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EPISODE NO. 62

6 Simple Ways To Become a Better Listing Agent

Many agents would agree that one of the hardest parts of being a Realtor, is dealing with other Realtors!

So if you want to become a better listing agent, it starts with focusing first on how to improve the Buyer’s experience. In this episode, we go back to basics and explore 6 simple ways that you can elevate how you list properties, to improve the experience for both agents and their buyers.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  • how working with buyers regularly will make you a better listing agent
  • tips on how to set the entire buyer experience up for success from beginning to end
  • how to educate your sellers better BEFORE listing their property to prevent buyer frustration
  • ways to limit the back and forth time required to answer repetitive buyer questions
  • how to get more clients & referrals from your listings

Plus many other tips & strategies you may not have thought about before!

Tune into this episode to learn ways that you can become the listing agent that buyer’s agents are excited (and relieved) to work with!

Hello hello, welcome back to the Women Rocking Real Estate show. I am back after a much-needed reset. If you’ve ever been on the brink of burnout or are already well past it, make sure you tune into February’s episode as I will be sharing my personal experience of hitting this wall numerous times and the super helpful steps I take to reset and get back on track in a direction that supports your future vision. Let me tell you, staying on a treadmill and expecting it to get you somewhere different, is the very definition of stupidity. I know this because I do it repeatedly. So if know that you can’t sustain the pace you’re going at and if you KNOW you’re on the wrong path and something needs to change, make sure you tune in next month for a heart-to-heart on how you can make 2023 the year things actually change.

But for this episode, you are here to learn about all of the ways you can become a better listing agent and hopefully also learn a few things to not do, so that you don’t end up being used as an example of a bad listing agent on a podcast like this. Make sure you stick around to the end of this episode, where I share the most important thing you can do to help your career as a realtor in general and not just as a listing agent.

Alright over the last 15 years in real estate, I feel like I’ve encountered them all - the great, the good, and the absolutely terrible listing agents. Now before I get into this, I want to preface it that I personally have been all three of those agents myself. I’ve been a great listing agent, I’ve been a good one and full disclosure there have been many situations over the years where I got lazy myself and there was definite room for improvement. But it’s often when you’re on the receiving end of a listing agent, ie being a buyer’s agent that you see things that listing agents do that you don’t like and when that happens I do try to hold a mirror up and ask myself if I’VE ever done that and sometimes the answer is yes.

So, this is not an episode where I’m going to be all self-righteous and holier than thou claiming to be perfect and pointing out the flaws of those less perfect than me. Not at all. Where possible I will raise my hand and say guilty as charged. The purpose of this is really to just collectively raise the bar of standards that sellers should expect and also to raise awareness of our own opportunities to step up where we may have gotten lazy or lost perspective.

Alright, the inspiration for this episode came from showings that I did over the holidays with my family. We have been counting down the days until we can move out of Toronto to a smaller, slower-paced, and less congested town north of the city. I have been dreaming about the views I see outside my windows for years and it is just a matter of when it’s going to happen. In an ideal world, the timing would be when it makes the most sense for our kid’s ages, but we all know the real estate world doesn’t really work that way when you’re looking for a forever home. So for us, the property is going to dictate when we make the move. We’re super picky and this property will have a list of a lot of non-negotiable things it will need to meet. So we could find it tomorrow or it could take us 3 years. We also could decide what we need to build if we can’t find it.

Long story longer, we went to see about 10 houses in one day. Not ideal I know, but it’s a day trip away, and trying to coordinate everyone’s schedule is nearly impossible, so it is what it is. But anyone who has tried to schedule 10 showings and figure out timing and property order and driving distance knows that it can take a Masters's degree in a program that doesn’t but should
exist.

Once I’d figured out the order we’d see the properties, I started booking the showings and this brings me to my first tip…

1. Stay Connected To Buyers

In order to be a great listing agent, you need to work with buyers as well. However, as agents progress in their careers, they tend to focus more on listings and some agents decide they will only work with listings. The problem with that is that when you become disconnected from buyers, you’re no longer able to see what’s important to them and how to best SELL to them. In order to be a great seller, you need to intimately know and understand your buyer.

This a fact for every single product that exists in the market place and real estate is no different. When you intimately understand buyers, it will always make you a better listing agent and this was actually one of the persuasion points I used in my listing presentation. When I was invited to a listing presentation, I was almost always competing against the same well-known and big names in the area and most of them focused exclusively on listings and used that as one of THEIR persuasion points. They argued that because they focused on listings exclusively that it made them better. I argued that I knew the buyer better which meant I knew how to market to them better, how to stage better, how to engage better, etc. Guess whose argument won? 97% of the time, mine did.

