Greg: Welcome to this edition of the Louisville Luxury Homes Podcast Series brought to you by Jon Mand with Lenihan Sotheby’s International Realty. Our topic for today’s discussion is how real estate agents add value to your home search. Jon, good to see you. How are you today?
Jon: Doing great, Greg. Thanks.
Greg: No problem. I have a question for you. I was at a party recently. We just had Derby not too long ago and someone was curious about how real estate agents add value to a home search. They weren’t convinced before they talked to me, I think I did a good job of convincing them, but I know this is a subject you feel strongly about. Would you like to talk about it?
Jon: Absolutely, yes.
Greg: I think at any price range there are benefits but what are the benefits? Why should someone work with a real estate agent when they’re looking to buy a house? What’s in it for them, I suppose?
Jon: There’s a lot in it for them. It’s one of those things that I think it’s surprising to some folks, particularly those that are maybe a little more tech savvy. The younger demographic of buyers are used to using an app for everything. They think, why would I go so old school as to deal with another human to help me accomplish my goals? I can just pull up everything I need to know on Zillow or I can download the forms like a purchase contract online. Then I can just kind of figure things out.
You can certainly do all of those things. I would not recommend it, not out of self-interest, but just in the interest of my clients. There’s any number of ways that real estate agents add value through the home purchasing process. There’s several different segments of that, maybe for the purposes of today, we’ll just focus on finding a property. I think that’s a big value agents add. We can come back and touch on some of the other parts of the process where having an agent involved can be extremely beneficial. You can download an app on your phone and look at thousands of houses all over Louisville.
Greg: Right. There’s tons of information out there, but it’s not just the availability of the information that’s important.
Jon: Exactly. It’s the quality of the information that you’re getting and then being able to interpret that information. Depending on the data source that people are using, if they’re exclusively searching on Zillow, Trulia or any of the other big real estate listing aggregating web sites, that information can be outdated. In a fast-moving market, if you’re a buyer looking for a house in a very desirable neighborhood, a 24-hour delay in getting the information can make the difference between you getting the house or not.
Greg: I think the word outdated is probably not best used in a hot market, right?
Greg: It’s a bad mix.
Real Estate Agents Add Value By Providing Real-Time Information
Jon: Having a real estate professional involved, obviously we have access to the MLS, but there are other ways that you can access similar data feeds. Just having that real-time information of all of the agents in our local market cooperating into a single database. It’s as direct a feed as is possible on the real estate inventory in Louisville. That’s a huge advantage and just having somebody that’s checking it 24/7 for you. We live and die by what goes on in the MLS and what has hit the hot sheet. When we’ve got buyers that are looking, believe me, we’re checking that thing in real-time throughout the day.
If you’re a buyer client, and I’ve got plenty of them that have come to me who have automated e-mails set up through, again, Zillow, Trulia or something like that. By the time those sites get the data refresh from the brokerage feed posted to the site and then generate these auto e-mails that go out to the clients, again, just too much time can elapse in a lot of cases. So, just having an advocate that’s out there searching them on your behalf and keeping up to date on the market, everything that’s publicly available, is hugely beneficial.
We also scrape a lot of different data sources. We’re tracking the MLS for our clients regularly. I’m looking on Zillow myself, because of for sale by owner homes. Trulia and a lot of these other sites, I’m checking there regularly as well. Because those are things that aren’t going to show up if you’re only set up on an MLS data feed. If you really need to be in a specific area, well, you better be pulling in a couple of different data sources. So, we’re checking those for you as well. We also get into off-market properties. That happens frequently within our company and it’s one of those things that you want to make sure you’re plugged into the deal flow.
Agents Have Access To Information Before It Hits the Internet
Greg: Why don’t you explain what an off-market property is?
Jon: Well, it could be a couple of things, but in some cases, real estate agents add value just because they have access to the information before something hits the MLS. Like hey, I’m shooting photos on a property on Wednesday that will go on the market on Friday, or I’m listing it on Wednesday. Just having that information in advance and knowing that something is becoming available.
In our office every Tuesday, we have a sales meeting. All the agents are talking about their new listings and things that are going to be listed that week before the next sales meeting. Having access to that deal flow is hugely important, particularly in our company. We’re the largest brokerage firm in Louisville by sales volume for homes that are $500,000 and above, so if you’re looking in that price point, it pays to be the client of the company that has all of those listings.
Greg: If I could sort of dig into that one a little bit. We are number one in terms of volume, but we’re not close to number one in terms of number of agents.
Jon: That’s correct, yes.
