A good agent can make a big difference to the sale price of a property, but it’s not always just about the property. The right agent will focus on getting to know and understand you, not just a property… and this goes for buyers and sellers alike. If there’s one thing that I have learned from my 25+ year career in real estate, it is that getting to know the vendor and the buyer and getting a good understanding of the needs and preferences of both, is absolutely key to finding the right match.
Whether you are looking to buy or sell, there are several things to look for when searching for the right agent.
Market knowledge is essential
When looking for an agent, one of the most important qualities to look for is legitimate and extensive market knowledge. The best agent for you is one who specialises in your market segment and in the location where you are looking to buy or sell.
A good agent will have extensive knowledge of the market in which they are operating. They will know which houses have sold, what the selling points of those houses were, who the buyers were and where they came from. They will understand the area – both generally and specifically – after all, every suburb has its high side and its low side, and they can be very different.
Take the Lower North Shore – particularly Mosman – for example. This is an area that you simply can’t make sweeping generalisations about: every area, and each street, of Mosman is different. A good agent will be able to talk to you about what a property’s land is worth on a per square metre rate, whether it sits in a heritage or conservation area or the scenic foreshore protection zone, and what you are allowed to do should you want to renovate or rebuild a property (before or after sale).
A good agent will also take the time to understand a potential buyer well enough to help the vendor to understand what they can do to their property to really increase its value, and what will be a fruitless investment. I talked a bit about this in my article on “5 Things to Do Before Listing Your Home for Sale.”
My team and I put a lot of time and effort into staying abreast of the Lower North Shore real estate market, because it’s important to us to be armed with the knowledge we need to provide our clients with the service they deserve. We compile reports on every relevant property sold, what their selling points were, the value of that land, how much they sold for, and the buyer’s profile – even if we didn’t sell the property – because we want to know about every home and every buyer in that market at that price point.
It also helps to have an agent who’s a local, because someone who lives in the area has intimate knowledge of it. Having lived within the Lower North Shore community for 25+ years, I know what the real benefits of living on the Lower North Shore are, and I’ve seen and been a part of every change that’s happened here in the last few decades.
Talk may be cheap, but not talking can be an expensive mistake
Take the time to talk to a prospective agent. Not only will this help the agent to get a better understanding of your needs and what you want to get out of your sale or purchase, but it will also enable you to gauge whether your agent’s values align with your own and whether they are likely to deliver the service you expect and the results you’re hoping to achieve.
A good agent will treat your first meeting like a fact-finding mission, because they know the more that they can find out about who you are and what’s important to you, the better prepared they will be to meet your expectations.
As a seller, don’t be afraid to ask your agent questions about the process they’re suggesting and their strategy on pricing, negotiation, planning and preparation. It is also important to be open, honest, and upfront with your agent about any potential issues with your home. In return, a good agent will be able to give you open, honest, and upfront advice on potential pain points, so you can either address them before you list your home for sale or be prepared for any negotiation points you might encounter at the business end of the sale.
As a buyer, be clear with a prospective agent on exactly what you are looking for, and any aspects that are completely non-negotiable, so that they don’t waste your precious time in finding and showing you properties that will never be right for you. A good agent will take the time to get to know you and to understand your lifestyle, so they can match you to the kind of property you’re looking for.
I also recommend that prospective vendors don’t simply rely on written testimonials to find out whether an agent is effective at their job. Let’s be honest, no one will ever willingly show you a negative testimonial. Do your due diligence: ask the agent what their track record over the last 6-12 months at your particular point in the market; don’t be afraid to ask for details on the properties they have sold in the last month, then call a few of those vendors and talk to them about their experience with the agent. A good agent will never shy away from sharing that information and talking to others who have had firsthand experience dealing with that agent can help you choose the right agent for you, which can save you valuable time and money in the long run.
I take great care to be open, honest, and genuine with my clients, and I make sure the lines of communication are always open and I make sure our contact is regular and consistent because I believe this is the best way to achieve the absolute best result for them. I keep vendors up to date on the enquiries we’ve received, who has looked at the house and who is genuinely interested, because transparency is key to developing a relationship built on trust, and it’s important to me for my clients to feel confident that they can trust me to act in their best interests and get them the best result possible.
Actions speak louder than words
Almost every agent will tell you that they’re a good communicator, but the proof is in the pudding. You need to be confident that the lines of communication with your agent are open, and that they are being proactive – not just with you, but with the people on the other side of the table.
I have always believed that actions often speak louder than words, so I recommend watching the way an agent operates. Call them and see how long it takes them to call you back. Go to an inspection – is the agent standing at the door handing out brochures and saying, “have a look through”? or do they give you a tour and state the obvious? Or do they show you the features of the home and explain how they work? Do they know the ins and outs of the property? Can they answer specific questions about it, or do they give you an “I’ll have to check with the owner and get back to you”? What happens after that inspection? Do they give you a follow up call within a day or two, or do you never hear from them again?
My team and I work with our vendors to put together detailed facts and finishes list, so that we know each property inside and out. Not only that, but we listen to buyer feedback, we look at floor plans of the houses in the same price bracket, and we find out as much as we can about our vendor’s competition. That way, when someone asks, “what exactly am I paying for here?” we can tell them exactly what the advantages of the property are, why the property has been listed at that price point, and why it’s worth the investment.
A service-driven approach trumps a results-driven approach every time
It can be tempting to find an agent who advocates a results-driven approach because, after all, when you’re selling or buying a property, the objective is to get a good result. However, it has been my experience that when an agent focuses on providing great service, then a great outcome will naturally follow.
The key aspects of a service-driven approach – and it is the approach my team and I use – are:
Whether you’re a vendor or a buyer, a good agent will want to meet and interact with you personally, face to face, rather than relying on phone calls, emails, or text messages, because they want to build a good rapport and develop a good relationship with you. As a vendor, you need to be certain that the agent you choose can communicate and interact with people on a personal level, because if they don’t communicate well with you, how can you be certain they’re communicating well with potential buyers?
On the Lower North Shore, my team and I regularly deal with owners and buyers of high-end properties. At the very top end of the market, it is important to select an agent who is both a good communicator and a good negotiator. To get the best result, you need someone who is experienced and confident in getting around the table and advocating for you – which also means your agent needs to be able to adapt their approach to suit the people they are negotiating with and on behalf of. Don’t be afraid to test your agent’s negotiation skills by asking for case studies: take a look at some of the properties they have sold in the last 6 to 12 months, ask them how many buyers there were, what offers were made, how did the agent get from the first offer made to the closing sale price?
My advice is, choose an agent who looks after you, wants to build that rapport with you, and is there to walk through the entire sale process with you, rather than an agent who takes your listing then hands you over to another team member so they can move on to finding their next listing before stepping back in at the last minute to seal the deal. In my experience, an agent who prioritises the people behind the property will always get a better result and a more satisfied client.
My team and I have built a solid reputation on the Lower North Shore for a service-lead approach that focuses on interpersonal communication that builds rapport, unparalleled market knowledge, and strong negotiation skills. We take the time to get to know our clients – buyers and sellers alike – and to develop a meaningful connection that is founded on open, honest, and transparent communication, because we prioritise people and personal service. In doing so, we have built Ray White Lower North Shore Group into an incredibly strong and successful team that consistently achieves fantastic outcomes for everyone involved.