When you're picking a broker to sell your co-op or condo, it’s easy to get your head turned by polished marketing pitches and flattering sales estimates.
Yet as an excellent post on The Apple, Peeled reminded us yesterday, a marketing presentation is another word for job interview. And to separate the achievers from the slackers, you need to ask the right questions, helpfully enumerated there and reprinted below.
As for the right answers? We asked Apple, Peeled co-founder and Wharton-educated, gimlet-eyed real estate broker Ana Maria Sencovici to serve up the good, the bad, and the non-responsive answers of her peers.
"Why are you in real estate?"
Good answer: Anything that sounds thoughtful and reflective.
Bad answer: “I love people.” It’s too simplistic, and doesn’t help you understand what motivates or drives that agent.
"Give me an example of a time when you told your client something they didn’t want to hear"
Good Answer: An example that shows the agent was willing to put his or her relationship with the client on the line to deliver bad news, such as the fact that potential buyers are finding that six-figure renovation Las Vegas ugly.
“I know too many brokers who will sit on a listing for 3 months getting negative feedback from buyers but not communicating it to the client, because they don’t want to jeopardize the relationship with the client or the possibility of future referrals,” says Sencovici.
“You’re looking for someone with compassionate cojones," she says. "They need to have the guts to deliver the news you need to hear, and do it in a caring way.
Bad answer: Can’t think of anything and/or “I have such good relationships with my clients that it never really comes up.”
"Give me an example of when you were wrong or made a mistake. How did you rectify it?"
Good answer: Something that shows the agent is not only capable of self-reflection (and can admit they make mistakes) but can take responsibility and act quickly to make things right.
Bad answer: “After 35 years in the business, I know what I’m doing.”
"What is your take on the current economic environment and market dynamics? Why should I sell now, and why should I not?"
Good answer: There’s no right answer, so long as it shows thoughtfulness and understanding of the macro-economic picture, the economy and the local versus national market.
“Buyers are very sophisticated these days. You want to be confident that the agent can talk to your buyers' concerns intelligently, play both sides of the argument and have an opinion of their own,” says Sencovici.
Bad answer: “New York is always an anomaly.” Or, “Volume is up over last year.”
"What do you feel is your greatest value-add to selling my home?"
Good answer: Anything that demonstrates a competitive advantage. A team might say they offer 24/7 access. An ex-financier might say pricing. A longtime agent might say negotiation.
Bad answer: Can’t think of anything.
"Can you give me an example of being proactive with your clients? How do you partner with them?"
Good answer: Something that shows the broker is in the habit of offering the seller choices and decisions at every point, rather than waiting to be asked. For instance, for a client that didn’t have time to renovate because they were going on vacation, the broker might have coordinated the process by sending in contractors to interview and then overseeing the renovation while the client was away.
Bad answer: One that is slow in coming and/or doesn’t demonstrate proactiveness.
"How do you track activity on my property? How often should I expect to hear from you?"
Good answer: A formal report every week (or longer if marketing a super-luxury property). The report may include the number of inquiries, whether they were direct or from a broker, the number of showings, the names of people who’ve seen the apartment in private showings or at open houses, their broker’s name, and what they thought. Informal communication should occur anytime anything material happens.
Bad answer: "Whenever we have offers I’ll be in touch."
"What is your philosophy on co-broking and working with other brokers in general?"
Good answer: “Absolutely. We have no issues whatsoever about working with other brokers,” delivered in strong, unequivocal and practically indignant tones.
Bad answer: Unenthusiastic yes.
"May I please have three references to contact?"
Good answer: Yes.
Bad answer: We don’t give references.
As for what to ask those references, says Sencovici, the questions aren’t so different from the ones on this list. Was the broker open to suggestions? How did they partner with you? How fast did they return your emails or calls? Why did you like working with them? How did you pick them?