"Palos Verdes Resident since 1947"

The Company You Keep

How do you pick a Realtor?  I can tell you one thing that should be pretty far down the list:  the company the agent works for.  I am with Prudential, but I used to be with Coldwell Banker, and Century 21 before that.  While you clearly want an agent active in your area, their company affiliation is nearly irrelevant.

The real estate business is unlike most others in that the agents are independent contractors, not employees of the broker.  In the case of the successful agents (the ones you’re interested in) the broker’s office is pretty much just a base of operations — phones, copiers, maybe computers (I have my own), mailbox, and periodic updates on changes in the law, etc.  In my case, as long as the lights come on (I get in between 5 and 6 in the morning, so lights are important), the internet connection, phones, and coffee maker are working, I’m good.

Unless an agent does something really egregious (such as stealing his client’s money or intentionally lying on paperwork) which threatens the broker’s license, or does so little business that they’re not worth carrying, a broker is not likely “fire” an agent.  In fact, at “rent-a-desk” operations such as most local Re/Max offices, the broker doesn’t care too much how much business the agent does because the agent actually pays the broker a monthly fee to work there.  Yes, I’m not kidding — the agent pays the broker.  While this tends to attract only serious agents, it tells you little else about them.

You, as a buyer or seller, are getting the agent when you hire him.  The chance that you will have any interaction with the broker or parent company is very small and, even if you do, there isn’t much to choose between them.  All brokers and agents cooperate with each other in selling their listings, so the notion I occasionally hear that “XYZ Broker has a different set of buyers than ABC” is totally false.  With very few exceptions, all listings are published in the Multiple Lawn-SignListing Service, to which all active agents subscribe in finding a house for their buyers.  So it doesn’t matter if the right house is listed with Re/Max, Prudential, Coldwell Banker, or Mom and Pop Realty — the agent will see it and show it to his buyers if it meets their criteria.  The only caveat here if you’re a buyer is that Mom and Pop Realty (or Slick’s Real Estate, Taxes, Insurance, and Auto Repair) isn’t going to get as many listings as a company as, say, Prudential, and therefore your agent’s chances of finding out about one before it hits the market are reduced.  But don’t fall for the “we’re a big company, have more buyers, advertise more, and sell the most houses” spiel as a rationale for listing your house with them.  All of that is irrelevant and the person telling you that knows it, but he doesn’t think you do.  Now you do.  If it were me, an agent who tried to mislead me in that way would have a big strike against them.

So when you’re choosing an agent, look at the agent’s track record, personality, and other qualifications, and don’t worry too much about what company he’s with; and, unless you’ve had some recent bad experience with a particular broker, definitely don’t eliminate the agent you like best because of his/her company affiliation.

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