It’s all about the survival of the fittest for real estate agents, especially in large markets like Vancouver and Toronto where it feels like there are more agents than there are homes for sale.
In such a competitive industry, even what appears to be a minor decision could make or break a deal.
Instead of writing the traditional “how-to guide” to becoming a successful agent, we decided to put together a piece containing simple advice on what to do and what NOT to do if you want to close deals and embark on a successful career.
We contacted three of Toronto’s top agents — Brian Persaud, Priscilla Facey and Mark Savel — for some advice. Check out what they had to say about cars, appearance, manners and a whole lot more below…
BuzzBuzzHome: What modes of transportation should an agent never use when meeting with a client?
Brian Persaud: Don’t drive up in your old beater from university. Clients definitely pay attention to the car you’re driving. If it’s an old rusty beaten up car, it’s not going to look very good. I always drive my clients in my car because that’s how you build relationships with them.
Priscilla Facey: It’s important to have a car that’s both professional, new-ish and clean. I know a lot of times with Realtors your car becomes your second home; it becomes your office. You might have some coffee cups in there, some gum lying around and you might have some random odds and ends, but clean it all out. Your clients should be stepping into a clean, comfortable, modern vehicle. The vehicle you drive is obviously a representation of you. Based on some things that I’ve seen some other agents do, I get that it’s not obvious.
Mark Savel: I’ve got a great story that might translate well with the question. I was doing an open house in the middle of winter and nobody was coming through and I said if anyone does come by they must really want the place. A taxi pulls up and I thought ‘Great. If they come by cab they definitely want this place.’ It turns out the cabbie was the Realtor and he was taking his clients around in a cab. 100 per cent legit, it happened to me. This was my experience. *Laughs* It was full service realty.
The car you drive is a perception of the person you are whether you agree with that or not, it’s a fact of life. If you’re driving a second-hand Hyundai, people aren’t going to think you’re that top producing agent that you might be.
BBH: What should an agent never wear when meeting a client?
BP: Definitely dress professionally and people will take you more seriously. A nice suit is always a good choice. Women should probably wear their hair up in a bun and wear glasses to look more professional.
PF: One agent comes to mind that I’ll leave unnamed. She’s a young, attractive woman, but dresses extremely provocatively and I think that’s something particularly female agents need to be mindful of. You don’t want exposed cleavage. As a female myself, I’ll often wear dresses, but you don’t want something that is provocative. On the male side, be professional. You obviously don’t want your pants to be frayed at the bottom because they’ve been dragging on the ground.
MS: Jogging pants. I’ve seen it and it’s not a good look. The only time you should wear jogging pants is if tear-aways are your only other option — and I’ve also seen tear-aways.
BBH: How should an agent prepare for a client meeting in terms of personal care and hygiene?
BP: I have mouthwash, dental floss and a toothbrush in my office at all times. Both men and women need to make sure their nails always look good. I once had a female client notice my nails were a little long, so I never let the whites of my nails show now. Women also notice what shoes men are wearing more. It’s really like dating. You’re going hot and heavy with someone for a few weeks, spending a lot of time with them until you find them a place.
PF: I’ve always got Tic Tacs in my car. I don’t think it’s professional when people chew gum so I certainly avoid that. With females, having decently manicured hands is important because your hands are definitely going to get noticed especially if you’re signing documents.
MS: If you’re not a suit guy, you don’t have to wear a suit. You just have to be true to who you are at the end of the day.
BBH: What should an agent never say when discussing money with a client?
BP: You have to be tactful when discussing a client’s budget. You have to keep it professional.
PF: You should never mislead your clients and have them believe they can actually get what they want for the number that’s in their mind. You need to tell them what’s reasonable within their budget.
MS: Never use the word cheap, use the word economical — cheap comes across as a bad term. I try to be as open and as honest with them. If I think they’re asking too high, I’ll tell them. I don’t think anything is offside. I try to be as straightforward as possible with what I think of gaudy design or mirrors in the bedroom giving off a certain connotation. You have to try and be honest with them. Just don’t swear.
BBH: If an agent is with a client and their phone rings, should the agent answer it?
BP: I never do, but I do find it hard not to check it when I’m with them.
PF: No. My phone is generally on silent, I always have text and email but it’s always on silent. You’re dedicating your time, your client is taking their time to go and look at properties with you and they’ve hired you — whether they’re paying you as the buying agent or they’ve chosen to work with you. The last thing you want is to take a call and then that shows them that at that time they’re not important.