So two takeaways here 1) never disconnect from buyers and take your experiences with them and figure out how to cater to them more when listing 2) if you do work with buyers, add this as a persuasion point to your listing presentation and explain why a seller should care. Even if your competitor works with buyers, they likely won’t think it’s relevant enough to point out in their presentation.

Now to tie this back to my showing story and move along to tip #2,

2. Make booking appointments for your listings EASY!!!

When I had my brokerage we were one of the first companies to adopt online appointment booking software. 99% of agents were like “OMG this is a game changer!!” And then I’d get the one old-school agent who complained. I was like OMG you’d rather find a phone number, dial, wait on hold, wait while the receptionist looks up the property, have to spell your last name, convey your email address, give them your phone number and then wait for an hour for the confirmation and then manually add the details to your calendar. Why? When you can click a button, see what times are available, click book, get instant confirmation with showing instructions and click a button to add all the details to your calendar. WHY wouldn’t you want that?!?

So if you have got the technology available to book online appointments for your listings, USE it! If your brokerage hasn’t adopted this technology, find a new brokerage. This is not new folks, you’re already late to the party if you’re not taking advantage of it.

Now, to take things a step further because that’s the strive for excellence. How can you make it even easier for buyers to book appointments on your listings? With automatic confirmations and will often involve educating your sellers around why it’s important and should be part of your onboarding process.

Because we were seeing 10 properties, I needed to schedule them a certain time apart to allow us enough time to see it and then drive to the next one. Well when I booked the first showing, it was automatically confirmed. Awesome. When I went to book the second showing, I had to wait for a confirmation, which meant I couldn’t book any other showings until I knew whether it would be confirmed. 2 hours later it finally got confirmed. Painful.

Sellers need to understand how important it is that buyers can access the property conveniently. Decide in advance when the property will be available so that there are set times it can be booked and confirmed automatically. This will also help your seller stay organized.

Before we move along, I also want to mention another tip that falls under the umbrella of convenient showings and also requires upfront seller education and it’s the “Listing Agent Must Be Present For Showings” requirement. If a seller tells you this is what they want, you must agree to it only with certain caveats and one of those caveats is that if I’m not available, I will have the authority to confirm the appointment.

Case in point, we had booked a showing at a property and when we were there saw there was another house on the same street for sale that we wanted to see. Two problems happened….1) I wasn’t even aware of the listing because it was only listed on the local real estate board and not on the Toronto Real Estate Board where 90% of buyers for this property would be coming from. The ONLY reason an agent does this, is to try and hoard information and require buyers to use a local agent. So short-sighted and not in the seller’s best interest. 2) when I called to book an appointment (the house was vacant by the way, the listing agent said he had to be present and wasn’t available. His words were book in 2 days when I’m available. Sorry buddy, I’m only in town today. To which he replied, well if you’re really serious about the house you’ll come back.

Ok, even if it were a seller’s market still (which it’s not), do you think a seller would appreciate this kind of attitude? Your property has been on the market for 140 days. It’s vacant and I’m a potential buyer in the driveway asking to see it. This attitude of if the buyer’s interested they’ll do whatever is necessary to see the house, in reality, doesn’t hold water. There’s a shit-ton of other houses available and I don’t want to see yours now just out of principle alone.

I get when a seller would prefer the listing agent be present for showings, but the listing agent needs to explain to the seller why that’s not always ideal and that they must have the authority to confirm showings if they can’t be present.

Under the same theme of making booking appointments easy, is tip #3

3. Make Accessing Your Listing Easy

The first step to showing a listing is just getting inside and it will never cease to amaze me how complicated this process can be made.

Anyone who has ever shown condos will know this pain intimately. When your showing instructions say “it’s the black lockbox on the lockbox board with my business card taped on the back” and when you arrive, there are 60 black lockboxes with business cards taped on the back and you have to go through each of them until you find the right one.

I will never forget the time I learned how to be a better condo listing agent, than when early on in my career I was showing 5 units in the same building. Thankfully I was early because it took me 30 minutes just to find the correct lockboxes and keys. Anyway, I make it to the lobby ahead of time to meet my clients feeling all proud and cocky of my time management skills, only to get to the first unit and realize I don’t know what key is for what unit.

