argue there are some key factors that help someone be a “good agent”

    -Emotional intelligence: can they listen to their clients and really understand their needs? can they do the same with other agents and encourage win-win negotiations that encourage the best outcome for all parties (especially the one they’re representing, of course!)? Can they understand multiple parties’ motivations and goals, assess the situation and then adequately communicate with all parties to come to an appropriate resolution?

    -Analytical intelligence: can they adequately analyze and interpret available data? I’d argue that it’s absolutely vital to being a “good agent” to be able to understand your market data. Whether on the buying or selling side, I don’t believe you can be a “good agent” without understanding your market and helping the consumer do the same. Isn’t a big part of our job to be interpreters of the data to help our clients make wise, informed decisions about what is most often their largest investment?

    Marketing intelligently – on the selling side, do they *really* know how to market a home, and are they willing to make the investment to properly represent the properties in their portfolio to meet/exceed their clients’ goals? On the buying side, do they understand branding to the extent that they are reaching their ideal client whose needs they are best capable of servicing?

    Clearly not *everything* you need to be a good agent, but I think irrespective of income/# of deals, these are some qualities that agents need to possess to, in my mind, be “good.” In my experience, agents who possess these qualities do their job well (serving their clients’ needs responsibly, ethically, and with a high degree of professionalism), and the $$$ and # of transaction sides come naturally from there.

  • http://www.kirstenmohan.com kirstenmohan

    Rob-

    What a great post, and interesting answers so far to an interesting question. It seems like I’m noticing a few themes.

    1- people equate the number of deals or number of $ earned with a “good agent.”

    2- others argue that an agent that satisfies their client is a good agent (the assumption then being that an agent that doesn’t satisfy their client is bad, I presume…)

    I think both of these are overly simplistic views. Neither really addresses the problems of an industry where for years people were satisfied with their agents, and at the same time getting into deals they shouldn’t have or leaving $ on the table from poor marketing all the while. Agents were successful ($$$), deals were being done right, left, and center, clients were happy, and now here we are in a heck of a mess.

    **So what does make a good agent?**

    I would argue there are some key factors that help someone be a “good agent”

    -Emotional intelligence: can they listen to their clients and really understand their needs? can they do the same with other agents and encourage win-win negotiations that encourage the best outcome for all parties (especially the one they’re representing, of course!)? Can they understand multiple parties’ motivations and goals, assess the situation and then adequately communicate with all parties to come to an appropriate resolution?

    -Analytical intelligence: can they adequately analyze and interpret available data? I’d argue that it’s absolutely vital to being a “good agent” to be able to understand your market data. Whether on the buying or selling side, I don’t believe you can be a “good agent” without understanding your market and helping the consumer do the same. Isn’t a big part of our job to be interpreters of the data to help our clients make wise, informed decisions about what is most often their largest investment?

    Marketing intelligently – on the selling side, do they *really* know how to market a home, and are they willing to make the investment to properly represent the properties in their portfolio to meet/exceed their clients’ goals? On the buying side, do they understand branding to the extent that they are reaching their ideal client whose needs they are best capable of servicing?

    Clearly not *everything* you need to be a good agent, but I think irrespective of income/# of deals, these are some qualities that agents need to possess to, in my mind, be “good.” In my experience, agents who possess these qualities do their job well (serving their clients’ needs responsibly, ethically, and with a high degree of professionalism), and the $$$ and # of transaction sides come naturally from there.

  • http://BuckingtheRealEstateTrend.com/ Susie Blackmon

    Initially, what makes an agent ‘good’ is the broker-in-charge. As one who is not ‘new’ to RE but new to NC (been here 2 years now from Hawaii), I was horrified and disgusted that my BICS (not saying which ones) weren’t the least bit interested in the best interest of the clients; i.e., they would tell me to get out with buyers (“That’s how you learn.”) – – even though I DID NOT know my way around, and neither would I have known if there was a landfill under a home at some point, or one planned for that matter. There was no concern for the clients; only concern for the bottom line.

    Thank goodness the days of people walking in blindly to a RE office are almost over with. The clients I have come directly from my own website and contact me because they want to do business with me after reading my real estate blog for a while. I work with a terrific Buyer’s agent who has been in this area for years, knows the homes and subdivisions, as well as the histories you wouldn’t know without living somewhere for an extended period of time. It is in the best interest of my clients that I refer them to an excellent Buyer’s agent.

