Follow-Up Post on Brass Tacks: What To Do About Marginal Agents?

Happy Friday everyone. I wanted to do this quick follow-up to my Brass Tacks: What To Do About Marginal Agents post from November 20, 2015. Because the comments on that post were… interesting… so I figured we might get some more interesting comments on this one.

If you recall, in that original post, I highlighted two listings in the same area by two different REALTORS. I didn’t know either one, but one listing was done very poorly with cellphone photographs, and the other one was staged and professionally photographed.

The Bad Listing:


The Good Listing:


Well, as of today, which is December 18, 2015 — just short of a month after that original post — here’s where the two properties stand:


It’s still on the market, but with a 5.6% price reduction, which is $18,000. Let’s say that again: EIGHTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS! And it’s still not sold. If you remember, the original copy for this listing said this:

Being sold as-is and priced below market to sell quickly. This house has a nice floor plan with lots of potential. Located on a culda-sac street within walking distance from the school. With a little TLC this house could be perfect for a family.

Priced below market my ass.

Meanwhile, 1230 Ragsdale Ln:

1230 Ragsdale SOLD

Imagine that! Sold! Now, HAR just gives us a range based on the previous sale (11/30/2012) but Zillow gives us the Price History:



The listing went under contract on 11/24/15 — a mere four days after I posted my original blogpost.Β It was listed for sale on 10/28/15, went under contract on 11/12/15, then that buyer backed out the next day, and then the property was sold on 12/04/15. That’s 37 days on market, with a bump in the road.

And oh look, it was sold at the full listing price of $270K. [PLEASE SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

So all of the commenters on the first post who were saying things like, who cares what the photography looks like as long as the listing agent delivers the results for the seller through his superior negotiation skills and the like… I’d like to hear from y’all again please. πŸ™‚



Linsey Ehle, the best real estate coach that y’all don’t know about, who has access to the MLS just called to tell me that the information from Zillow cannot be relied upon, because Texas is a nondisclosure state and any “sale price” cannot be posted online. Therefore, Zillow’s “Listing Removed” is the only indication we have publicly.

What I CAN say is that the property is pending, past the “option period”, is in escrow, and is scheduled to close any day now.

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Rob Hahn

Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

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23 thoughts on “Follow-Up Post on Brass Tacks: What To Do About Marginal Agents?”

  1. Let me just start off by saying- there’s no excuse for agents taking poor quality pictures “agents just shouldn’t do it.” With that said- it is obvious when there is a marginal agent, and marginal agents won’t last long in the business. But, there are problems even when a top agent gets a listing… Look no further than Spencer’s home. I haven’t checked lately, but I know that Spencer’s agent wasn’t having a lot of success selling Spencer’s home, and I am pretty sure Spencer used a top agent.

      • So can a qualified person be a Real Estate practitioner in Washington State without the shakedown from the associations,mls’s etc,is this for real????,would a licensee have access to the listings without the key from the local cartels,do they have a system for access,electronic lockboxes or combo’s available to any licensee,?

  2. So is the problem the pictures or the price? Without the right price pictures only offer a marginal benefit.

  3. Damn….I’m wrong again. Nice photography is the game-changer in real estate; I hope I get a nice camera for Christmas πŸ™‚

    ….and this should be a lesson for all you brokers out there, forget about hiring the agent that does all the business, can recite every transaction in town off the top of her/his head, is a pleasure to work with, works hard etc. Just hire the ones that take good pictures and provide good copy….

    Please pardon my out of character and somewhat sarcastic response, but I did comment a few times on the last post so I’m playing defense….. and may have awoken on the wrong side of the bed this am πŸ™‚

    Happy Holidays…

    • To clarify my point: I think I know what you’re digging for…the “Internet of things”, but IMO, in order to filter for the best agents and marginalizing the marginal you should work backwards, i.e. highest producing, most knowledgeable….then trickle down to the photos and copy instead of the other way around. Not sure you’ve yet to prove Raphael is the inferior agent.

      Happy Holidays? πŸ™‚

      • So let’s make sure we’re clear on this.