So I’m embarrassingly trying one key at a time while my clients look on thinking I’m an idiot. Anyway, we get through the showings and they depart from the lobby I head back to the parking garage where the lockboxes are located and then it dawns on me that I have absolutely no idea what key goes back in what lockbox. I was like OMG eeny, meeny, miny, I don’t fricken know!?”

So yes, I had to call all 5 listing agents and explain that I had probably put the wrong keys back into the wrong lockboxes and that they’d need to sort it out amongst themselves. Sorry.

Note to self. When there are multiple lockboxes, make it very easy to find YOUR lockbox by hanging a tag on it with a number. Then make sure you put a tag on the actual key with the same number. When I started doing this as a listing agent, I can’t tell you how many buying agents appreciated it.

It’s not rocket science folks just make it easy to access your property. If the lockbox is not on the front door, say where it is in the showing instructions! Don’t make me traipse all over the property looking for it! It makes me look stupid and guess what happens when people feel stupid, they’ll point fingers at the listing agent to the client. I know because I would do it. “I’d mutter under my breath “why can’t agents just make this process simple?”

And while we’re on the topic of not making buying agents look stupid, can we just talk about house alarms for a minute? I don’t know how many you’ve set off to date in your career, but I literally have PTSD every time I see that there’s an alarm in the showing instructions. I seriously consider canceling the showing.

Case in point why these can be so painful. I get to the front door of one of the houses we’re seeing last week and open up the showing instructions to discover not only is there an alarm, but the instructions state that the pin pad to turn the alarm off is quoted ‘by the garage door inside the house - there is a 30-second delay’. So at this point, I slowly back up from the porch to survey the layout of the house it’s like a big ranch bungalow and the garage is on the other side of the house than the front door. So now I’m praying that it’s pretty straightforward when I get inside how to get to the garage, so I slowly turn the key and then quickly open the door preparing to make a run for it, and let me tell you it was not a straight forward layout and although I did get there in 30 seconds, in my panic I had forgotten to memorize the code and had to look it up in the showing instructions and apparently I was not able to get that done quickly enough and I triggered the alarm. So much fun.

Ok so under the theme of over-delivering on making it easy to show your listing, if there must be an alarm, please disarm it remotely before showings. Buyers around the world will thank you profusely. I cannot be alone in the desire for this request.

Alright now that we’ve jumped over hurdles just to get inside the property. Tip #4, you guessed it…..

4. Make Showing Your Listing Easy

There are so many things you can do that fall under this bucket, but a rule I learned to live by as a listing agent, was to not rely on the buyer’s agent to do their job. The reason I learned this was that I personally was notorious for not always doing my homework before a showing. When I started getting really busy, I often wouldn’t have time to get well-versed on a listing before showing it and when I was showing a lot of houses I wouldn’t always remember the details of each property. Over the years I developed strategies to get better at this, but I was always so grateful when I walked into a listing and the detailed stuff was provided by the listing agent.

If you’ve worked with buyers for a while, you’ll know they ask detailed questions and more often than not, the answers to those questions aren’t things that have been included in the MLS listing, because there’s a character limit on how much info can even be included. So when buyers are like “when was this kitchen renovation done? or how old is the roof? or how long have the sellers lived here? Or the infamous ‘why are they selling?” You’ll probably feel like I have when you have to keep repeating “I’m not sure, but I’ll find out for you!” It’s like buyers EXPECT you to know everything and granted you should know the basics and full disclosure I didn’t even always know them, but this is where listing agents can really shine and they can do it in two ways.

1) Send supplementary information to the buyer’s agent BEFORE their showing. Of the 10 houses we saw last week, only one agent did this and he turned out to be a perfect example of a great listing agent in other ways as well. If you’re listening Scott I’m talking about you. As soon as I booked the showing I received a friendly personal email from him attaching the feature sheet and his cell number with a message to contact him if I needed anything at all. So helpful.

2) The second way that you can go above and beyond in terms of providing details about the property, is to physically put the details throughout the property.

I treated showings of my listings as though the buyer was alone. If I wasn’t there to show them the property and they didn’t have an agent with them to show them the property, what would need to be there, for them to have a great showing?

It starts with thinking about what questions they would have as they walked through the property and providing answers so that they don’t have to even ask in the first place. And the first question they always ask is - how much is this house?

My husband asked me that every time we walked in a place and I was like “I don’t remember hon, somewhere between x and x and he was like ‘that’s a 2 million dollar spread Jen, what kind of real estate agent are you? On a side note, I decided after 10 houses that he would be in my ‘no thank you’ pile in terms of ideal clients.

