What makes a top agent? – Matt McCann

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling the family home, your first apartment or an investment property, choosing the right real estate agent is key to getting the best result possible for your property. Initial agent selection relies on many important criteria, not the least of which is the skill and track record of the agent. Matt McCann will tell you what to look for.
Kevin:  There are a number of decisions you need to make when you’re selling your property. Without a doubt, the most important one apart from how you sell it is who is going to sell it for you. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling the family home, your first apartment, or an investment property, choosing the right real estate agent is key to getting the best result possible for your property.
Initial agent selection relies on many important criteria, not the least of which is the skill and track record of the agent. There are a number of Internet sites now well established that can help with this very important decision, and there is a reason why they are growing in popularity. It’s because they offer a great benefit to the consumer.
One of those sites is Local Agent Finder. We have told you about them in the past, and we’re going to tell you about them again. Matt McCann from Local Agent Finder joins me.
Matt, thank you once again for your time.
Matt:  Nice to be here, Kevin.
Kevin:  Why do you think consumers have embraced this service so enthusiastically?
Matt:  It’s interesting. A little bit of the research that we do around consumer behavior talks to pain points in the selling process, and what we know is that 57% of homeowners believe selling the house is one of these very stressful transactions in their lives, but two-thirds of them say that actually finding the right real estate agent reduces that stress dramatically. So, clearly, there’s a very important role for real estate agents to play in helping people manage them through this kind of transaction.
Probably the part there that’s really interesting for us is that the vast majority of people aren’t experienced property sellers, so there’s a lot about the process that they just don’t understand day-to-day, which is obviously quite different if you are an experienced person looking for the information to be able to make the decision about who the right agent is.
That’s one of the things that’s key to our service and why it’s been so popular. We bring that data that a homeowner would want to know into a single place, make it easy to consume, allow them to analyze and manipulate the data so that they get to the point where they feel comfortable that what they’re doing is being empowered to pick the right agent for them.
Kevin:  Yes. Of course, the real estate agent is the first critical decision, as we’ve already said. An agent can help you then decide on how you sell, when you sell, how you present your property, what buyer reaction is going to be like. So, I can understand that this is a very difficult stage for any seller, and to have someone walk them through with confidence is pretty important.
Can I just ask you what the process is that Local Agent Finder uses to sort agents?
Matt:  In terms of how the service works and how you ultimately get to that recommendation set, what we do first up is a homeowner will come on and they’ll go through our registration process. That takes around two minutes, and the information we’re gathering there is really information about the homeowner themselves, their property, what stage of the process they’re at, and ultimately what they’re looking for in an agent. That varies quite a bit relative to the types of people who come to the service.
What we then do is profile both that property and that homeowner and use our proprietary algorithm to work out exactly which set of agents are the right ones to put in front of them for them to be recommended.
What the algorithm takes into account are the key quality markers. It takes into account historical listings, that an agent has sales, the types of sales they have, whether they’re apartment-driven or home or townhouse, homeowner feedback. And then we marry those with local factors, so understanding the local area and having experience in an area that’s relative to the property.
What we’re trying to do is get the consumer – the homeowner in this case – matched up with the agents who are best equipped to give them the information they need about their property in their local area and who have a great track record of doing that for other people.
It sounds time-consuming to do on your own – it is – so a key part of the service for us is actually the convenience, making it very easy to consume and understand this data. Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is empower the homeowner to make the right agent selection for them.
To do that, we put really important information in front of them. For us, one of the critical pieces of information is homeowner reviews. They’re very important in giving people confidence about the agent and the style of agent that you’re ultimately going to choose.
We give them their performance data, so we give them information about sales in the previous 12 months, current listings, time on market, and valuation, so you understand exactly what’s being sold by a particular agent. And really importantly, we give them pricing. This is actually commission rates and estimated marketing fees that come from these agents. They’re not averages; they’re actual information.
When you have all that sitting in front of you, you have a lot of information. And perhaps the newest piece of our service – which is going live at the moment – is actually video. You’re going to be able to see an agent in action, undertaking an auction or talking about their experience in an area. You’ll get their market performance data, you’ll get reviews, and you’ll get their pricing. That gives people a very strong idea about who they should really have in their loungeroom talking to them about the sale of their property.
Kevin:  Matt, quite frankly, we’ve heard some horror stories – and I know you would have heard them too – from people who believed the hype of the agent and after engaging them, they felt let down because the actions don’t really align with the promises.
How can a seller be sure that they’re not listing with a dud agent?
