I’m a Realtor in Silicon Valley with many years’ experience under my belt. On top of that, I grew up with a Realtor mom and recall “the stories” from way back when. What stories?

I’m talking about the Bad Agent Stories.

As Realtors, part of our Code of Ethics (which is totally sacrosant) is to not “disparage the competition”. So I’m not going to name names.

But I have to warn you: please, please be careful when you hire, or you may get one of the Realtor lemons.  Unfortunately, at times I’ve run into a few agents who’ve worked deceptively. So my response is to warn you so at least my readers aren’t duped.

So Many Realtors in Santa Clara County

Here in the San Jose area, there are about 12,000 people with a real estate license (issued by the state of California). Of those 12,000 individuals, 8,000 are also Realtors. “Realtor” is NOT synonymous with “real estate salesperson”.  A Realtor is a licensee who ALSO belongs to a trade group (the National Assn of Realtors, and usually also a state and local association of Realtors) and one of their hallmarks is that they promise to abide by a Code of Ethics. This is above and beyond what the law demands.

Sadly, even among the Realtor population, there are some issues. Many are more experienced, skilled, and dilligent than others. But what is really bothersome is the fact that some will use “smoke and mirrors” to fool consumers.

I have a problem with that.

With “Web 2.0” (blogs and interactive websites), the hallmark that is most prized, I think, is transparency.

Some agents are anything but transparent. So let me provide you with some thoughts for interviewing agents. Hopefully this will keep you from being duped.

(1)  Myth #1 is that if a salesperson was first licensed in a particular year, he or she has been full time in the business since then. I just saw an online profile of an agent who claimed he’d been in real estate since 1997. The California’s Department of Real Estate Licensee lookup site said 2004. So either this person started, dropped out and returned, was licensed in another state, or he meant something else by “in real estate since 1997”. Perhaps he meant that’s when he bought his first home? In any event, it appears to not be honest. So ask a few questions. 1997 is not the same as 2004!  Check the DRE site!

(2) Myth #2 is that if an agent claims to have designations etc., he or she actually has them. Again, I just visited an agent’s profile where she claimed to have a certain designation. Know what’s funny? This same person LIFTED the link for that straight off my profile. So anyone looking at her site who clicked on that link would end up on a page all about me. A quick check of the designation’s website failed to show that she was a member. So… just like with the license information, check it out! (It is possible, of course, that it’s a simple error. But what if several of these things don’t check out? Then I think it’s worth seeing what is up.)

(3) Myth #3 is that slick answers equal a non-issue. Many sales people are trained in objection handling. That’s fine, but what if it involves deceiving you? One of the more common objections is this: “How long have you been in Real Estate?” An answer new agents are often told to provide is “Feels like forever“. Don’t settle for that. Check out the California Department of Real Estate’s site (link above).

There are other things that constitute “red flags” too. Sometimes agents say “you can sell your house appointment only” or “you can offer x% below what is common for our area for a commission to the buyer’s agent”. What I have found is that often these two practices go hand in glove. The lower commission rate cuts down on traffic, and so does the appointment only status. The end result is that homes are on the market longer but the listing agent has a greater chance of “double ending the deal”. What looks like a savings of money and a prevention of hassle actually serves not
the seller, but the agent, best. Typically homes listed like this will be on
the market far longer and sell for far less than homes with a competitive commission rate offered that’s easy to see. And the odds of the the listing agent salesperson also representing the buyer go way, way up.

Think about it: agents in Silicon Valley are averaging about fewer sales a year in these tough times. If every other house in your zip code offers 3% to the buyer’s agent, what will happen if you offer less? (Think of it as a percentage of the agent’s annual income.) Conversely, if everyone else is offering 3% and you offer 3.25 or more percent, and you have VERY hungry agents out there, what is likely to happen? I’ll tell you: traffic will increase! More traffic (esp if it is qualified) will usually result in larger offers.

So it’s not always about getting the house sold with a cheaper commission. Sometimes you can sell for more if you offer a more enticing package to the agent – or to the buyer (to the buyer you could offer seller financing, points etc.)

Anyway, too often I have run into agents who were wolves posing in sheep’s clothing. It bothers me a lot! So I implore you, check it all out. Agents who are honest have nothing to hide. And they won’t mind you asking a few extra questions.

I’ve been on the receiving end of questions from folks who were highly
suspecious. I’ll admit, it doesn’t feel good when people start off by not
trusting me. It can even be a little intimidating, like, “gee one mishap and I’m doomed”. Most folks, though, aren’t that way. They are just being careful, doing their due dilligance.

Ask questions. I can provide you with a list of questions to use. Email me and I’ll send it to you.

A friend of my husband’s and mine is a former journalist. He used to joke, “if your mother says she loves you, check it out”. That always cracked me up. But as a journalist, he would not ever write anything that he hadn’t verified.

If it can be done for daily articles in the paper, it can and should be done for selling your most prized asset!  So don’t fall for “smoke and mirrors” when you sell your home in San Jose, Los Gatos, or Saratoga. Slow down a bit.

Check it out!

Related articles:

You must know lots of real estate agents, so please hire a great one when buying or selling!

Home buying in California? Ask a lot of questions!

Thinking of Selling Your Silicon Valley Home? Get It Right The First Time if You Go On The Market!

Selling Your Silicon Valley Home? Don’t Cut Corners: It Will Cost You!