An incredibly busy week of planning and preparation for REBarCamp NY as well as actual paying work piling up prevented me from getting to this Part 2 earlier. Sorry!
But in Part 1 of this series, I asked real estate agents who they would use to sell their own homes if they could not do it themselves for some reason. The answers were interesting, but so were some of the emails and DM’s I got in response.
Now, here’s why I asked the question, after my late-night discussion with Kelley Koehler, and what I think this question ultimately means.
First, A True Story
A few years ago, I had a potentially serious legal issue that came up (and no, I’m not going to get into it, except to say it wasn’t a house closing). I’m a lawyer, a former member of the NY Bar, and many of my friends are practicing attorneys. But one of the first things you learn in law school is that a lawyer who represents himself has an idiot for a client. So I started thinking about all of my friends, classmates, and others I knew from over the years and went through each of them wondering who I would call when faced with the legal issue.
I picked one, but that exercise left a deep impression on me as to what it was that I was looking for from an attorney.
Now, I’m not a practicing lawyer, and my background isn’t litigation — it’s international bankruptcy. But even so, as someone with legal training, I ended up looking for different things from the people I would potentially hire to represent me in a serious case.
Professionals Evaluating Other Professionals
Turns out, professionals evaluate other professionals all the time. Doctors — especially surgeons — are perhaps the best example. If you want to know who the best heart surgeon in America is, go ask all of the heart surgeons in America who they would choose to perform heart surgery on themselves.
The layman, lacking the insider knowledge of a trained medical doctor, may rely on things like credentials, Board certification, years of practice, hospital affiliation, website ratings and testimonials. The other doctors, however, look for whatever it is that they look for. They have a much better sense of the craft of medicine and would pick accordingly.
Lawyers do the same thing. It isn’t often that a criminal defense attorney is accused of a crime — but when she is, she’d know who the other great criminal defense attorneys are, what qualities she’d look for, think about their courtroom advocacy skills, look at their motion practice, look at their judgment, aggression, wisdom, whatever, and pick the one she believes is the best.
Real Estate and Professionalism
The subject of “what makes a realtor good” has been a favorite one of mine on this blog for quite some time. And within the real estate industry, there is an overwhelming sense that there are too many crappy realtors, that the standards of licensing are too low, that designations mean nothing, etc. Previous attempts to understand how to evaluate a realtor have usually descended into “Well, it’s all personal, you see… and no one but the client can really say” type of relativism.
I think the question of “Who You Gonna Call” actually gets past all of that. Unfortunately, since virtually every realtor represents himself when selling his own property, the question remains mostly hypothetical. At the same time, the question does (if confronted honestly) force each realtor to think about what qualities, what skills, what personal traits he himself thinks makes for a “good” real estate professional.
Even for professional realtors, the sale of a home is a major financial transaction. For most real estate agents, their primary home probably represents their largest asset and liability. So who they would select to sell their home — at least in their own minds, even if they won’t speak it out loud — and why they would select that particular individual represents, I think, the clearest indicator of “professional excellence”.
Some of the emails I’ve got over that first question were revealing. One person wrote to say that she ended up completely re-examining what she thought were important in a real estate professional when she started thinking about who she would actually hire to list her own home.
Interestingly enough, most of what we in the RE.net spend our time talking about — the marketing, superior technology, social media awareness, etc. — do not appear at the top of the list for realtors who select other realtors to sell their own homes. What does? Trustworthiness. In that sense, professional realtors are no different than layman consumers.
One interesting corollary to this whole line of reasoning is this: If you want to know who the best realtor in a market is, do a survey (probably anonymous survey) and find out who would be chosen by his or her peers to represent them in a transaction.
Another interesting corollary: If you would pick Agent Smith to represent you in a real estate transaction, but fail to refer Agent Smith to a prospect you cannot represent for some reason (conflict, perhaps), then your own ethics need to be examined.