Matt:  I think there are probably two or three key things you would do. One is you need to access the data about the history of an agent, first up. That’s really important. Knowing you have an agent who’s had a long track record in selling property in a particular area relevant to you, knowing that they’ve had good feedback from prior customers, and reference checking is really important.
But probably the most important thing is to not just to meet with one. You really need to meet with three agents, because you’ll then get a spread of opinions about valuation – and obviously one of the key points where people trip up is they’re told a valuation at the beginning of the campaign and by the time they get to the end of a campaign, they’re told something different.
So, it’s really important to get a good mix of what agents think about the value of the property and how long they think it would take to sell. I think if you get the information and you meet with three agents, you’ll get a much better chance of avoiding having a situation where you’re unhappy with an agent.
And probably the final piece is as you go through that process, ask yourself what you really want from the agent. If you really want a light-touch engagement and an outcome where you’ve outsourced the process to an agent, there’s a particular agent for that. But if what you want is to have your hand held along the way because you’re concerned or nervous about the outcome, there’s a different agent for that, as well.
So, it really is important to pull out the key things you’re looking for in an agent, and that way, if you say those things and make sure you’re very clear to an agent up front, you won’t be let down when you get to the end of the process.
Kevin:  Given that someone was going to do all of that, if they still find that they’ve got someone who has let them down, what do you suggest they should do if they are unhappy?
Matt:  If you sign a typical authority, you’re locked into the agent for 90 days, usually. The key thing there is on the way through that process, I’d be continuously going back to the agent to say “Hey, these are the expectations you’ve set with me; I don’t feel like they’re being met.” But if you’re at the end of that exercise, then the key part is to go back out to the market.
We have a number of people through our service who come along and say “Hey, I didn’t get the result that I wanted, but now I want to look for another set of agents.” And again, we encourage them to go through that same process: meet with at least three, understand the data that sits behind those agents, make sure that you’re getting good information about homeowner reviews so you understand the type of experience you’re going to get. And frankly, change agents if you’re that unhappy.
Kevin:  Given that you’re going to be meeting with agents, sometimes the difficult thing is to know what questions to ask them or even what answers to expect. What do you think are the most important questions someone should ask an agent before they appoint them?
Matt:  It’s really important to ask the right questions, and we absolutely agree with that. One of the things we do as part of our service is we’ll often have our client and consultants talk potential vendors through the questions they should ask the agents, and I’ll summarize some of those here. We also provide everyone with an interview guide so that they know the topics they should cover.
The first thing you really want to understand is the experience of the agent, and that means you’re really getting a detailed understanding of how many properties have been sold and listed over time – and particularly in the last 12 months. We think that’s a critical data point for you to start your conversation with.
In sense-checking that, what we would say is to then ask the agent for examples of properties that are like yours that they have sold in that period, over the last 12 months, and get them to talk you through how they went about the campaign and the success of that, the execution of that sale.
We would follow that by saying actually ask the agent if you could talk to that vendor, because we think a really important step is getting an example of how they went through and how happy they were.
Probably the next piece of the puzzle is their understanding of the local area, so getting an understanding of where they think the value drivers are. Is it access to transport? Is it local schools? Is it the nature of the types of properties in a particular area?
When you get that and you hear that across three agents, you’ll get a really good sense of whether an agent really has a good handle on the information that relates the local factors that’ll make a difference when it comes to sales day.
For us, clearly, valuation is important and being set the right expectations on valuation. As we were talking about before, it’s critical to make sure you talk to more than one agent so that you get a really good sense of what the valuation is.
What you might find is that there might be an agent who’s over by a couple of hundred thousand dollars in one valuation and the other two aren’t. It gives you sense that you then either go back to that agent and say “Hey, we’re not sure about that,” or alternatively, get a sense of how they think they can achieve a better result.
The next part relates to fees and advertising, particularly vendor-paid advertising. Ultimately, you’re on the hook for the dollars here, so you want to make sure that the plan they have is one that you think is the right one, and again, examples of where that sort of advertising campaign has worked before.
Finally, what we would say is you want a really good sense of how long an agent thinks it will take to sell a property. So, in terms of timing, you really want to understand that it’s this number of days on market, we require an auction or we don’t require an auction, the types of processes, steps, and milestones you have to go through to get that sale done in the timeframe you would expect.
We think if you ask all those questions, you’ll then get a very good sense of what you’re likely to understand and receive in terms of the engagement with your selected agent.
Kevin:  So many things to cover, and that’s why you have to make sure that you get the right advice up front and that you do actually get the right agent.
Matt, thank you for sharing that knowledge with us. Matt McCann is from Local Agent Finder. I appreciate your time, Matt. Thank you.
Matt:  No problem, Kevin. Any time. Cheers.

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