        You are saying that highest producing = the best agent, yes or no?

        If you’d like to insert qualifications, please do so now. πŸ™‚

        And just what would make YOU say Rafael is the inferior agent?

    • Unless the seller (marginal or not) has a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, friend of a friend, fellow member of the club etc., then that’s the agent they (sellers) usually choose; not the real pro that makes a career out of selling real estate.

      I believe what ROB is trying to find out (just a guess) is; from 40,000 feet (the Internet) how can “whoever” (chances are the big portals) find and target the agents that will capture the most business for them without having to get on the ground floor to do it?

      Kind of like the political discussions going on now…blast them from the air or “boots on the ground”. One is more simple than the other…more effective? I think that’s what being asked here….

      Thanks and Happy Holiday.

      • Actually, Brian, I’m not trying to find out anything. My first post was asking what the industry ought to do about “marginal agents”. You guys came in and started defending Mr. Crappy Photography suggesting he’s NOT a marginal agent at all, which then went into this interesting headspace of “crappy photos don’t mean crappy agent; crappy production means crappy agent.” I posted this to show that in this case, crappy photo guy had his client reduce price by $18K, while good photo agent sold the listing at full price.

        Even THAT is evidence of nothing, apparently. It’s impossible to get a REALTOR to actually articulate what is in fact bad practice of real estate, and what is not.

        So y’all tell me then πŸ™‚

        If crappy photos, lackluster listing, and $18K price reduction are not evidence of a crappy agent, just what IS evidence of a crappy agent?

  4. Want to get rid of marginal agents,start by re-establishing a free market ,sans ,nar,the lousy mls,s these little cartels with with their protected areas,and yes the protected marginal agents will disappear.

  5. I thought being a non disclosure state just meant it’s not required to disclose a sale price at the time of sale. I didn’t think it meant that no sale price can be published online.

  6. Brian Hickey hits th nail on the head, again. Honestly Rob, you are using the example of two houses,two agents, and your evaluation of their marketing photos as proof of your original post that encompasses an entire industry? Damn, , and your pictures make you look so smart…


  7. ROB,

    You don’t have a reply button on your commentary, so I’ve put my response to your first questions here.:)

    “You are saying that highest producing = the best agent, yes or no”?
    – IMO, assuming the obvious of no unethical, illegal behavior, as a broker, the best agent in the office is the highest producer – Yes.

    Qualifications to become the best agent?
    – Again, IMO, assuming no criminal background; none. Dartmouth or a high school drop out, barely passes the CE or aces it; it’s a sales job, as far as I know real estate sales are no different than in other industries – management wants its sales force to “show them the money”. (period)

    “And just what would make YOU say Rafael is the inferior agent”?
    – inferior production

    Thanks for the asking, honored…really πŸ™‚

    • OK, just want to make that clear.

      Because if you’ve ever spent time in RTB or talking about this with agents, they insist over and over again that production doesn’t mean good agent. They insist on talking about some top producer in their area, or in the office, who is a TERRIBLE agent.

      Frankly, this is a fight amongst you practitioners. I’ve been trying for six years to get brokers/agents to state what makes an agent good or bad, because none of you want to just say, higher production. Until now, until you. πŸ™‚

      So Brian Hickey says, “Mo’ money, mo’ quality.” Now curious what others think.

      • ROB,

        I did not say high production means a more quality salesperson. I said the higher the production the better the agent in the eyes of the broker or management.

        Quality of character or a person’s personal attributes are a completely different subject.

        That said, I have seen plenty of “high quality” individuals unable to produce as well as the person deemed to be of “lower quality”.


  8. ROB,

    To your second response and question:

    “If crappy photos, lackluster listing, and $18K price reduction are not evidence of a crappy agent, just what IS evidence of a crappy agent”?

    – As Dave Hanna suggested and I believe as well, there are numerous factors that could contribute to why the “good agent’s” listing sold i.e. better market, better price and why the “crappy agent’s” has yet to sell i.e. not so good market and not so good price.

