Can You Be Referred To?
Recently my wife asked for some insight into referring a current client who was looking for a specialty property. The client is considered high-end for the market segment they were looking in and was looking in several states. My wife is very protective of her clients and strives to do what’s best. In the rare occasion that we don’t have a connection in an area, she researches agents before referring. Sure her franchise has a referral program, but by the time it gets put through that system, the poor receiver of the buyer referral is looking at a 40-50% referral fee. Most good agents will not take clients with that high of a referral fee; so we’ve always referred directly.
Believe it or not, she had a hard time finding an agent who appeared to have their act together enough, on-line to refer to. It took a lot of research before deciding.
In contemplation of what to look for in an agent, we of course, went to the internet and started with Twitter friends, than Google, than the franchise pages, than RealSeekr, etc… and lastly (you’ll love this) ActiveRain. Why? Activerain would let us “hear” the voice of the practitioner, find their websites and sorted it by location. We decided that there was a secret handshake – a combination of clues to look for that weren’t foolproof, but certainly may help us sort through who might be a good agent to refer to in the future.
There is a story in the Bible, in Judges, of a situation where after a battle a people group were trying to separate those who were friend and foe. The group used the word “Shibboleth” as a pass phrase, as it was unique to their culture. Those who said the word incorrectly, were killed as enemies. Real Estate has it’s own “Shibboleth.”
This is what we considered while pouring over lists of agents:
1. Did they have a Website and (preferably) a blog
They HAD to have a website, and we preferred to see a blog. What were we looking for? Was it relevant, was it up-to-date, was it professional…. Since we were looking at ActiveRain, the points weren’t important because those could be generated by “Great Posts”, rather we were looking for recent posts and how well written the agent was. If they had their own blog, than we looked there.
We saw countless agent pictures (many company listings without photos). Do agents need to pretty? No, but they need to look professional. If we saw the typical mug-shot against a wall in the office, we moved on. If the agent can’t spend at least $30 at JC Penny’s for a professional picture, than they aren’t going to take the career seriously enough.
3. Did the web presence endue a sense of professionalism, experience etc… ?
When I look for agents to trust, I don’t care that they have 30 years experience (that generally tells me they are of the old guard and not with current trends) but rather look for someone that has shown in their online presence that they “get it” and have closed enough transactions to be sure they can close another. Seeing an agent with 5-10 years experience with an up to date webpage, that is more about the consumer than themselves and provides local information and IDX is a great clue that the agent has a sense for current trends and services.
4. Resume versus Services
The death nail in any agent advertisement, for me, is the “Million Dollar Producer” line. In most markets you only need to sell three houses to be a million dollar producer. As both a consumer and someone in the industry, I want to know what you can do for “ME” not what you’ve done for you. Knowing that you made some money last year doesn’t impress me. If you’re selling so much, do you really have time for me as a client? Do you have teams and systems in place to help you with your “high” client base? As a referring agent and/or consumer I want to know about your knowledge base and ability to serve a consumer.
Believe it or not, there were some agents who eluded to the fact that they preferred to care for “all clients in the transaction, equally.” Putting it into context with other things from some agents and reading their blog post on the subject’ they were supporters of Dual Agency. Yeah, right… As if I would ever refer a client to an agent who wanted to provide them less service so that the agent could make twice the money. Moral of that story – be cautious of what you blog about. (Especially if it were your first and last post for 8 months ago)
Ok, So It’s Not All About Me
I know, I know… I’m a Yuppie Elitist. I’m OK with that. Yes, I know that there are some very promising agents who haven’t embraced a good web presence or been around enough to establish themselves. However, I don’t think that what we were looking for in a referral agent was beyond reason. Referring a client properly can ensure future business from the friends and family that they left behind, but more so it’s about serving the current client here and now. Your referral for services to another agent or vendor reflects on you. Be careful…
I am sure that there are other things to look for in an agent than the five I’ve listed, but these were my hot buttons. Agents need to be more careful about their on-line presence. It could make you money – but it could also cost you money. The possible commission from this referral could be up to $75,000 – does your web presence convince me that you deserve this?