What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?

by Wayne

Some time ago, I was on the phone with my friend Steve, and he was trying to convince me to ditch work and meet a group at the golf course.

“I can’t make it, Steve; I’m working”.

“Working? Since when do real estate agents work? What does a real estate agent do, anyway? You guys are just overpaid chauffeurs.”

I was annoyed, but I did my best not to show it. I’ve known Steve long enough to not be insulted by his lack of tact. But, I found myself revisiting the conversation for the rest of the day. And boy, did I tell him off…in my imagination.

What does a real estate agent do? Well, let me tell you:

A Buyer’s Agent
When I was a new agent, I worked primarily with buyers. Buyer inquiries were plentiful, and I didn’t have any listings so being a buyer’s agent seemed like a good way to get started. I worked in a small brokerage; there were just seven agents. Because we were small, the agents were assigned housekeeping duties. Everyone had to keep their own area vacuumed and tidy, and each agent was responsible for cleaning the common areas once a week. “Common areas” included the waiting room, bathrooms, conference room, kitchen area and hallways. I could get the job done in about an hour, so when my turn came up I’d arrive at the office early to take care of housekeeping chores.

In the beginning, I came into the office at least five days per week. If I was the first one to arrive, I’d make a pot of coffee and review my schedule at my desk. I’m big on keeping a “to-do” list. Nothing fancy, just a legal pad containing a list of all the things I have to do. As items are completed, I cross them off; as new items come up I add them. Once a week I prioritize what needs to be done that week.

Scheduled items for this week include a Lions Club breakfast meeting on Wednesday, a closing on Thursday and volunteering at the library book sale on Friday night. I don’t like to volunteer on weekends unless I have to, because weekends are prime selling time. I have a sales training meeting on Tuesday morning and three (so far) appointments with prospects. I have one client scheduled for showings on Saturday morning.

When I’ve reviewed my to-do list, I check my messages. These days, I get messages via voice mail, email, SMS text message, and Facebook. Everyone has a preferred way to use technology, so I have to be reachable via several mediums. I’ll spend the next hour or so returning messages in the same fashion that I received them: if I got a text, I’ll return by text; if by voice mail I’ll return via telephone, and so on.

Next in my routine I update clients on my progress in locating a new home for them. I always do this via email, so there will be a record of my activities for the client. I keep each client’s correspondence in a separate email folder so I can find information when I need it. As I write my reports, I review the client’s correspondence and pay special attention to changes in their preferences. I often find myself adding items to my to-do list as I review my client’s comments. Once I’m reminded of what each client is looking for, I log onto the local MLS to review new listings and the newest Hot Sheet. If there have been changes – new listings or changes in price or terms for viewed properties – then I make a note of the change and notify the appropriate clients.

When I’ve updated my clients I turn to any administrative tasks that need to be done to complete pending sales. Sometimes I’ll contact a listing agent to discuss an offer, or a home inspector to follow up on an inspection. I like to keep the process moving along toward closing.

These activities take up most of my morning. When I’m done, I break for lunch. After lunch, I hop in my car and personally inspect any listings that I haven’t seen. I take my own photos of these listings, because the photos on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) rarely show any problems with the properties. However, problems are what kill a sale, and I like to know what they are before driving my clients to see a home. I keep the photos in a digital file, along with a pdf copy of the MLS listing.

A Seller’s Agent
As I became more experienced, my broker allowed me to take listing appointments. My to-do list grew proportionately. Being a listing agent requires an additional skill set.

For starters, I had to work on my sales skills regularly. Fortunately, my broker was willing to set aside time to help me to accomplish this. Being a buyer’s agent, at its essence, is more or less “show-and-tell” coupled with good negotiating skills. Either a buyer likes a home or they don’t. Listing agents have to know everything that buyer’s agents know, plus how to sell their services to property owners as well as market and advertise properties. So, to my already lengthy buyer’s agent to-do list, I had to add the following items:

Create and execute a marketing program to attract sellers. I determined that I would engage in a postcard mailer program; I’d mail a “list with me” or “just sold” postcard to all homes in my market niche (this is called “farming”). Rather than do a huge mailing monthly, I’d run about 50 or so labels every day and mail the pre-paid postcards. Over the course of six months, I was able to send out over 6,000 cards which resulted in 150 listing appointments, 90 listings and 24 sales (by me or another agent) – a little less than one sale per week.
Create and execute a marketing plan for each of my listed properties. Every day I’d spend time creating flyers or ads for the local Homes for Sale Magazine, or updating the MLS listings, or creating online ads and property-specific websites. Fortunately, I am able to purchase drag-and-drop and fill-in-the-blank templates for all of these tasks. That’s good because the templates not only save me time, but avoid the cost of hiring a graphic designer.

Listing properties isn’t all glamour and dollars, however. I had to find time in my schedule to inspect properties, take photos, locate wells and septic systems, and find property lines. I’d often find myself traipsing across fields and through underbrush looking for surveyor’s property markers. Unfortunately, it mattered little what the weather was like when performing these tasks. Rain or snow, hot or cold, once I had a listing contract the MLS required me to put the property details onto the MLS within 24 hours or I could be fined. And, once a property was sold, I had to assist the seller in making sure all the inspections were done in a timely manner.

What I like best about being a real estate agent is that, for the most part, I control my own schedule. I’m expected to put in a certain number of office hours per week, but once I’ve done that I am free to come and go as I see fit. Although I try to keep to a daily routine (office/admin in the morning and mobile in the afternoons) that isn’t always possible. Sometimes I’ll get an early phone call from an agent who wants to show one of my properties but can’t get in and I have to run right out to open the house.

One thing is certain: real estate agents are far from glorified chauffers.

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