But moving along, it’s not unusual for buyers to see multiple houses at a time and the first question they’ll have is how much is the house, so please put a sign right by the front door that says “Offered for $XYZ” and back in the multiple offer days the next question buyers would ask is “are they holding out offers and when is offer day? So below the price, we’d put what day we were taking offers. The first two questions were asked and answered.

I would then tour the house as though I was a buyer and because I worked with a lot of buyers, I knew what questions they always asked, so we would make little signs with our branding on them of course, and paste them throughout the property answering the questions. Working wood burning fireplace, original pine plank floors, newly installed custom windows, custom designed kitchen in 2021 by xyz.

Having feature sheets with all of this information is great, but easily answering questions & pointing out the positive features of a house with signage throughout the house takes things to the next level. We were one of the first agents to start doing this in Toronto years and years ago and it has now become pretty standard practice. However not one of the 10 houses we saw up north did this, so it made me realize it may not be something everyone already knows about and does. Having said that, only one property even had feature sheets and they were in the form of a QR code to download to get the information. Better than nothing for sure, but again easy and timely access to information is key.

When you do this practice, not only are you obviously representing your seller’s best interest but there is another side effect that may be even more powerful. Buyers are really impressed. They walk away from the showing with a firm belief that the listing agent is super detail oriented, has thought of everything, is creative, and has portrayed the property in the best possible light. When they go to sell whatever property they end up buying, they will likely consider you. I know this because it happened to us all. The. Time. I’ve mentioned before on the podcast that a huge source of our listings, were previous buyers that had seen how we marketed our properties and how we conducted ourselves and wanted us to list their house or we got referrals from them.

On the contrary, when you invest no effort into how your listing shows, buyers walk away with either no impression at all or a negative one that you’re lazy. So when it comes to providing information about your listings, don’t get sucked into the mentality that buyers should do their jobs and do their research. It’s ultimately YOUR job as the listing agent to make sure the buyer has all the information they need to make a decision to purchase.

So next time you’re listing a house, make sure a buyer can easily find the answers to any question they might have while viewing your listing. In one house that we saw, not only were there no feature sheets, but we couldn’t even figure out how to view half the house. I’m not kidding, we go through the whole thing and then go outside and realize there’s a whole section of the house that we hadn’t seen and we go back inside and we cannot for the life of us figure out how to access it. We could see a staircase through one of the windows but we couldn’t find the staircase from inside the house the only door that faced that way looked like it was going to a garage but it was locked so we couldn’t get through. We were so fricken confused and left without even seeing half the house. Clearly, it was a weird property, but some instructions would have been helpful.

Alright before we move on to the next tip, the last thing I want to mention about showing your listings, is that if you as the listing agent do have to be present for showings, please know your audience, read the buyer, and don’t insult one of the buyers.

As soon as we walked into one listing, the agent immediately started talking directly to my husband and completely ignored me. Like no eye contact, and no questions directed at me. She decided he was the decision maker and directed all of her focus and attention on him. For starters, get with the times lady, but if that wasn’t enough of a mistake, the first thing she did when we walked in the door was take us to the mechanical room and proceed to tell him how the house was wired and all about the on-demand water heater and how the pool mechanicals worked. His eyes had glazed over in less than 2 seconds. Like little did she know that he could give less than 2 shits about any of that stuff. I eventually had to cut her off and made a joke that she was selling the wrong points to the wrong person. I actually do care about that stuff, but he doesn’t.

But regardless of that, although it may be super important to the seller that the listing agent conveys the details that they deem important, starting a showing in a mechanical room is like asking a potential blind date if they want to see a CT scan of you before they meet you for the first time in person. The mechanicals is only going to be a selling feature if we like the house. Buyers first need to see if it works for them emotionally and functionally before those other details will matter to them.

As the great Zig Ziglar said. “Buyers make decisions emotionally and then justify logically.”

So once you see that they’re emotionally connecting to the house, that’s when you can start giving them reasons to justify their emotions logically. If you start with the logical stuff before they’ve developed an emotional connection, they’re going to feel like they’re being ‘sold to’ and that will hurt any future chance you’ll have with them in the future.

Up next, tip number five for being a great listing agent is to…..

