It looks easy, doesn’t it? With the internet, how hard can it be to buy or sell a home?
There are no shortage of options. Buyers see thousands of homes for sale, and sellers find thousands of agents happy to list a home for fees ranging from $100 to 6%.
Yet the perception remains that the process is stressful and costly. Why, when it looks so easy from the outside looking in?
Here are ten reasons why buyers and sellers should Get Good Help:
Friends and family – Buyers and sellers have friends and family who are happy to critique every move. Most of all, they remind sellers not to give it away, and possible deals get crushed regularly over 1% to 2%.
HGTV – Where consumers learn how the home-selling game works. The fact that HGTV is scripted entertainment doesn’t phase the viewer – the content seems plausible enough that it could be real, and the industry doesn’t provide anything better so by default HGTV has influence.
Inexperienced and unethical agents – Agent blunders can cost you a sale. But whether they were accidental (inexperienced) or on-purpose (unethical), they also cast a pall over the industry that causes participants to be frustrated and leery. You need to get good help to endure and triumph over these agents.
Escrow, title, and lenders – These folks have been over-worked since the beginning of time, and they make mistakes. Consumers need good help on their side just to minimize the impact.
Appraisals – A bottle of scotch doesn’t work any more – appraisers are independent and untouchable now, which means they can kill any deal. They are like baseball umpires – they can strike you out, even if the pitch was a ball, because it’s just their opinion.
Shoddy Repairs – Whether it’s to fix any historical work or corrections done to satisfy today’s repair requests, the house needs to be in decent shape to close escrow – or the sellers need to be willing to take a sizable discount. Having vendors who can quickly make impressive repairs for a reasonable fee is critical.
Packing and Moving – A great agent has ways to prevent your move from turning into an evacuation.
Gimmicks – This business has always been notorious for its deceitful gimmickry, and these days you need a supercharged BS-detector to get the truth.
Correctly Interpreting Market Conditions – Get the right answers to: Are we in a bubble? Should I wait? How much is this home really worth? Are there two birds in the bush?
Consumer Inexperience – This might be the biggest hurdle of all, and what causes buyers and sellers to rush a decision before doing enough investigation. Having proper guidance throughout the process is what relieves the stress and costly experiences you hear about!
Get Good Help – it’s never been so important. These are the highest home prices ever!
The lawsuit alleges collusion between brokerages to make sellers pay 2.5% or more to the buyer’s agent.
The National Association of Realtors shrugged it off, and by the time the case gets to court, the current way we sell houses could be long gone anyway.
But let’s discuss being paid by commission.
The reason commissions are high is because of the home-selling process, and the amount of work involved just to have a shot of earning an actual paycheck.
Though I have a written listing contract with every seller, I can’t force you to sell your house.
I don’t do buyer-broker contracts with buyers, but if I did, you still don’t have to buy a house.
Whether I have a contract or not, there is no assurance that I will ever get paid, regardless of how much time I invest, and though I have a commission agreement with a seller, I have no control of the outcome – only the sellers decide if they can live with the resulting offers.
If an agent does get paid, it’s at the end – there’s no pay received along the way. Plus, the commission gets treated like a slush fund with many people trying to nibble away at it throughout the process. Then the brokerage and other parties take their cut, and the agent gets what’s left.
Given those conditions, shouldn’t there be a bonus, or reward attached?
Would you work for your current pay today if you knew you might not get paid anything? Or would you expect an additional bonus to live with that risk?
Just because buyers look at houses online doesn’t change the problem with being paid on commission. We’ve had these same issues before and after the internet.
Should we devise new pay structures for realtors?
The problem with a pay-as-you-go system is that you don’t know how long it could take. Consumers (both buyers and sellers) aren’t really sure what to expect in the beginning, and aren’t going to start writing checks unless, and until they get a good feeling that it would pay off. Flat-fee and salaried companies only provide transaction-processing services – which is only a small part of what I do.
There are two solutions:
A. Burn the business to the ground. This is the path we’re on, and the one-percenters will impose the systems they decide are good for you. They will also offer you their houses at prices they tell you are fair.
B. We convert to a free-market auction system.
The reason agents deserve big commissions is because of the all-encompassing nature of the service we provide. I handle every one of your real estate wants and needs all day, every day. I have skillfully navigate every possible issue/event that happens, because any one thing can kill the sale – and then you don’t get what you want, and I don’t get paid.
If the business was more predictable, less time-intensive, and had guaranteed pay, would I work for less? Absolutely, and the auction solution is the best answer.