    In my experience in the markets which I have experience (higher-end), everything sells at a price, that’s everything – price can even Trump location as far as deal speed, deal efficiency etc.

    Summarizing: IMO, the best agent is the highest producer and in good markets, price then location sells real estate.

    Again, thanks for asking….really πŸ™‚

    Have a good Holiday…….Brian

    • Two things here, Brian.

      1. I think the “numerous factors” answer is a lazy dodge by the industry that doesn’t actually want to either (a) acknowledge that it’s all about the money (as you did in your first answer), or (b) define what quality service is, if it ain’t the money. So I tend to dismiss all the “numerous factors” type of answers; it’s the kind of answer you get from slippery politicians.

      One of my enduring interests is defining “good agent”. Other professions have trouble defining great vs. mediocre vs. poor also, but they do a much better job than real estate does.

      2. I think Dave Hanna and John Ziemba misunderstood the argument. They seem to think the argument is a direct causation argument: “Crappy photos = crappy agent”. That may be my fault, because the actual argument is a bit more textured. It’s more of of a evidence argument that goes something like this:

      – Crappy agents are crappy because they don’t care
      – They don’t care about the client, don’t care about the craft, don’t care about anything other than cashing a commission check
      – Crappy listings, which includes bad photography, are prima facie evidence of not caring

      In this part, I showed the actual result from Rafael and from Karen. Rafael’s crappy listing is still languishing on the market, and the owner took a $18K price reduction. Karen’s listing sold for full asking price in about 40 days.

      And y’all *still* want to say we can’t judge Rafael?

      If, as you say, it’s all about pricing, then clearly Rafael didn’t price the property correctly, as evidenced by the price reduction. But that has nothing to do with his skill? And his lack of skill has nothing to do with the strong implication that Rafael doesn’t *care* about the craft of real estate practice? (And that his broker doesn’t *care* about having highly skilled agents?)

      Anyhow, maybe I should do a Part 3 and explain the actual flow of argument better…. πŸ˜€

      • Back to production. Raphael may have priced the home where his seller client demanded. For all we know Raphael told them where the home should sell but they refused to listen? Then like any good agent, after making his case regarding pricing with his client, he took the listing anyway with a strategy of tiered price reductions until the market reacts….there by giving himself an opportunity to make a commission and move up the office’s production latter…lots of factors to consider when analyzing this transaction.

        Sent via cell…sorry for any errors.


      • The industry has a really hard time defining good and bad simply because it allows agents to be top producers at the detriment of consumers. Large piles of money makes good people do bad things. Hence, it’s becoming an industry that spends all its time justifying its practices rather than advocating for the consumer.

  9. The best way to handle the issue of what is being called ‘marginal’ agents is to dramatically increase the barriers to entry. In Florida, in order to cut someones hair your need to go to school for somewhere around 1250 hours…to get a real estate license? 63 hours!

    Real estate has become (and has been for a while) the ‘transition’ career…can’t get a (or the right) ‘real’ job…get a real estate license in a week with entry fees below $1,000 total (sometimes paid by some Broker)…and you now can mail out a postcard and trick some poor unsuspecting seller/buyer into doing business with you. In a year or so…out of the RE business and back to a ‘real’ job.

    If we want to be viewed as professionals, respected, and taken seriously, lets at least require as much education and training as your hairdresser (no disrespect to hairdressers at all!)

    The current bad ones will eventually weed themselves out and if we then have a high barrier to entry I believe the ratio of ‘good’ to ‘bad/marginal’ will drastically improve.

  10. ROB
    You have hit the nail on the head. Crappy agents and great agents have NOTHING to do with production. We have agents in our area that do a lot of business that the majority are loathe to deal with. They don’t care about ethics, about their client or the agents they are dealing with. In fact, many of them can never be reached without some act of Congress.

    There are newer agents to the business, who aren’t doing the production that these “top producing, crappy” agents are, but they are a delight to work with. They show that they care, don’t take the negotiations personal – hence better transactions, take great pictures, are accessible virtually all the time and will in time I predict, become top-producing agents.

    Hopefully they will remember how they got there and keep doing the right things.

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