    Policing our own, more education, more WORK, and integrity will make for better agents.

  • http://BuckingtheRealEstateTrend.com Susie Blackmon

    Initially, what makes an agent ‘good’ is the broker-in-charge. As one who is not ‘new’ to RE but new to NC (been here 2 years now from Hawaii), I was horrified and disgusted that my BICS (not saying which ones) weren’t the least bit interested in the best interest of the clients; i.e., they would tell me to get out with buyers (“That’s how you learn.”) – – even though I DID NOT know my way around, and neither would I have known if there was a landfill under a home at some point, or one planned for that matter. There was no concern for the clients; only concern for the bottom line.

    Thank goodness the days of people walking in blindly to a RE office are almost over with. The clients I have come directly from my own website and contact me because they want to do business with me after reading my real estate blog for a while. I work with a terrific Buyer’s agent who has been in this area for years, knows the homes and subdivisions, as well as the histories you wouldn’t know without living somewhere for an extended period of time. It is in the best interest of my clients that I refer them to an excellent Buyer’s agent.

    Policing our own, more education, more WORK, and integrity will make for better agents.

  • http://rahmn.com/ Michael Rahmn

    I don’t believe there is an objective, quantifiable (Platonic, for those of you who’ve read The Black Swan) standard for what makes someone good/bad who practices a professional service.

    That said, the folks who spend every day with agents (Broker/Owners and their agent peers in an office), know ‘bad’ when they see it. The proper way (IMO), to ‘raise the bar’ is for the Broker/Owners to fire the ‘bad’ agents and thereby gain a competitive advantage in the market. I’ve had many a discussion with brokers who struggle to quantify what makes a good agent, but when you ask them who they should fire, they don’t hesitate a second to name names (the much more difficult part is taking action).

    You are correct that it’s extremely tough for the client to judge in the moment, however, the Broker Knows. The one best poised to raise the bar is she who is closest to the action (not NAR, not the Government).

    By setting a higher standard in their office, they get the brand credit over time for doing so (the market – referrals from clients and agent referrals for whom else to recruit, rewards the behavior). It’s not as direct and quantifiable as defining, say, product quality, but the market mechanism still works (albeit on a slower time frame).

  • http://rahmn.com Michael Rahmn

    I don’t believe there is an objective, quantifiable (Platonic, for those of you who’ve read The Black Swan) standard for what makes someone good/bad who practices a professional service.

    That said, the folks who spend every day with agents (Broker/Owners and their agent peers in an office), know ‘bad’ when they see it. The proper way (IMO), to ‘raise the bar’ is for the Broker/Owners to fire the ‘bad’ agents and thereby gain a competitive advantage in the market. I’ve had many a discussion with brokers who struggle to quantify what makes a good agent, but when you ask them who they should fire, they don’t hesitate a second to name names (the much more difficult part is taking action).

    You are correct that it’s extremely tough for the client to judge in the moment, however, the Broker Knows. The one best poised to raise the bar is she who is closest to the action (not NAR, not the Government).

    By setting a higher standard in their office, they get the brand credit over time for doing so (the market – referrals from clients and agent referrals for whom else to recruit, rewards the behavior). It’s not as direct and quantifiable as defining, say, product quality, but the market mechanism still works (albeit on a slower time frame).

  • Marc

    Rob,
    The call to tighten requirements is an internal call to ease two issues:

    1 – The added responsibility experienced (smart, dedicated) agents take on crossing i’s and dotting the t’s of inexperienced (uneducated, unconditioned) agents or the inexperienced agent set out to prey on consumers before they even know how to tell the difference between quality home inspector in the area and the guy whose in every one’s back pocket.

    2- The stereotype bumble head agent that gives all agents a bad rap.

    In Ca, 1 in 50 homeowners is an agent. Meaning, everyone has at least one cousin Bob who has a real estate license. And more often than not, Bob is an underachiever who after getting fired from payless goes and gets his real estate license. With so many Bob’s out there, 49 our of 50 not in real estate, judge real estate people by Bob.

    Rob,
    Good and bad are just words that don’t apply here. Those terms really only apply to how well someone has done their job in the eyes of the customer. And arguably, any idiot agent can get away with doing that using the many crutches available to them today i.e., technology, brokers assistance, etc.

