What exactly constitutes “full service?”

Like most service industries, the range and scope of competing entities in the same business can often be very different…and perhaps they should be. Competitors will always try to find ways to separate themselves from their competition, as they should. Our business is no different. However, we’re not talking about finding someone to mow your yard, or paint your house…we’re talking about what may be the single biggest asset you’ll ever own. As such, it commands more attention from you when finding the right person to assist you.
You need assistance with preparation of the property, pricing and positioning in the marketplace, capturing the best assets of the property, marketing to the appropriate audience, negotiation, planning for a smooth transition out, and more.
So when one Broker claims they offer “full service,” what does that mean exactly? Well, unfortunately, the claim is subjective, and does not have a well defined and consistent framework.
As the real estate industry adapts to changes in the marketplace, new business models appear, offering an alternative to the “old way” of doing business. Flat fees, lower fees, and a mixed bag of services offered. The point is, it doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as the job gets done. As a seller, you should at a minimum, be sure to get the following:
*A competent agent that you feel is qualified to guide you through the process, and who is sensitive to your needs.
*Good advice in the preparation of your property for market, including professional staging if appropriate.
*Guidance on pricing, including data to support the advice, as well as positioning in the marketplace against the current competition.
*Guidance on a strategic move…will you move out and then sell, or sell and then move out?
*Exposure for your listing. It doesn’t matter how great the property is, or how well it’s priced, if no one sees it.
*Professional photography. I think we can agree that most, if not all agents are not skilled photographers. 10 minutes looking at listings on the internet will provide proof of that. I hire professional photographers, and you should insist on it.
*Internet exposure. 92% of home buyers use the internet…you have to be there. I syndicate my listings to over 800 websites (more than anyone else), and “feature” my listings on 4 of the top 5 websites. That guarantees my listings the best exposure.
*Negotiation skills. You should feel comfortable that once your property starts receiving offers, that your agent is qualified and capable to negotiate on your behalf. There is no replacement for that…experience, training, and life skills are the only way to get that.
*Communication. Above all, your agent needs to be an effective and consistent communicator. Read their past client reviews or testimonials, or talk to people they work with. Simply engage them prior to listing with them, and see how they communicate with you.

The bottom line, get the things you need, for the best price you can negotiate, and remember that it is negotiable. There is no “one size fits all.”
Full service means getting everything you need to get the mission accomplished, so be sure to do so.

There’s always more than one way to get the job done

It’s important for people to understand that when it comes to buying and selling real estate, you are not limited to the methods that “conventional wisdom” dictates. In fact, I would offer that conventional wisdom is self-serving, and archaic.
You don’t need a bank to buy a property, and if you truly understand the source of where mortgage money comes from, you would never do business with a bank again. That said, you are only limited by your imagination when it comes to assembling win/win purchase deals. Investors have been doing it for decades, and if they can do it, why not you? The only difference between you and them is that they were willing to do it…to step outside the box. It’s not because they have more money than you, as many investors buy property with little if any of their own money. So it’s not about money, it’s about taking a few steps that most others won’t do…that’s it.
I see too many people rob themselves of an opportunity to own their own home, because they believe it’s out of their reach. It’s simply not so, in most cases, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
I’ve used dozens of strategies to buy and sell property, both for my clients and myself. I can’t say I’ve used them all, because as you are reading this, someone is inventing a new strategy…all perfectly legal, just creative.

Are you paying too much for taxes and insurance?

In most areas by now, homeowners have received a new property tax bill, and they likely have increased since last year. It’s a good time to check that assessment and make sure you are being charged fairly against the value of your property. As a Broker, I’ve seen county valuations (those done by county appraisers) off by as much as 30%. That’s a lot of money if it’s not in your favor. Many people don’t even realize that you can challenge those inaccurate assessments…again, if they’re not in your favor. It’s a relatively easy process. It starts with having an accurate valuation done of your home, which I can help you with. While your at it, check those insurance rates. Many people have maintained long standing relationships with their insurance company/agent, and tend to just forget about it every year…only to find out once they do look at it and conduct a little due diligence, that they’re paying far too much. It’s not uncommon for me to see someone paying 500-700 dollars a year too much.

Who pays the commission?