5. Follow up and follow through

It’s one thing to have an automated feedback form that gets sent to every agent for every show. Sure, that’s better than nothing but if we’re being honest with ourselves, it is the kind of lazy route and in the spirit of transparency and authenticity, I’m raising my hand here and saying guilty as charged.

Part of the reason I didn’t always go out of my way to solicit feedback after showings beyond the standard form sent, was that most of my career was in a seller’s market and I felt like asking for feedback too soon kind of showed our cards that we weren’t getting the kind of activity we were hoping for. In a market where most properties would go into competition with multiple offers, the seller kind of was in the driver's seat and so asking for feedback before offer day could be taken as though we were a bit desperate or something or maybe not expecting multiple.

Whether that’s right or wrong, that’s the reason I told myself why I didn’t go out of my way to solicit feedback. Now if it was past offer day and the property was sitting, I would always request feedback by either text or email. I actually preferred this over phone calls because I could screenshot the agent’s response vs. Having to relay it myself. When you’re delivering negative feedback that the seller may not like, it’s always better to come directly from the horse's mouth vs from you. Why? Because if it’s perceived that it's coming from you, they can hold it against you (like guilty by association), and also I found they’d try to argue with you. I was always like ‘don’t shoot the messenger!”

As a side note, if you’re a buyer’s agent and the listing agent reaches out and asks for feedback, for the love of all things real estate have the decency to respond, please! Otherwise don’t ever complain if your next seller is asking for feedback and no one will give you anything to work with. Feedback from buyer’s agents can be your best-negotiating weapon with your seller because it’s not YOU delivering the bad news. With that in mind, remember when you are providing feedback, do so carefully because what you say and how you say it will reflect on you. I always use the shit sandwich approach.

Say some positive things about the property complimenting the seller where possible - fill the middle with constructive & productive feedback and then end it with something positive. Never insult the seller or their choices in your feedback. Also, If you’re going to provide feedback on the price, justify it with comps. Don’t just say ‘it’s overpriced.’ Emotional sellers will ignore opinions, but it’s more difficult to ignore facts.

Last but absolutely the most important thing you can do to be a better listing agent and realtor, in general, is to…..

6. Make Dealing with YOU easy

OMG, If I had to boil it down to one thing that I hated most about this business, it would be dealing with other agents. There are so many assjacks out there, that it seriously made me question humanity sometimes. But when you come across great agents, oh it’s so refreshing and makes you want to go to the ends of the earth to not only help them but work with them again. It’s so lovely doing deals with awesome agents and it’s such a fricken nightmare doing deals with terrible ones.

Your career in general will be so much more successful and happier when you have good relationships with other agents. It will serve you well and it will serve your clients well, so that should always be a priority for all agents.

Now did I have positive relationships with every agent out there…..uh nooooooo. There are two women in particular who repetitively made my blood boil and my skin crawl. Incorrigible and both of them did a lot of business, so they were a recurring theme in my life. Then there were the unethical usual suspects and as soon as I sniffed them out, my other personality would come out. My husband lovingly refers to her as Jane and sometimes in this business your Jane will need to come out and that’s ok. But make it the exception to the rule. As a rule, do everything you can to be easy to deal with. As a listing agent, what does that look like:

It starts with just the basics….be accessible, be responsive in a timely manner, know your shit, don’t have attitude, be ethical, treat people with respect, and hey maybe even take it a step further and be friendly. Imagine that.

Lastly, don’t manipulate buyer’s agents and convince yourself that you’re just negotiating in the seller’s best interest. People are human and they can usually see through your Bologna. Respect the effort and time a buyer has put into showing your listing and preparing an offer and please thank them for it, even if their offer does not transpire into a deal. When problems come up (and they often do) between firming up and closing, work together collaboratively as best as possible and get creative with problem-solving.

Now I could have gone into a lot more nitty gritty on how to be a good listing agent, but the theme of this show was about fundamentals first. Focus on the big picture and build relationships everywhere you go. That awesome agent I mentioned earlier Scott, sent me an email after my showing and said ‘hey I know you’re representing yourself, but if you need any local insight or knowledge about moving here, I’m more than happy to help you out.’ So genuine, with no strings attached, just an offer to give and not to try and get. But you know what he will get? Definitely referrals from me and maybe even our deal. Never met the guy, but he was able to leave a lasting impression that matters. So the moral of the story is…..treat every interaction with the goal of leaving a trail of goodwill. Your thriving future real estate career will thank you for it.

Remember the more you learn, the more you’ll earn - but only if you’re implementing what you learn.

Until next time.

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