HOW TO MYSTERY SHOP THE AGENT
POSTED BY Ross Calnan ON 07 Sep 2018
You are most likely to select your agent from a sales proposal process or an interview. However you decide, bear in mind that neither option actually shows the agent in action. Agents work from fully rehearsed scripts designed to ensure a slick presentation and a 'decisive close'. Given an agent is being employed to market, sell and negotiate the sale, it is well worth viewing them in the field.
To gain a clearer perspective, mystery shop them as a buyer. By asking a few questions you will rapidly gain an insight into whether the agent is the right one for you. Questions such as 'Why hasn't the property sold yet?' or 'Do you have sales evidence to justify the price guide?' can produce surprising answers.
Every agent will find it easy to hold the line with a new listing that has a lot of interest in it. A better insight into their abilities can be gained by mystery shopping them on one of their failed auctions or struggling campaigns. Look for clues to whether the agent is protecting their client's interests or breaching confidence.
The best agents are those who protect their clients, even when the campaign is not going to script. A dangerous agent for the vendor is one who becomes desperate when the campaign does not go as expected.
All agents look good when there are three buyers trying to buy one house. How does the same agent perform when the property has failed at auction, the advertising money has been spent (wasted) and the crowds have stopped turning up to the open inspections?
Here's what to look for when you mystery shop an agent:
- Availability. You want an agent who is available. Do they respond to messages? It is a common phenomenon in real estate that the stronger the market, the worse the service buyers receive. Essentially, in a boom, service to buyers goes down as agents' advertising for home buyers goes up!
- Follow-up and follow-through. Did you get the information requested? After the inspection, was there a follow-up contact for feedback and an invitation for a second inspection? Were you informed of similar properties being listed the week after that inspection? Is a senior or listing agent handling your enquiry or was it delegated to the office junior who started in real estate last week?
- Enthusiasm. Was the agent enthusiastic about the property and you as a buyer?
- Knowledge. The best agents have a thorough knowledge of the property and the local area. If there is a question the agent can't answer on the spot, they should chase the answer and respond as soon as possible.
- Assertiveness. Look for agents who are pleasant but assertive. When asking probing test questions, they confidently and assertively protect their clients. A pleasant eager-to-pleaser won't help when the negotiating gets down to the pointy end of proceedings.
Here's what you don't want to see when you mystery shop an agent:
- Disclosure of personal details. If you leave an inspection feeling as though you know the owner's life story because the agent divulged all, that's not a good thing. It is actually a terrible betrayal. If you are told the owners are selling because 'a job less caused difficulties, which led to stress in the marriage, which saw one of the owners begin an affair, which was the cause of the divorce', do not hire that agent!
- Short temper, rudeness or unavailability. The best salespeople know the next enquiry could be the best buyer. Conversely, if the agent is abrasive and pre-judges buyers, they are likely to turn buyers off the home.
- Other buyers' offers. Some agents will freely disclose offers made by other buyers. This breeds instant mistrust in buyers. If offers are disclosed, expect yours to be as well. An agent who does this during a sales campaign is effectively running a 'Dutch auction'. The property will be 'sold to the buyer who offers the best price' is a simple and assertive response to this.
There are many elements to choosing the right agent. The most dangerous (and lazy) selection method is to request three agents inspect your property and send written sales proposal. Given $50,000 or $100,000 can be easily gained or lost during the campaign, it is worth finding the right agent.
Mystery shopping is a proven method of helping to select a competent negotiator.
Written by Peter O'Malley, 'INSIDE REAL ESTATE - Buy, Sell and Profit in any Property Market'