Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Here Are Some Ways Real Estate Agents Can Save Money — at Clients’ Expense

[Published May 22, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]

Like all business persons, we Realtors need to be smart about our spending, but the money-saving practices of some listing agents can impact the quality of service received by their sellers.

1) Don’t join a Realtor association. Joining the National Association of Realtors is optional — sort of.  If an agent joins a firm which is a member of the local Realtor association (in our case, the Denver Metro Association of Realtors or DMAR), he too has to join the association. Only members of a Realtor association can call themselves a “Realtor,” which is a trademark. This costs about $500 per year.  Many agents save money by joining non-Realtor brokerages such as Your Castle Services or Brokers Guild Classic.

Not being a Realtor saves the agent money and doesn’t really cost the client in any major way, now that non-Realtors can have their listings appear on both the MLS and on Realtor.com.  But I feel it is important for agents to support their trade association, which fights in Washington (and locally) for property rights, the mortgage interest deduction and countless other issues which benefit our clients.  And an agent who saves money on dues may be scrimping in other ways which do have an impact on the service to their clients.  Such as…

2) Don’t use Centralized Showing Service.  This service is a god-send to agents but also to their clients.  It costs $35 for each listing, but there is no better way to serve the showing needs of our clients. They are open 7 days a week, including most holidays, answering phones and setting appointments from 8 am to 9 pm (6pm on Sundays). Showings can also be set 24/7 on their website. They have great feedback systems, too, and can work with the special needs of any and all sellers, such as no showings during “nap time.”  I love it, and find it can be frustrating when an agent saves this expense by listing their private number for showings and I can’t be sure I’ll get a timely response to my showing request.

3) Don’t give out your cell number or include it on the MLS.  In this business you hurt your seller if you can’t be reached at all reasonable hours by them or by interested buyers. I feel strongly that all agents should have smartphones with unlimited calling, texting and data so they are as reachable as possible.

4) Take off evenings and weekends.  Okay, maybe I’m a workaholic, but if I’m going to make a healthy commission on my listings, I think I owe it to my seller to be reachable after 5 pm and on weekends. I understand that agents with families want to have “balance” in their lives, but I think you can live a balanced life and still answer your cell phone when it rings with a call from your client or a prospective buyer.

5) Keep listings off the MLS so that you make double the commission.  I’ve written about “pocket listings” before. If the motive for keeping a listing from other agents is to make more commission for yourself, you are putting your interest above your clients, which is illegal and unethical. Only by putting a listing on the MLS does it open up the possibility of competing offers.

6) Don’t use CTM eContracts.  What a blessing this service is!  Fortunately, most agents now subscribe to this service, even though it costs about $300 per year.  My only complaint is when agents allow clients to click on “font” signatures. It’s so easy to have them sign by mouse, finger or stylus so that you can know they actually signed it themselves.

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