In a comment to my previous post concerning active, knowledgeable agents versus the 90% who eat bon bons by their pools and wait to view properties for the first time with a client (I refer to this as a “mutual voyage of discovery” and consider it a huge waste of the client’s time) a reader asks how he can determine who among the 1,000 agents in town is one of the best. Since he already has my name, I’ll restrict my remarks to other agents.
There are plenty of good agents in town but, short of posting yourself outside a broker open house all day and seeing who shows up and who doesn’t, it’s tough to figure out. If you call a brokerage firm’s manager and ask for one of the top producing agents (we do represent both buyers and sellers), you might get the right person, but you might also get whoever is on floor duty that day. Depending on who is in the office at the time, this could be good or bad.
Reputation is usually a good sign – ask friends who have recently bought or sold a house who their agent was, and what they thought of her. For large firms with sales recognition programs, check the agent’s websites for membership in the firm’s top 5% or 1% circle (naturally, I’ve been in both, so I think this is a great technique!). But the top selling agent last year, town wide, was David Ogilvy, who doesn’t employ such showmanship, nor does he need to – see above, under “reputation’. My brother Gideon works for Cleveland, Duble and Arnold and they, too don’t have top producer awards yet his name will be found among the top sellers. Jean Ruggiero, my colleague here at William Raveis, is not only the second-most productive agent in Greenwich, she’s got an excellent reputation for success and has also been a member of the Raveis “Chairman’s Elite Club” forever, so there you have it.
My personal experience is that the agent is more important than the firm he or she works for. We all have websites, some of which are better than others, we all have “international connections”, for what they’re worth (generally, very little) and we are all capable of exposing your house to the Multiple Listing Service, which is what will probably sell your house, eventually. So comfort level and confidence should take priority. Until this year, I’d have insisted that you check how many transactions a candidate did in the past year, just to get a feel for their familiarity with the market place but today? A fellow agent came into the office last week, crowing that she’d just been out with a buyer. I suggested that she stick the guy in formaldehyde and preserve him as the last of his breed.
So ask around, make some calls, talk with a number of agents and either ask them about or check their resume. And, even in a slow market, you should probably keep your listing to six months, so that you can get out of an ill-fitting relationship. For you buyers – if you’re out there – be especially careful about signing a “buyer’s representation agreement” that locks you in for more than a day or two. especially if you’ve never met the agent before. State law requires that we get you to sign such an agreement the first time we meet face-to-face, but the agreement can be limited to just a few specific houses or one day. The worst thing you can do to yourself is sign up for six months exclusive representation with someone who, on your first tour you discover is incompatible. I use one-day agreements, but I am aware of agents who try to lock customers in for six months or even, in the most egregious example, a full year. Someone who’s that insecure about getting along with you is probably no one you want to do business with.