Greg: And so the agents in the office …
Jon: They’re all full-time professionals. They’re hugely productive agents. They’re the top agents in the city, they have tremendous spheres of influence, and client databases that are very helpful. Part of our sales meeting, going back to the off-market properties, a lot of what we do weekly or just informally throughout the week is talking with other agents. If I have a buyer client looking, I’m asking them, hey, I’ve got a client looking in Anchorage. Does anybody have anything coming up? Do you know anybody who would be interested in selling who has no plans to list the property this year? Would they let us show their house and if they like it, can they buy it? Will they move out?
Greg: That’s not just a hypothetical, right? You’ve worked with people for a long time trying to work as many data sources, as many fellow agents, and sometimes it’s a grueling process.
Jon: The Anchorage example I just used, that was the past five months working with a client and checking everything. For sale by owner properties, obviously, we also exhausted all of the publicly available MLS listings very quickly, but we had plenty of other homes that we went through by networking with agents within our company. Then I contacted agents at other brokerages I know that work that particular neighborhood or part of town. I’m calling them and just saying, hey, I’ve got somebody, if you have anything coming up, give me a call. If you know of anybody who might have any interest in selling, give me a call.
We pulled tax records for homes. We were looking at who had been in their home a certain number of years, who may at this point be thinking about a change. I’ve knocked on doors, I’ve made the cold calls to home owners. Believe me, if I have a client that’s interested in buying a house, I’m going to find them a house to buy. That’s the difference between going it alone or having an advocate out there that’s doing this legwork on your behalf.
Greg: Another difference when you’re a busy agent, which you are, and someone calls who’s not actively a client and says, I’ve been looking online and I found a house and I want to go look at it today. You also have a client who’s been working with you for a couple weeks or months and calls the same day and says, I want to see the same house. The person who doesn’t have the relationship with you is kind of stuck.
Jon: Yes. Obviously, we’ll do everything we can to help anybody who reaches out, because the person who calls today and wants to see it might be a client that I’ll start working with for the next six months. That house that we go to look at might not be the one for them, but yes, having that relationship in advance is certainly helpful.
It Pays To Be On the “Short-List”
Greg: You put it much more artfully. I appreciate that. When you see something come down the line that fits someone …
Jon: Exactly. It’s who am I picking up the phone to call and that’s the thing. I’ll find out about a property that’s becoming available, it’s a short list, and I’m calling my clients first. The people that I’m working with and saying, hey, I’ve got something that’s coming up, this could be a great opportunity for you. Do you want to take a look at it? Now, if I get all the way down and none of those folks want to see it, well sure, I’ll start calling anybody and everybody who’s reached out to me with interest in that neighborhood, but yes, we’re obviously going to try to take care of our clients before offering it out to others.
Greg: A little bit ago you were talking about some of the above and beyond, how I would consider real estate agents add value for clients. Where you’re pulling tax records and trying to find out some information. Can you give me a real-life scenario on what that looks like?
Jon: Sure. I’ll get calls where people say hey, I saw a pre-foreclosure on Zillow in a great neighborhood. Then I’ll spend the time, I’ll pull the tax records, track down the owner of that property, I’ll dig through the county clerk’s records, research the title for the property, any outstanding liens and just kind of get an idea. A lot of times in those circumstances, it’s something that’s a historical event in that somebody will say, ‘I noticed it’s in pre-foreclosure’. I’ll look at it in May and say, ‘Well, actually, it went to the Sheriff’s sale in October of last year and Zillow is just now finally catching up’ and so just being able to have access to those resources.
It’s also just as simple as somebody driving down the street and says hey, this house on the corner, I really like it. Do you think they would ever think about selling it? It looks like it would be the perfect house for us. Again, going into the tax records, tracking down the owner’s information, and then just reaching out to them and having that conversation is something that I do regularly. Knocking on doors, writing letters, making those calls, and just trying to get my clients in to see properties that aren’t otherwise available.
Greg: This is what you said in the very beginning. This is all how real estate agents add value in the buying process. You haven’t even touched on how working with a realtor helps you going through the contractual process, the inspections, preparing for closing, so maybe you’ll come back and talk about some of that when you have a chance. It sounds like lots of reasons, even in this first step, to work with a Realtor. If you choose your Realtor properly, if you choose Jon Mand, then you’re going to get a better value, get more information, and you’re going to get analysis. There are a lot of things that go into finding the right property. It’s not just opening up Zillow, picking a house and saying, “Boom, I’m done.”
Jon: Exactly. That is absolutely the case, and there’s no question real estate agents add value, that I add value to every transaction I’m in. If I did not add value there would be no reason for us to exist. There is a tremendous amount of input that we can have to assist a buyer through the process and the first step is just finding something to buy. That alone can be worth a tremendous amount.
Greg: There’s a reason that people keep coming back, right?
Greg: Thanks for the info once again, and we’ll see you on the next one.
Jon: Great. Thanks, Greg.