    What real estate really means by good and bad is educated. Trained. Mastered. Professional. Ethical by virtue of their own moral fiber.

    Until education standards are raised to a point where low achievers are weeded out of the processes and high achievers are put through a rigorous course of education as you and I were before we were ever hired – simply because real estate matter so much – few people outside real estate will take anyone in it seriously. And this is what the hue and cry is all about. It’s coming from people, brokers, leaders, companies, and the really educated agent who realize they can’t build a brand if the entire industry is scarred by the low barrier of entry as it is today.

    This is more important that ever considering how specialized this business has become.

    So good and bad are, IMO, the wrong words which is why trying define it here in this context is difficult.

  • Marc

    Rob,
    The call to tighten requirements is an internal call to ease two issues:

    1 – The added responsibility experienced (smart, dedicated) agents take on crossing i’s and dotting the t’s of inexperienced (uneducated, unconditioned) agents or the inexperienced agent set out to prey on consumers before they even know how to tell the difference between quality home inspector in the area and the guy whose in every one’s back pocket.

    2- The stereotype bumble head agent that gives all agents a bad rap.

    In Ca, 1 in 50 homeowners is an agent. Meaning, everyone has at least one cousin Bob who has a real estate license. And more often than not, Bob is an underachiever who after getting fired from payless goes and gets his real estate license. With so many Bob’s out there, 49 our of 50 not in real estate, judge real estate people by Bob.

    Rob,
    Good and bad are just words that don’t apply here. Those terms really only apply to how well someone has done their job in the eyes of the customer. And arguably, any idiot agent can get away with doing that using the many crutches available to them today i.e., technology, brokers assistance, etc.

    What real estate really means by good and bad is educated. Trained. Mastered. Professional. Ethical by virtue of their own moral fiber.

    Until education standards are raised to a point where low achievers are weeded out of the processes and high achievers are put through a rigorous course of education as you and I were before we were ever hired – simply because real estate matter so much – few people outside real estate will take anyone in it seriously. And this is what the hue and cry is all about. It’s coming from people, brokers, leaders, companies, and the really educated agent who realize they can’t build a brand if the entire industry is scarred by the low barrier of entry as it is today.

    This is more important that ever considering how specialized this business has become.

    So good and bad are, IMO, the wrong words which is why trying define it here in this context is difficult.

  • http://www.iciclecreekrealestate.com/ Geordie Romer

    Interesting discussion.

    I was discussing this with my partner the other week.

    I think there are three things an agent needs to know (in order to make them “good”)

    1. Their market (data, homes, neighborhoods, trends, etc.)

    2. Their costumer (what motivates them, what are their needs, how to find them)

    3. The craft (laws, paperwork, negotiating)

    I have seen agents be strong in one, but weak in another.

    The good agent (IMHO) has a good blend of all three.

  • http://www.iciclecreekrealestate.com Geordie Romer

    Interesting discussion.

    I was discussing this with my partner the other week.

    I think there are three things an agent needs to know (in order to make them “good”)

    1. Their market (data, homes, neighborhoods, trends, etc.)

    2. Their costumer (what motivates them, what are their needs, how to find them)

    3. The craft (laws, paperwork, negotiating)

    I have seen agents be strong in one, but weak in another.

    The good agent (IMHO) has a good blend of all three.

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    @Marc –

    I think you’ve summarized the reason for the outcry succinctly, mate. And it seems to make sense that what realestistas mean by “good” is probably something like “trained, professional, etc.”

    I like Geordie’s succinct description as well, as well as Kirsten’s longer, more explanatory answer.

    What I found amazing is that in all the discussion and debate, no one has an objective standard for “good” or “bad” realtors. Maybe that’s something the industry needs to work towards?

    Because saying, “If the client is happy, then you’re a good realtor” seems like it would let in an awful lot of untrained, unprofessional, and unethical people into the ranks of the “good realtors”, however that’s defined.

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    @Marc –

    I think you’ve summarized the reason for the outcry succinctly, mate. And it seems to make sense that what realestistas mean by “good” is probably something like “trained, professional, etc.”

    I like Geordie’s succinct description as well, as well as Kirsten’s longer, more explanatory answer.

