by Neil Jenman
Reading Time: 5.5 minutes
When choosing agents, sellers tend to pick the agent who charges the cheapest commission.
This can be a costly mistake.
On the surface, it seems reasonable to choose an agent who offers the lowest commission. And it would be so if all agents sold your home for the same price.
But that is seldom the case.
It’s rare that two agents will be able to sell your home for the same price.
So, while commission is important, leave it aside, at first – certainly when trying to choose the best agent.
FOCUS ON WHAT YOU GET.
The best agents are the ones who get you the best price.
Shopping for an agent is not like shopping for a car where the product is the same. Different agents mean different prices.
Before you consider how much the agent is going to get in commission, you need to consider how much you are going to get as your selling price.
If some agents can get you a better price, they may well deserve a better commission.
When looking for an agent, do not put your primary focus on the amount of commission charged. Instead, focus on the price of your home.
YOU NEED A GOOD NEGOTIATOR
To get a great price for your home, you need a great negotiator. While it can be hard to detect good negotiators before you hire them, it’s easy to detect the worst negotiators – they are usually the cheaper agents or those who are quick to offer you a discount on their commission.
But consider this: If they give their own money away, what will they do with your money?
By choosing a cheap agent, you may save a few thousand dollars. But you may also lose tens – even hundreds – of thousands from the selling price of your home.
Like the elderly lady who sold her home last year using a discount agent. She sold it for $880,000. Barely two weeks later, the home was re-sold for $1.425 million.
Sure, she “saved” $13,000 in commission.
But she lost $545,000 from her sale price.
Be extremely careful of cheap agents. They often get cheap prices.
But how do you know if an agent is a good negotiator?
Just ask, “Are you a good negotiator?”
All of them will say yes.
Then you ask, “Can you give me examples of how you negotiate great prices for your sellers?”
If you are impressed, it’s likely that the agent is a good negotiator. If you get the standard cliches such as: “It depends on what the market says,” the agent is not a good negotiator.
You can also ask if they have studied negotiation – either by reading books or taking courses – and then you can ask them to tell you what they have learned.
Again, ask yourself, “Am I impressed?”
If yes, you may have a good negotiator.
The best agent is the one who is a great negotiator and who charges you a fair fee. Of course, no decent agent will charge you any money – for any reason – before your home is sold.
ALL COMMISSION IS NEGOTIABLE.
Never mind what agents tell you, their commission is always negotiable.
But the right time to negotiate an agent’s commission is when they find a buyer. It’s the best time for you and the best time for the agent.
If you get them to give you a discount before they find a buyer, you lessen their incentive to find you a buyer.
For example, if an agent says their commission is 2.95 per cent – definitely on the high side – and you knock them down to, say, 1.5 per cent – definitely on the low side, here’s what you are doing to yourself. If the agent has one great buyer and two comparable homes, the agent will be inclined to push the home with the bigger commission.
Don’t chop their legs from underneath them before you see what sort of race they run. Indeed, if you hit them too hard, they will be less inclined to fight to get you a great price.
Also, if you obtain a discount before the agent finds you a buyer, you lessen a great advantage for yourself later. Most agents bring you offers. And that’s when you request a discount. When they are doing the same to you.
If they want you to lower your selling price, it’s only fair that they lower their selling fee. But if the agent has already cut their fee to the bone, you’ll find it hard to use this tactic.
When negotiations are happening with buyers, you can say to the agent: “If you expect me to drop my price, I expect you to drop your fee.” This will make the agent try harder to persuade the buyers to increase their price.
At the point of sale – when you are about to sign a contract to sell (as opposed to a contract to list your home for sale) – is the time to negotiate the fee.
Until then, be open with the agent and say, “If you get us a great price, we are okay with your fee. But if we are not convinced that you have got us a better price than other agents could have achieved, we are not going to pay more than we’d have paid other agents.”
The point of sale is the time when you work out the net price you are about to get. How much will you be getting after the commission is paid? The agent may bring you an offer and you might say, “This offer will be acceptable provided it’s the net amount I get.”
And then the agents, when negotiating with buyers, are really negotiating for themselves, which means they will try harder.
WHEN CHOOSING AN AGENT.
When interviewing agents, if their fee is higher than other agents, instead of telling them that other agents charge less, ask: “Why do you charge more than the other agents?”
Make them justify their fee to you. If they can’t justify it, be careful.
The worst thing that can happen to you is to hire an agent who gets you a low price but charges you a high fee. That would be a disaster – the worst of both worlds.
That is why you must say to any agent – especially one who claims to be “worth” a higher commission – “I am prepared to see if that’s true. If not, I will only pay the same as other agents charge.”
And then – and this is important – write in their selling agreement (contract) these words: “Agent agrees that commission is negotiable at the point of sale.” Write it beside where they have written the percentage of their commission.
If the agents argue about it, ask them: “Do you believe it is right for me to pay you a higher fee than other agents if you sell my home for the same price as other agents?”
This should be your clear message to the agent you hire: If you get me a great price, I will pay you a great fee. If you get me a low price, I will pay a lower fee.”
And finally – and obviously – the person who decides whether the final selling price of your home is high, and the amount of commission for the agent, should be you.
For decades, sellers have had to trust agents when most agents are unworthy of such trust.
But now, the agent will have to trust you. That’s a nice turnaround.
Hopefully, this will ensure you find a great agent who will get you a great price for your home.
If agents fight for a higher commission when you are interviewing them, that’s a fair clue that they will fight to sell your home for a higher price.
So, remember: The cheapest agent is not the one with the cheapest fee. The cheapest agent is the one who sells your home for the best price, the one who puts the most in your pocket.
At Jenman Support, we have a booklet ‘THE 42 RULES OF MODERN REAL ESTATE NEGOTIATION’. You can use this booklet to test an agent’s negotiation skill – before you hire them and when they are urging you to accept an offer. These rules are 42 ways to get a higher price for your home.
If you’d like a copy with our compliments, please click here.
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