It would take a major player like Google or Amazon to bring enough brand and reputation so consumers would consider the auction format. But if that were to happen, here are the benefits for everyone involved:
The selling process becomes structured – everyone knows how and when a house will sell. Post the auction date 30 days in advance so buyers can inspect the property – because the house is sold as-is, no repairs. On auction day, conduct the bidding out in the open where all have a fair shot at buying.
A real auction removes the agent shenanigans – no tilting the table in favor of anyone.
Sellers get a little more than retail value, and know the close date in advance.
Buyers know exactly what to expect, and have a fair shot of buying any home.
A streamlined, predictable process means less work for agents.
The hardest part? Convincing sellers that there aren’t two in the bush who will pay more.
P.S. If the current business does crash and burn, I’m thinking of being an artist:
I offered a couple of examples in the original article, and I just had another one happen.
The listing agent, who is new in the business, didn’t like my offer that was 9% under his list price, but told me that the sellers said they would take a specific price that was 5% under list. I asked if he was going to counter with that price, and he said no, because they didn’t want to go back and forth. But if I wrote a new offer with that price, they’d sign it.
I discussed it with my buyer, and then submitted a new offer with the sellers’ price with a 24-hour expiration. The listing agent acknowledged receipt, and said he’d get back to me first thing the next day.
When noon rolled around with no response, I sent him a text. He said he presented the offer and the sellers would be getting back to him.
The expiration time came and went.
My buyer said, ‘Screw them, there are plenty of other houses out there’.
Realtors are fighting the idea of open bids? Agents prefer no rules:
Ontario real estate agents are lobbying the province against the mandatory disclosure of offers among competing home buyers in transactions involving multiple bids.
The Ontario Real Estate Association (OREA) sent a bulletin to its 78,000 members this week urging them to contact their MPPs to oppose the compulsory sharing of offer prices and conditions among competing buyers. That’s something the province has said it is considering as part of its planned update to the 2002 Real Estate Business Brokers Act (REBBA).
“Buyers and sellers should have the choice of using an open, transparent process,” said the OREA email.
It says that sharing information about competing bids could lead to the disclosure of personal financial information to any interested parties.
“The government should not force consumers to gamble their life savings in an experimental, mandated open offer process,” said the OREA email signed by association president Karen Cox.
“Hard working realtors like you would face increased red tape,” it warned.
Under the current rules, a real estate agent can only share the details of offers with the property seller.
But consumers should have a choice if all the buyers and the seller agree, said OREA CEO Tim Hudak.
Making the disclosure of offers mandatory “would be a radical change in the real estate market that does not exist anywhere else in North America,” he said.
“This would invoke a brand new process for every real estate transaction where brokers would have to distribute offers to all the other buyers,” said Hudak and that means sharing prices, deposit and closing information, right down to who gets the fridge.
The buyers’ addresses would be included in each of the offer documents, as well as conditions around the need to sell another home or the amount of cash that buyer has on hand for a deposit.
Some sellers would agree to share offer information based on their ideas of fairness for buyers, said Hudak. But all sellers should seek the advice of their realtor, he added.
At least one Toronto agent says his advice would depend on whether he was representing a buyer or seller.
“If I were representing my seller I’d say, ‘no.’ Unless I was mandated to do it, I wouldn’t do it. It’s our job to protect our clients,” said Royal LePage’s Desmond Brown. “If I had a buyer I would want to know as much information as possible.”
Among its 28 recommendations for modernizing the real estate act, OREA is proposing that the government eliminate bully bids — offers that pre-empt the time the seller has set to look at bids on their home. It is also recommends the elimination of escalation clauses, offers that specify the buyer will exceed the best bid by a certain amount.
The Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) said it understands, “the fairness angle,” of disclosing competing offer details. “But this will also be a tricky area for the government to attempt to legislate,” said a statement attributed to board CEO John DiMichele.
“Disclosing bids puts realtors in conflict with their seller clients,” he said.
In regard to bully bids, the government would need to either require sellers to look at all offers as they come in or not accept any until a certain date.
“We prefer less government intervention in the marketplace,” said the statement.
A few readers have sent in articles regarding the class-action lawsuit filed about commissions – an excerpt:
A class-action lawsuit is seeking to upend the way homes are listed for sale and the commissions paid to agents. The goal, say the plaintiffs, is to make home selling more affordable by challenging how agents share commissions on local Multiple Listings Services known as the MLS.
The focus, the suit claims, is on NAR’s “Buyer Broker Commission Rule,” which, according to the complaint, requires “all brokers to make a blanket, non-negotiable offer of buyer broker compensation” in order to participate in the MLS, which is what brokers traditionally use to list for-sale properties. Brokers who don’t participate in the MLS can’t effectively market their properties, according to the lawsuit.