I’ll bet if I asked 100 realtors that question, at least 99 of them would tell me “the seller pays the commission…for both agents.” While that is the generally accepted answer, it’s just not so…and for good reason.
Where does the ‘money’ come from to pay the commissions? Sure, eventually it comes from the Seller’s proceeds, but first it must come from the BUYER. Without the buyer’s funds, there are no proceeds.
Was it added to the price of the home? Probably not, but it was factored into the price. Had the seller not signed an agreement to pay 5-8% commissions, he/she would have likely offered the property at a lower price…so effectively, yes, it is ‘built in.’ Since most of the properties sold are done so through a Broker, in can be said that prices are artificially inflated due to the inclusion of commission fees. It’s the old, “everyone else is doing it, so I might as well” mentality. The seller has determined a price he/she is willing to sell for, based on the fact that they will give back 5-8%.
If a buyer needs credits for closing costs, etc., and pads the price but then asks the seller for a credit, who is paying those funds? The BUYER is. The seller is simply agreeing to allow the buyer to finance them.
It’s no different for commissions.

While I’m certain that many will disagree with me, their reasons just don’t hold water. Consider the following. Why would the seller want to pay for the buyer’s agent? Why would the buyer want their agent to be paid by the seller…the opposing party? If the buyer’s agent is being compensated by the seller, who is that agent loyal to? If you were on trial for murder, would you want the DA to pay for your counsel? While the example is a bit extreme, the point to be made is this…the industry has conditioned people to think that this is the standard, but it violates all rules of common sense and good business.
In my opinion, buyers should pay for their own representation, as should sellers. It eliminates any possible conflict of interest, and is just good business.
That said, the industry says otherwise…but it’s your property. You do what you feel is best for you.

There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to commission

Despite what appears to be S.O.P. for decades now in the real estate industry, I don’t believe there is a “one size fits all solution” for every seller. Properties are unique in attributes and condition, and micro markets are unique as well. The level of effort it takes to sell a property is different in nearly every case. So why do most agents charge, or attempt to charge, the same commission for every one of them? They shouldn’t, and I don’t. Rather, like any other service business, the commission charged should reflect the service rendered…no more and no less.
There are turnkey properties and fixer uppers, hands-off sellers and hands-on sellers. Some agents will spend a dozen hours on a sale, while spending 100 hours on another. While many agents feel it “balances itself out,” I disagree. In that case, one seller was undercharged, and the other overcharged…not a good business model. The commission charged should be negotiated based on these and other factors…so don’t hesitate to ask an agent to justify what they will charge, or to negotiate what you feel is fair, given all the factors.

Buyer rebates?

In today’s world, technology has forever changed the way people buy and sell property. Today, the general public has access to much of the same information as Brokers and agents have…so the need for a Broker has changed. I have adapted to this change, and realize that many buyers today are what I call “hands on” buyers…they surf the internet for listings, attend open houses, and do a great deal to position themselves for success.
Brokers and agents who work with buyers, present company included, spend most of their time sourcing property, setting up showings, and showing property. Those tasks easily represent 25%-50% of the time I would spend helping a buyer get into a property. I feel that if my clients are willing, or prefer to do those tasks, then I should be willing to help them out financially… commensurate with how much time they saved me.
As a result, I now offer up to 50% of my commission earned on buyer side transactions, rebated back to the buyer, to help them get into their dream home.
It’s clearly the right thing to do.
That said, I do not require my buyer clients to participate, I only offer it as a good faith option for those interested. We’ll cover the terms and conditions of that offer when we meet for the first time.

Be a Hero?

If you haven’t already heard of it, invest a few minutes of your day into the Hero Program, an extremely cost effective means of making your home energy efficient, and putting those savings back in your pocket.
Qualifying products and installation are 100% financed through your property tax bill, and spread out over several years. In most cases, that expense is tax deductible…providing even more incentive.
Everything from solar, heat/air, lighting, plumbing fixtures…even pool pumps and artificial turf! With over 900,000 products available for Hero financing, it may be a no-brainer for you. Check out the program details at www.heroprogram.com.
Many of these upgrades will add value to your home as well. Look at the big picture…you recover the expense in at least 3 ways. Lower energy costs, tax deductions, and increased value to your home. Crunch the numbers, it’s the only way to find out.

Why I don’t use an office

Having spent nearly three decades in the corporate arena prior to becoming a real estate Broker, I can attest to the fact that office environments are anything but productive. Consider the following statistics:
*The average person working in an office is interrupted 7 times every hour…that’s 56 times a day if you’re there all day!
*Once interrupted on a project, it takes the average person 20-45 minutes to return to that project, if they return at all.
*Once focused on a project and interrupted, it can take up to 30 minutes to recapture that same level of focus before you were interrupted.

