Here in Georgia, and probably in many other states, you can tell how long a real estate agent has been in the business based on their license number. The higher the number, the newer the agent.
My number begins with a 3-5-8, which means my first full year of real estate is behind me and that I’m no longer a rookie agent. And now that I’ve gone through it, I’m here to tell you – the consumer – not to be afraid of working with a first-year real estate associate.
Here are four reasons why:
- Don’t Underestimate A New Agent’s Background
Many people who get into real estate, especially those in their 30s, 40s and 50s, often bring relevant experience to the job. In my Coldwell Banker office in Marietta (Ga.), I work with a former mortgage banker, a former construction supervisor and a former CEO. For them, making the transition to real estate has been relatively easy.
After working 25 years in college athletics in media relations and communications, I embarked on a new career in real estate in May of 2014. Previously I served as the head of sports communications at Kansas, Wake Forest, and most recently at Georgia Tech.
On one of my first real estate transactions last year I represented the buyer, a young couple purchasing their first home for just under $300,000. As I negotiated the contract, I was opposite a listing agent who had been in the real estate business for two decades.
As we began negotiating terms of the contract, I detected a condescending tone from the agent. To say that she tried to “bully” me would be a little strong, but clearly she was licking her chops in anticipation of teaching her rooking counterpart a painful lesson in contract negotiations.
You could almost sense her saying – as some here in the South like to say – “Bless his little heart….”
Sitting alone at my cubicle, I chuckled to myself.
Don’t get me wrong, the weight of dealing with my first contract and the pressure of finding my clients their dream home got my heart-rate going. I knew from real estate class and my training what terms like due diligence, special stipulations and fiduciary duties were, but I had not put those terms to real-world use yet.
First and foremost, Coldwell Banker provides its associates with the best training possible. By my first day on the job, I felt fully prepared for almost any transaction. Secondly, I’m blessed to have a broker with nearly 40 years of real estate experience – someone who would never let me make a huge negotiating or contracts mistake.
But what really gave me confidence to deal with a more seasoned agent was my quarter-century background in college athletics’ communications.
Sure, this was the first time I had ever negotiated a six-figure real estate contract, but I’ve done my share of negotiating. Try convincing a tearful 19-year old quarterback who just threw a season-ending interception that he should face the media, or calming down a screaming reporter who is on deadline and can’t get an internet connection, or telling an ESPN producer that he won’t get the interview he wanted.
So, veteran agent, bring it on.
- Newer Agents Are Focused On You
Certainly, veteran real estate agents have been through the wars. They’ve been through the ups and downs, if not collapse, of real estate markets. There are tremendous veteran real estate agents that I truly look up to and lean on for advice.
A new agent, however, usually has a limited number of clients. Selling your home truly becomes their full-time job. They won’t pass you off to another member of their team or forget to communicate with you because they have a long list of clients. Selling your home is their top priority – if not their ONLY priority — and they’ll work like crazy to get you to the closing table.
- Newer Agents May Be Better More Tech-Savvy
Gone are the days when the consumer would find a home by looking in the classified ads. Close to 90 percent of searches for new homes begin on the internet.
Many new agents come armed with technological skills that help them market homes for sellers, find the perfect home for buyers, and better communicate with Millennials. Many rookie agents already know how to manage a blog, a Facebook business page, Twitter and Instagram accounts. They understand how to use video and that Youtube is the world’s second-biggest search engine.
When I first got into real estate, I needed something to help differentiate myself from the other 30,000 agents in metro Atlanta. My background in marketing and digital media, I felt, might help level the playing field when competing with more experienced agents.
I made high-quality videos and professional photography a standard part of my listing package. I started a Facebook business page and created Twitter and Instagram accounts. Last fall I used Face Time on my iPhone to give a live tour of a home to a client from Boston who made an offer on the home without leaving Massachusetts.
Digital and social media can’t take the place of experience and true customer service, but it can be an important part of an agent’s portfolio.
- New Agents Are Hungry
In my first week as a real estate agent, a veteran agent stopped by my desk and asked me if I’d be interested in working with someone who was searching for a home in the low $100,000s. He had me at “Would you…”
My veteran colleague didn’t need the job – he had plenty on his plate and a portfolio of many million-dollar homes. I took the lead and ran with it.
At Coldwell Banker there is a philosophy that everyone, regardless of sale price, deserves a luxury experience. I couldn’t agree more.
Over the next three months I showed my new clients – a wonderful retired couple in their early 70s – more than 30 homes before they made an offer. Often, I rented a car so that they wouldn’t have to squeeze into my little two-door vehicle.
By the time I added up the mileage, commission split with my broker, rental car fees and referral fee to the veteran agent, I lost money on the deal. However, that wonderful couple continues to be an advocate for me. More importantly, I gained a great deal of satisfaction by seeing how happy they were in a home they absolutely love.
New agents need the money, but they also crave the experience. Equally important, they need the clients who may refer them to additional business down the road.
I want to be clear about this. I am not suggesting that newer agents are better than veteran agents by any stretch (especially since I’m a veteran agent now!). There are many veteran agents who have not only accumulated decades of knowledge, but continue to work extremely hard and continue to adapt in the digital world. Consumers would be fortunate to work with any of them. Many of them work just a few feet from me at Coldwell Banker. In fact, rarely do I complete a transaction without absorbing some knowledge from agents who have forgotten more than I will ever know.
However, don’t discount a new agent simply because they are new. It may be one of the best decisions a home buyer or seller can make.