NAR, however, has no such “Buyer Broker Commission Rule” as described in the lawsuit, according to Mantill Williams, vice president of communications at NAR.
“The only requirement imposed by NAR rule is that the listing broker advise all other MLS participants what the amount of compensation to the buyer’s broker will be,” Williams says. “That amount is determined by the seller and the seller’s broker – not by NAR or the MLS. It can be expressed as a percentage of the sale price or as a fixed dollar amount – as low as $1. Under NAR policy, a buyer’s broker is free to negotiate the amount of the commission with the seller’s broker.”
Sellers can negotiate the amount of commission they pay to their own agents. Although sellers traditionally pay the commission, that commission is typically split with the buyer’s agent. The seller might end up passing on the commission costs to the buyer in the form of a higher listing price.
There are two problems that contribute to the situation; 1) The commissions aren’t disclosed to buyers, and 2) In spite of the statement in bold above, the commission rate offered to the buyer-broker is non-negotiable, according to the Code of Ethics:
Standard of Practice 16-16
REALTORS®, acting as subagents or buyer/tenant representatives or brokers, shall not use the terms of an offer to purchase/lease to attempt to modify the listing broker’s offer of compensation to subagents or buyer/tenant representatives or brokers nor make the submission of an executed offer to purchase/lease contingent on the listing broker’s agreement to modify the offer of compensation. (Amended 1/04)
The lawsuit wants to cause the buyer-agent’s commission rate – and who pays it – to be more negotiable (it’s not negotiated by the buyer now). What this lawsuit will include, but not solve, is buyer-agents steering their clients to listings that pay 2.5% or more in commission.
The attorneys will sensationalize the facts during their jury trial, and NAR will probably end up agreeing that buyers have more access to commission rates.
We will ignore this basic premise though: sellers should be free to offer a bounty to buyer-agents to sell their house, and the listing agent should convey that message, and encourage sellers to offer a rate that causes buyers to be steered to their house.
It sounds edgy, but it’s how it works in real life.
I said previously that this will likely cause more buyers to go directly to the listing agent, which will destroy the broker cooperation model we enjoy now.
But we could solve all of these issues with one answer.
If we did auctions instead, we wouldn’t have these problems.
The commissions would be obvious in advance (it’s been the 10% premium, paid by buyers), and all buyers would have an equal chance to buy the home. The sellers would be the big winners – no commissions, and eye-to-eye competition to drive the price higher, with no shenanigans!
While the old tradition of broker cooperation via the MLS is slowly eroding, there is an opening for others to intrude. Two quotes seen this week in different articles:
Founder and CEO Rich Barton said in a radio interview on April 1st that he sees Zillow Offers as an evolution of Zestimates. In fact, at some point in the future, a Zestimate and a cash offer may be the same thing, he said in an appearance on National Public Radio.
“Ideally, I would like to have the Zestimate be a live offer on every home in the country,” said Barton, adding, “It will take quite some time to get there.”
Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin, a real-estate brokerage that has also got into the home-flipping business, said he still believes the endgame for Opendoor, as well as his own company, is to get buyers to purchase homes without necessarily using an agent.
“A large number of these companies, Redfin included, are going to be selling direct to consumers,” he said.
Will consumers trust them enough to buy and sell houses based on their fabricated estimates of value, without a realtor on their side? All that needs to happen is for these ibuyer companies to overwhelm the public with advertising, and convince you that their value estimates are close enough.
The advertising is the key. Consumers don’t have much real estate experience and education, and it’s not easy finding helpful resources (how many real estate blogs are there?). They just want to click and go!
It will be like TrueCar, where they advertise that their valuation system gives you an advantage, and to go down to one of their dealers to buy the car for that amount. TrueCar has sold over 2 million vehicles!
To further examine the off-market phenomenon, here are the first few entries snipped today from Facebook realtor groups:
I don’t fault the listing agents – this is realtor marketing in 2019, and everyone is doing it so it must be ok. Agents who represent buyers need to be well-connected and searching for homes in other places besides the MLS.
Yesterday, I whipped into the City of Carlsbad maintenance yard where they have all the realtor open-house signs locked up. They have been diligent in their enforcement efforts!
When the city first threatened to do something, we realtors didn’t take it seriously and failed to get out in front of it.
As a result, the city imposed a rule that requires our open house signs to be inside of the right-of-way, which is tough around Olde Carlsbad where there are no sidewalks and in many cases, no place to put signs that are ten feet from the street.
Not only are they collecting the signs every weekend now, but their driver has an attitude too, especially when he is on patrol with his girlfriend – which has to be against city policy for her to be riding along.
I asked about political signs.
They explained that those have a ‘special’ permit so they can be put anywhere. Politicians give themselves special treatment!
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