Now, those alone are enough to justify staying away from an office environment, but here’s a few more reasons why I do:
*Most of our business is conducted in the field anyway…meeting at properties for various reasons. If I’m not at properties, I’m researching properties, or engaged with affiliate partners (title, lenders, inspectors, etc.) off site. Either way, I found when I had an office that I was seldom there, so I saw no justification for the expense.
*Technology provides us a means to connect and communicate in a way that almost renders an office obsolete. If I’m not meeting clients at properties, they often prefer the relaxed environment of a local coffee shop versus a distracting or sterile office.
*Many of my clients have children, and it’s simply inconvenient for them to pack up the kids just to come to an office…my clients appreciate the effort made by me to come to them, so we can discuss our business in the comfort of their home. If I’m listing their home, I need to see it anyway.

I’m aware that not everyone will agree with my position, but the simple fact remains. I’ve worked without a physical office for over 6 years now, and my clients haven’t missed it…neither have I.

If it sounds too good…

There are a number of Brokers in today’s market who offer a solution for the “hands on” seller…those who need MLS exposure and internet syndication to help drive traffic to their property. Most, if not all of these Brokers, simply spend a few minutes posting “your” photos, and using “your information,” and perform a bit of data entry…that’s it. All showings, open houses, ancillary marketing, contract negotiations, and proper disclosure/documentation, is left up to the seller.
The concept is solid…IF you’re a former licensed agent or have experience in the navigation of complex real estate transactions.
Trust me when I tell you, the transactions that I have been involved in, where I was “up against” one of these agents or their sellers…the seller left way more money on the table than had they simply paid the commission.
Case and point…a recent transaction I closed had a listing Broker from 160 miles away, who knew nothing of this market. I sent over the offer, and he simply had it signed by the seller…no counter, no question, done. That Broker provided no guidance to the seller throughout the transaction…in fact, the seller frequently called me for advice, which I obviously couldn’t offer. There were a number of other items that were overlooked by the listing Broker, which resulted in losses for the seller. It wasn’t that I took advantage of the situation, but rather no one was representing the seller. Whatever I wanted, I got. Simple as that.
At the end of the day, the seller paid her broker 1.5%, and me 2.5%…so she “saved about 4000 in commissions. However, had I been representing the seller, I could have recovered far more than that…effectively offsetting the commission spent.
In a different transaction, the seller was in a similar contract with a listing broker. He held the open house, and I represented the buyer. I met directly with the seller to present my offer, and showed him that his price of 285000 was too high, and offered him 269000 for the property, which my buyer was more than willing to pay, and in my opinion, what the property was worth at the time. He passed on the offer, and several months later the market had declined, and he had been on the market for over 6 months, sending the wrong message to the prospective buyers. He eventually accepted an offer of 256000. How much money did he save?
IF you’re a hands on seller, and want to take some of the tasks on, I offer such a program. However, my program will not put you at risk, but will save you some serious money, depending on what you want to take on. If you’re saving me time, I’ll reward you with the savings…but I won’t “feed you to the wolves,” or compromise your position in any way. There are too many things that can go wrong in a real estate transaction…and as I’ve shown you, “saving” money doesn’t always mean you’re saving money.

How much commission should you pay?

If I lined up 10 agents right now, at least 9 of them would tell you 6%…as that figure has been the “standard” for decades. The truth is, there is no “established standard.” Commission is 100% negotiable. So as a Broker who relies on commission to provide for my family, why am I telling you this? Because no one else will.

In my opinion, the amount of commission charged should be commensurate with the level of effort and costs associated with getting your property sold. Maybe you already have a buyer and just need some guidance through the plethora of documents required to transfer a property these days…that certainly doesn’t warrant a 6% fee. Perhaps your property is turnkey, in a highly desirable area…not likely it’s going to take a gargantuan effort to move it. On the other hand, I’ve had transactions where 7-8% was more in line for what it took to sell the property. I’ve also charged as little as $1500.

The truth is, like anything else, the person you are hiring needs to justify the fee. Don’t be afraid to ask how the agent came up with their number. If they tell you, “that’s the going rate,” move on to someone who has actually put some thought into it. There is no going rate. However, if you’re comfortable with their answer, perhaps you have the right agent. You should feel that you’re being charged fairly, and that you’ll get your money’s worth for what you do pay.

A good agent will nearly pay for themselves in the form of a higher net proceeds, typically generated by strong negotiating skills and a quicker sale, resulting in lower holding costs and a more predictable timeline for you to move on to the next chapter of your life. It’s the largest cost you will have in selling your home…get your money’s worth.