MS: Yup. I check who it is first and then I’ll politely say, “I’m just going to step out. This is a phone call I was waiting for.” I think that’s fine.
BBH: If a deal has fallen through, what are some ways an agent should never break the news to their client?
BP: When a deal has fallen through a lot of agents blame their clients, whether they can’t get a mortgage or they won’t accept an offer. You can never blame your clients. You have to take responsibility and find a solution.
PF: Nothing is real until the deal is actually closed. There can be a variety of things that can happen from the point that an offer is presented after a deposit has been submitted that can cause a deal to not happen, so I like to set that expectation up from the beginning. I think it’s important to be direct, and to have the next step prepared.
MS: It all depends on why the deal fell through. If it’s the fault of your clients specifically, before you get to the blame game you should try and do everything you can to keep the relationship there. It’s not always that the client was stupid and they didn’t want to close. It could be that they didn’t close because of medical reasons or family reasons or anything else, so I always try to get a feel for what the story is first and I really think you should try and save the relationship if possible.
BBH: What are some tips you wish a veteran agent had given you when you first started in the industry?
BP: Not taking unqualified buyers, and making sure that all of my clients are pre-qualified. If not, a lot of time can be wasted.
PF: I had a lot of great advice from my colleagues, but one thing I think agents need to brace themselves for is it’s an emotional process on two fronts. It’s emotional for the buyers, but what people fail to realize is that it can be very emotional for agents as well. You’ve got a deal that you’ve worked hard on, you’ve certainly earned the commission attached to it, and then it falls through. But you know what, three days later another offer comes on the table so you’re back to being excited again. You have to be prepared for that, you can’t let one deal ruin your day. For me nothing is real until the deal is closed and the commission cheque is on its way, there’s a lot of ups and downs so just keep rolling with the punches.
MS: When I first started I thought everybody had to be in a suit and tie. It just wasn’t me and it worked against me. I wish someone had given me more advice about just being reflective of who I was.
BBH: Have you witnessed or have you heard of any jaw dropping stories where agents have committed shocking faux pas?
BP: *Laughs* Agents are idiots. They lie, they cheat. The money in real estate brings out huge egos. I’ve heard of agents getting into fights over properties because they want the commission, like actual fights where the police ended up showing up.
PF: I’ve had agents show up to open houses with their clients and are just being completely unprofessional. They’re rude and making off-handed remarks in front of their client. It appalls me that people would speak that way with their client present or even behave rudely toward a fellow colleague.
I’ve debated starting a blog with just awful business card photos. I think there are three things that your business card should represent if you’re going to have a photo on it: it should be tasteful, it should be professional, and it should be current. The amount of times I’ve seen a photo of an agent and I got to meet them and clearly the photo was from the 1980s. It’s pretty entertaining to me how people represent themselves in a photograph.
MS: The one pet peeve that really gets to me is when the other Realtors try and hit on my client. I’ve had that happen a couple of times and it’s never a positive response that my client gives me when the other Realtor walks out of the room. It’s not professional at all. You never want to hit on someone else’s client, you probably shouldn’t hit on your own client either.
BBH: Is there any final advice you’d like to give other agents out there?
BP: Don’t be a slimy agent. Don’t use manipulation to get your clients to do things they don’t feel comfortable doing. You have to listen to your clients. Word always gets out and one day it could end up on Yelp. Your clients will hate you and that’s a bad thing.
PF: If you’re on time you’re late. Something a lot of agents don’t realize is that it speaks to your professionalism in general, your consideration to your clients time. You should be showing up 10 minutes early.
MS: One thing you shouldn’t do is go to a bar on a Friday night and brag that you’re a Realtor after you’ve had a couple of drinks. I’ve had several people come up to me and talk to me, just bragging about how the market is. What I’m trying to say is you never know who you’re talking to, so don’t come across as an arrogant prick when the guy you are talking to could be doing the same, if not better than you.
Transparency is key but know your limits, if you’re going to be drinking turn off your twitter and don’t go online. Don’t be an asshole, don’t swear, don’t be racist and don’t be a bigot. It’s the most “business suicide” attempt you can take on yourself.
Thanks for all the advice Brian, Priscilla and Mark!