    What I found amazing is that in all the discussion and debate, no one has an objective standard for “good” or “bad” realtors. Maybe that’s something the industry needs to work towards?

    Because saying, “If the client is happy, then you’re a good realtor” seems like it would let in an awful lot of untrained, unprofessional, and unethical people into the ranks of the “good realtors”, however that’s defined.

    -rsh

  • Marc

    Here’s this:

    A good agent is one who is consistently on the move, learning, adapting, growing, evolving, honing the things they excel in to the point of mastering it and embracing the things they are weak in seeking out support and solutions to strengthen them. Finally, a good agent is one who regards the brand they work under and believe that the consumer comes first at all costs and performs in accordance with that philosophy.

    A bad agent is the complete opposite archetype. They are arrogant and narcissistic. They believe it is all about them. They think they know everything and what they don’t know, they discard as unimportant. They disregard the broker brand and seek to build their own without accessing any of the core disciplines in brand building. The discard the need for continued education and base what they know on what they learned yesterday rather than what they need to know based upon what’s rising on the horizon.

    Does that work?

  • Marc

    Here’s this:

    A good agent is one who is consistently on the move, learning, adapting, growing, evolving, honing the things they excel in to the point of mastering it and embracing the things they are weak in seeking out support and solutions to strengthen them. Finally, a good agent is one who regards the brand they work under and believe that the consumer comes first at all costs and performs in accordance with that philosophy.

    A bad agent is the complete opposite archetype. They are arrogant and narcissistic. They believe it is all about them. They think they know everything and what they don’t know, they discard as unimportant. They disregard the broker brand and seek to build their own without accessing any of the core disciplines in brand building. The discard the need for continued education and base what they know on what they learned yesterday rather than what they need to know based upon what’s rising on the horizon.

    Does that work?

  • http://www.nohasslelisting.com/ Russell Shaw

    Rob,

    Once again you’ve written the post I have been thinking about writing. I like the question and I like all of the comments here, as well.

    I believe that agents, when talking about some other agents being “bad agents”, may well be describing people that other agents and that agent’s customers think of as “good agents”.

    The problem is not simply an inability to *define* “good” or “bad” – the real issue is primarily one of *viewpoint*: good and bad, like beautiful and ugly are considerations. Things are only good or bad by consideration. Does one (or an entire group) *consider* it good or bad?

    Things are normally considered good or bad based on their relative importance with regard to survival itself. But when describing a real estate agent the question is *whose* survival are we talking about? The public? Other agents? The customer?

    I know some awful agents who have many happy customers.

  • http://www.nohasslelisting.com Russell Shaw

    Rob,

    Once again you’ve written the post I have been thinking about writing. I like the question and I like all of the comments here, as well.

    I believe that agents, when talking about some other agents being “bad agents”, may well be describing people that other agents and that agent’s customers think of as “good agents”.

    The problem is not simply an inability to *define* “good” or “bad” – the real issue is primarily one of *viewpoint*: good and bad, like beautiful and ugly are considerations. Things are only good or bad by consideration. Does one (or an entire group) *consider* it good or bad?

    Things are normally considered good or bad based on their relative importance with regard to survival itself. But when describing a real estate agent the question is *whose* survival are we talking about? The public? Other agents? The customer?

    I know some awful agents who have many happy customers.

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    @Russell –

    The sentence I find the most interesting is this: “I know some awful agents who have many happy customers.”

    So you do have some sort of internal metric as to what constitutes an “awful” agent. I think everyone does.

    What’s fascinating is that this topic is reminding me more and more of what Edwin Meese said about obscenity: “I know it when I see it.” There’s this general agreement on the part of people who care about agent quality in this industry that there is a group of people who are “bad agents”, and everyone seems to understand what everyone else is talking about.

    Yet, when you try to pin it down, all of a sudden, definitional problems come up, esoteric philosophical topics (such as ethical relativism) start being implicated, and it gets all sorts of fun. :)

    It might be more fun to look at what a “good agent” is not defined by:

    – Production
    – Client satisfaction
    – Ability to have client relationships
    – Results <– since simply measuring this is an exercise in counterfactual assumptions

    Marc wants to define "good" and "bad" by consumer-focus vs. self-centeredness. But that suggests to me that "good" and "bad" is simply a function of attitude, and that can’t be right, could it? I mean, I could have the best of intentions, be totally client focused, and still be an idiot who knows nothing about the market or how to negotiate a deal, right?

