New vs. experienced agents

A couple of readers have asked how inquires about real estate are handled by brokerage firms here in town. Speaking only for the two or three firms whose policies I am (sort of) familiar with, here’s how it works: a call comes in – Hallelujah! The Internet has killed 90% of such calls in the past five years – and is routed to whoever has “desk duty” that slot (usually, an agent holds down desk duty for 1/2 the day). In the pre-internet days, a caller stood a pretty good chance of finding an experienced agent on the line because that’s where the business was – we’d run ads in local papers and those ubiquitous real estate gimme books found in supermarkets and would-be buyers had to call to find out the price (often) and the address (almost always). People volunteered for desk duty because they could count on receiving at least a couple of calls a session and, with luck, could convert the caller into a customer. That’s not true today so a lot of us find we have better things to do with our time. Not all of us – I know of at least one very experienced, successful agent who still grabs the duty desk and does well at it. I personally will do it only as a matter of being a team player.

The bane of an office manager and those of us who have the misfortune of being within earshot of a telephone inquiry regarding one of our own listings is the agent who has never seen the property in question and can do no more than recite what’s on the listing sheet, information that the caller, thanks to the Internet, already has. A lazy, experienced agent is no better in this regard than a new agent who hasn’t troubled to personally view the inventory. If you’re lucky, however, you’ll find a real person who has seen the property, remembers its details and can speak English well enough to communicate that knowledge. If you find that you’re getting along with that person, by all means make an appointment to see the house you called in on and perhaps others with her, regardless of whether she or he’s a star performer or a novice. Enthusiasm, coupled with knowledge, will go a long way.

Two points: 1. Desk duty is very much not a “personality contest”. Whoever wants to sign up for the task gets it and an ambitious, eager agent can find all the slots she wants. 2. Don’t be (too) afraid of identifying yourself and disclosing what you’re looking for. One reason the Internet became so poplar, I suspect, is that buyers can search for property anonymously without fear of being hounded to all ends of the earth by a starving, desperate agent. In my experience, that usually doesn’t happen – we ask, politely, if you’d like us to email you additional information on the house and whether you’d like information on other houses that seem to meet your criteria, and that’s it. If you decline, we don’t have caller ID and won’t telephone you at 2:00 a.m. to tell you about the perfect house that just appeared nor will we appear at your daughter’s christening. I did witness one agent chase a walk-in out to the parking lot and act like a Pekingese with loving on her mind, but that was once – most of the rest of us are more restrained.

So feel free to call. You’ll often find a good person on the other end of the line who can give you some valuable information, free and without further obligation. If you like what hear and feel comfortable with the agent, try out a relationship for a day. If not, there are at least 999 other agents here in Greenwich twiddling our thumbs and awaiting your call.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “New vs. experienced agents

  1. Anonymous

    Well – from what I understand – Old Greenwich certainly has a-lot of ‘Real-Estate-Offices’ – Chris – Old Greenwich – seems like a ‘Hot Spot’ to me!

  2. Anonymous

    I am an agent at Prudential in Westchester and frequently read the real estate section of the Greenwich Time. I’ve noticed that many of the real estate ads have the listing agents’ phone numbers on them so I’m guessing buyers who see an ad call the L.A. directly. What’s the point of phone duty if this is the case? Our office does not advertise the listing agent’s phone number in ads and we fight for phone duty because the call-ins are valid inquiries about the property. I read one of your other reader’s comments and I agree — isn’t this a management decision, with respect to phone duty anyway — how can a phone duty agent get any potential business when the ads have the L.A. number to dial to?
    I agree that the phone duty agent should know the inventory but it seems that, even with that effort, it’s not utilized on phone duty in which one is simply a secretary.

  3. Anonymous

    Interesting – Secretary – Indeed!

  4. Anonymous

    This is the 1st agent other than Chris I have seen post, pardon me if I have missed others. I think this is great and welcome others. There must be others aware and reading … please come forward and share your thoughts!