    I’m liking Geordies triumvirate: Market, Customer, and Craft. Of course, that necessarily leads to asking, "What constitutes Craft?" :)

    Really an interesting topic for a variety of reasons.

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    @Russell –

    The sentence I find the most interesting is this: “I know some awful agents who have many happy customers.”

    So you do have some sort of internal metric as to what constitutes an “awful” agent. I think everyone does.

    What’s fascinating is that this topic is reminding me more and more of what Edwin Meese said about obscenity: “I know it when I see it.” There’s this general agreement on the part of people who care about agent quality in this industry that there is a group of people who are “bad agents”, and everyone seems to understand what everyone else is talking about.

    Yet, when you try to pin it down, all of a sudden, definitional problems come up, esoteric philosophical topics (such as ethical relativism) start being implicated, and it gets all sorts of fun. :)

    It might be more fun to look at what a “good agent” is not defined by:

    – Production
    – Client satisfaction
    – Ability to have client relationships
    – Results <– since simply measuring this is an exercise in counterfactual assumptions

    Marc wants to define "good" and "bad" by consumer-focus vs. self-centeredness. But that suggests to me that "good" and "bad" is simply a function of attitude, and that can’t be right, could it? I mean, I could have the best of intentions, be totally client focused, and still be an idiot who knows nothing about the market or how to negotiate a deal, right?

    I’m liking Geordies triumvirate: Market, Customer, and Craft. Of course, that necessarily leads to asking, "What constitutes Craft?" :)

    Really an interesting topic for a variety of reasons.

    -rsh

  • Marc

    Clearly Rob, we seeing here a difficulty in defining good or bad by any one overall definition because there are too many variables and categories in which to judge good and bad by, which then becomes further compounded by everyone’s own definition of what they want in an agent and what they consider good or bad.

    One agent may refer to another agent as good based on their easy going manner and laid back negotiation skill while the client may look at that same agent as weak, failing to go the extra mile to get the best deal.

    It seems that unless you define specific categories to judge agents by and assign values to various levels of aptitude that clearly define what good is, what ok is, what no so good is and what bad is, all you will get here is opinions based on ones own needs or experience.

  • Marc

    Clearly Rob, we seeing here a difficulty in defining good or bad by any one overall definition because there are too many variables and categories in which to judge good and bad by, which then becomes further compounded by everyone’s own definition of what they want in an agent and what they consider good or bad.

    One agent may refer to another agent as good based on their easy going manner and laid back negotiation skill while the client may look at that same agent as weak, failing to go the extra mile to get the best deal.

    It seems that unless you define specific categories to judge agents by and assign values to various levels of aptitude that clearly define what good is, what ok is, what no so good is and what bad is, all you will get here is opinions based on ones own needs or experience.

  • http://www.nohasslelisting.com/ Russell Shaw

    I completely agree with what you are saying, Rob. If all possible necessary “good agent” skills were *properly* evaluated I don’t believe any agent would score well in each category. The “successful” or “good” agents (regardless of how it is defined) are very good (possibly great) in just one or two areas – not all of the skill sets possible.

    To succeed, an agent does not need to be great in every skill. To succeed sales-wise or service-wise, being great in just one or two skills is usually enough to vault them way out in front of the pack.

    One can qualify as an awful agent – from the viewpoint of other agents by not returning *their* phone calls. But, I will add that people who behave this way usually are awful. :-)

  • http://www.nohasslelisting.com Russell Shaw

    I completely agree with what you are saying, Rob. If all possible necessary “good agent” skills were *properly* evaluated I don’t believe any agent would score well in each category. The “successful” or “good” agents (regardless of how it is defined) are very good (possibly great) in just one or two areas – not all of the skill sets possible.

    To succeed, an agent does not need to be great in every skill. To succeed sales-wise or service-wise, being great in just one or two skills is usually enough to vault them way out in front of the pack.

    One can qualify as an awful agent – from the viewpoint of other agents by not returning *their* phone calls. But, I will add that people who behave this way usually are awful. :-)

  • http://www.matthewferrara.com/ Matthew Ferrara

    Rob:
    Nice post. A few thoughts:
    1. There need to be objective standards for what makes a real estate agent good. Every other industry has them. We know what a good programmer can do; we know what a good chef can do. There are certainly various “kinds” of programmers and chefs, but what is good can be readily identified and measured. So I disagree with people who say “good for whom” because that’s a lemonade stand level of business management mentality. What makes any professional good is their ability to deliver the service/products that the consumer is willing to pay for; and in real estate, there doesn’t have to be “ONE” standard because there isn’t “ONE” consumer.

    2. NAR is DEFINITELY NOT the organization to determine the standards (nor, by the way, should real estate commissions). The person who already HAS determined what the standards ARE and should be is right there in the mirror: The Consumer. Markets determine winners and losers by the amount of money the public spends with them. Real estate isn’t a monopoly, so the follow the money and we can see what companies are following the standards of the CONSUMER. Anything created by a committee, political body or lobbying group would be ridiculous – like ten people trying to make a spaghetti sauce in the kitchen. We already know what their standards look like – and they have had decades to “raise the bar.” It hasn’t happened.

    3. Further to this point: Most calls for “NAR” to raise the standards are merely PROTECTIONIST calls. It’s one competitor saying, Let’s use NAR to cut off the other competitors. That’s a terrible spirit of entrepreneurship. If any broker wants to raise the bar, then just DO IT. And the customers will come to you because we’re not idiots.

    We can’t find the answers to what makes a REALTOR good because no brokers are willing to set standards of performance. At some companies, someone with a “pulse and a license” seems to be “good” considering that’s what the broker is willing to recruit – and believe it or not, what some consumers are willing to accept. At other companies, perhaps the performance levels are higher.

    I would note this: I’m not a fan of “one standard” or even “raised standards” because that means there is someone – other than the consumer – who is setting the standards, usually arbitrarily. Real estate is an innovative and entrepreneurial industry – it has to be because it serves so many kinds of consumers. And the standards for “performance” do vary by consumer type, location, need. So perhaps the question should be: What KINDS of standards of performance help REALTORS perform WELL. Rather than trying to define one, cookie-cutter REALTOR “good” template.

    Hope all is well!
    Matthew Ferrara

  • http://www.matthewferrara.com Matthew Ferrara

    Rob:
    Nice post. A few thoughts:
    1. There need to be objective standards for what makes a real estate agent good. Every other industry has them. We know what a good programmer can do; we know what a good chef can do. There are certainly various “kinds” of programmers and chefs, but what is good can be readily identified and measured. So I disagree with people who say “good for whom” because that’s a lemonade stand level of business management mentality. What makes any professional good is their ability to deliver the service/products that the consumer is willing to pay for; and in real estate, there doesn’t have to be “ONE” standard because there isn’t “ONE” consumer.

    2. NAR is DEFINITELY NOT the organization to determine the standards (nor, by the way, should real estate commissions). The person who already HAS determined what the standards ARE and should be is right there in the mirror: The Consumer. Markets determine winners and losers by the amount of money the public spends with them. Real estate isn’t a monopoly, so the follow the money and we can see what companies are following the standards of the CONSUMER. Anything created by a committee, political body or lobbying group would be ridiculous – like ten people trying to make a spaghetti sauce in the kitchen. We already know what their standards look like – and they have had decades to “raise the bar.” It hasn’t happened.

    3. Further to this point: Most calls for “NAR” to raise the standards are merely PROTECTIONIST calls. It’s one competitor saying, Let’s use NAR to cut off the other competitors. That’s a terrible spirit of entrepreneurship. If any broker wants to raise the bar, then just DO IT. And the customers will come to you because we’re not idiots.

    We can’t find the answers to what makes a REALTOR good because no brokers are willing to set standards of performance. At some companies, someone with a “pulse and a license” seems to be “good” considering that’s what the broker is willing to recruit – and believe it or not, what some consumers are willing to accept. At other companies, perhaps the performance levels are higher.

    I would note this: I’m not a fan of “one standard” or even “raised standards” because that means there is someone – other than the consumer – who is setting the standards, usually arbitrarily. Real estate is an innovative and entrepreneurial industry – it has to be because it serves so many kinds of consumers. And the standards for “performance” do vary by consumer type, location, need. So perhaps the question should be: What KINDS of standards of performance help REALTORS perform WELL. Rather than trying to define one, cookie-cutter REALTOR “good” template.

    Hope all is well!
    Matthew Ferrara

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com/ -Rob

    Hey Matt! How are ya bud? :) Thanks for the great comment.

    I do wonder, however, how you reconcile the “There need to be objective standards for what makes a real estate agent good. Every other industry has them.” with the rest of your post, which seems to suggest that the market (i.e., consumers) will decide what those standards are by voting with their dollars?

    Would it make sense, do you think, to undertake a survey of sorts of Realtors and brokers to determine what (in their view) qualities make for a “good” agent? Then someone could do the same survey of consumers?

    Might be interesting.

    -rsh

  • http://robhahn.wordpress.com -Rob

    Hey Matt! How are ya bud? :) Thanks for the great comment.

    I do wonder, however, how you reconcile the “There need to be objective standards for what makes a real estate agent good. Every other industry has them.” with the rest of your post, which seems to suggest that the market (i.e., consumers) will decide what those standards are by voting with their dollars?

    Would it make sense, do you think, to undertake a survey of sorts of Realtors and brokers to determine what (in their view) qualities make for a “good” agent? Then someone could do the same survey of consumers?

    Might be interesting.

    -rsh

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  • Lora Mac Alistaire

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this blog in regard to what ideas you all have to distinquish between a good and bad real estate agent.
    As a consumer that has bought and sold numerous pieces of property with the assistance of a real estate agent, through the years in a variety of states, I for one, can tell you what I think a good real estate agent should have….
    1 A High school diploma & a minimum of 2 years college
    2 Instead of a few week nights and a couple of weekends memorizing the answers to the Real Estate test, an actual class in Real Estate would be nice. This class would include such topics like; sales, marketing, advertising, customer service, cold calling, writing and verbal skills, negotiating w/emphasis on telling the truth, real estate law and practices.
    Skip the so called appraisal section, mortgage lender and survey info. Real estate agents should stay out of these areas, because I know it gets them into trouble more times than not.
    Though knowing how to price a home correctly is important for a real estate agent, they don’t need to know this until after they are licensed.
    3 Ethics and Integrity should also be a requirement.
    4 Three to five references from previous employers, clergy or friends.
    5 Have the prospect write a 100 – 250 word paper, explaining why they think they would make a great real estate agent.
    6 Brokers should focus on quality people, not money
    7 And, last but not least, ask them to take a polograph test.
    Well, there you have it, what do you all think?
    PS NAR should come clean and tell the consumer exactly what the word Realtor means, and everyone knows it has nothing to do with Professionalism. One hundred dollars doesn’t buy much, but to think by using the word Realtor differenciates a real estate agent from a Realtor, is simply nuts!
    Thanks,
    Lora

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  • Lora Mac Alistaire

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this blog in regard to what ideas you all have to distinquish between a good and bad real estate agent.
    As a consumer that has bought and sold numerous pieces of property with the assistance of a real estate agent, through the years in a variety of states, I for one, can tell you what I think a good real estate agent should have….
    1 A High school diploma & a minimum of 2 years college
    2 Instead of a few week nights and a couple of weekends memorizing the answers to the Real Estate test, an actual class in Real Estate would be nice. This class would include such topics like; sales, marketing, advertising, customer service, cold calling, writing and verbal skills, negotiating w/emphasis on telling the truth, real estate law and practices.
    Skip the so called appraisal section, mortgage lender and survey info. Real estate agents should stay out of these areas, because I know it gets them into trouble more times than not.
    Though knowing how to price a home correctly is important for a real estate agent, they don’t need to know this until after they are licensed.
    3 Ethics and Integrity should also be a requirement.
    4 Three to five references from previous employers, clergy or friends.
    5 Have the prospect write a 100 – 250 word paper, explaining why they think they would make a great real estate agent.
    6 Brokers should focus on quality people, not money
    7 And, last but not least, ask them to take a polograph test.
    Well, there you have it, what do you all think?
    PS NAR should come clean and tell the consumer exactly what the word Realtor means, and everyone knows it has nothing to do with Professionalism. One hundred dollars doesn’t buy much, but to think by using the word Realtor differenciates a real estate agent from a Realtor, is simply nuts!
    Thanks,
    Lora