Rebeka: Today we have a super great guest. His time is so valuable, so I'm so excited that he's able to sit down with us and go through all the things that we need to know when we're hiring an agent. This is Sam Rigopoulos, and he is an agent from Jellis Craig. I use him specifically myself, but he's also the top Victorian agent as dictated or nominated by the REIV.
What he goes through is a process that we need to look at or some top tips to how to hire the best agent for you in your market. How to really understand what outcome you're going to get, and I guess to get through the bullshit. The ease of sales stuff that agents use on you all the time. It's confusing. It's a really emotional and important part of your life. This is generally where we're transacting one of the largest amounts that we will transact in our life, and we need to get this decision right because this is a decision that is going to impact the outcome of that sale.
I hope you really enjoy it. I really enjoyed chatting with him. I learn so much every time, so we'll see you on the flip side.
Hi, I'm Rebeka.
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Rebeka: Welcome back to the Building with BuildHer podcast. Here we have Sam from Jellis Craig. He is actually the agent we use personally, but he's also the REIV top Victorian agent for the state. Let's just say we're in good hands. He knows what he's doing, he's Director of Jellis Craig.
Sam: Director of Jellis Craig in the North, yes. Hi, everyone.
Rebeka: I guess one of the main reasons we got you here was to have a chat about what do we need to know when we're hiring agents. It's a tricky, emotional time.
Sam: It is. It's a big decision. Ultimately, the thing that is most important to keep in mind is that the agent you choose will have a bearing on the sale price. It's a big decision, and it's one that I suppose you should go into the process eyes wide open so that you know what to look for and you don't get pulled into irrelevant conversations of stats or salesmanship, elements that agents can try on prospective sellers that may not realistically add any value to the end for the consumer.
It's a bit of a minefield, there's a lot to navigate, but hopefully, we can clear some of that up for everyone today.
Rebeka: Yes. I guess that's exactly the bit that I find hard. You're a salesman. That's what you're good at, that's why we want to hire you, but at the same time, that means you're selling us, how do we work out how we're going to get the service? I've worked with you for years, so I know that, but how do we get the service from someone we don't know? How do we know when they're selling us?
Sam: Totally. I feel even as a salesperson, there are lots of transactions that I have in life, whatever it might be, buying a TV or a car or whatever, appointing an architect or builder, and people learn to say the right things to get you to progress with them at some point. There's a real difference between, I suppose, the silver tongue agent who can just say the right things at the right time to coerce a decision versus the real-time actions and outcomes that they can produce.
What you have to look for are the tangible outcomes, not just the words that come out of their mouth, because I'm yet to meet an agent, and probably myself included in this, who would start a conversation or drive a narrative that wasn't in the best interests of them helping to progress with their client. How do you navigate that? I think referrals and recommendations are massively important.
You and I have worked together a lot and there's trust and it's reciprocal, and we know where we stand with each other and you've got that peace of mind as to why but not everybody has that benefit. Who in your circle? If you're listening to this and you're wondering, "Who should I be selecting as an agent?" Who do you know in that particular marketplace? In your marketplace, who has dealt with agents in the past? What has their experience been? Is there any consistency between the feedback that you might be getting if you're asking around?
You should be asking around because, ultimately, the best stories lie with other members of the community, and I think that's a really, really great place to start.
Rebeka: I love to have a chat. Everyone loves to have a chat about themselves and their experience generally. [laughs]
Sam: [laughs] I think so.
Rebeka: If you ask someone, "What did you find about selling this house?" Generally, they'll be pretty open. For me as well I'm looking for good results, so I don't know if this is the right way to address it, but you sell high-end homes. When I was making that decision way back when and I'd used another real estate agent a couple of times and decided to make a change, but one of the things I was looking at was who's selling the high-end homes, so who's got that--? Is that a fair way to do that listing?
Sam: It changes, market to market, so it will be different. In some markets, there are specialists in property types or suburbs. In other markets, all agents are just generalists. Then you have to deep dive into their process to make sure that their process lines up with your expectations or the way that you individually would like your campaign managed. On the perspective where there are specialists, that is a really, really good place to start.
I personally specialize at the top-end of the market or the family segment of the market, so I shouldn't just say the top-end, but anything in the family-orientated sector of their market. I'll make it a point to know the ins and outs of that market very, very well; the buyers, the market movements, the campaign strategies that are working and all of those sorts of things, so I can then pass on that compounding value to the next client and the next client and the next client.
If you asked me to sell a two-bedroom flat in the neighbouring suburb, whilst I have a lot of experience and can back myself as an agent or as a negotiator or whatever it might be, they could very well be a better-suited person to that job than me. Looking for a segment-specialist, I think is important.
The "Sold" section of realestate.com is really helpful I find, so you can jump on the "Sold" section of realestate.com, as an example, and you can sort the filters out and go, "suburb: Northcote price point: 1.2 million - 2.2 million". Whatever you think is relevant for your property, and then filter the results. You'll get a good real-time view on who's selling what. You can filter that information by date order, so the most recent relevant sales.
Some agents have been in real estate for 20 or 30 years. What they were doing 20 or 30 years ago is not relevant to the way real estate is sold today. Be mindful of how you're looking at data and over what time that data is presented to you. If you do your own research first, I think it's really important. That should help you shortlist two or three relevant agents. Then you can start the interview process.
I think the first things first is how do you shortlist? Do you shortlist by way of your own research? How do you undertake your own research? I'd probably use the "Sold" section of realestate.com as my initial filter, along with the request for referrals from anyone in the market. Then you should, in theory, start to see some overlap, you should start to see some consistencies. Some names should start to pop up. Then you can engage in the interview process from there.
Rebeka: Yes, one thing that I like to do before engaging in the interview process is to actually go to an open or two that that person's running and see how they treat me. In our particular relationship, I'd seem to be the one doing the footwork and looking at the houses, but there are agents that won't speak to me, they'll want to speak to my partner. That's not the case with you, obviously, and so that is an immediate "no" for me because it's not a relationship that I want to have. There are things that I feel like you pick up by visiting and then maybe shortlist
Sam: Surely a good point.
I think that the shortlisting process can be done mentally, and you can go through it all and then start the field market test. That's a really, really good point. What you should be looking for in that instance, is how do they engage with you. Is the agent aware enough and have the IQ and EQ to deal with both parties, not just one? What type of follow up do you get? How quickly are you followed up? If you make a request, or if you leave your details behind, is the follow up just the generic type of follow up like, "Are you interested in this property? Yes or no?" Does the agent have a team or process that tries to engage with you ongoing as a buyer so that they can refer you to other properties and know more about you and that sort of thing?
You'll see and I've seen it right across our industry, and I deal with a lot of agents across Victoria and Australia and meet with them regularly in different training camps and programs and things like that. You can say the very best in every market have got a process for not just getting one house sold or engaging with one client, but then how do they work with everything they get out of that one campaign and use it to be a value to the next vendor and the next vendor so that you can be sure.
Rebeka: Data matching isn't it? It's like, "Hang on this person wants this and that house wasn't quite right, but they're perfect for this house, so I might just swing them over there."
Sam: Totally, yes, so knowing that the agent will actually do that work -
Rebeka: And care. [laughs]
Sam: - and care is important because what a lot of agents will say is, "I've got five listings that might be similar to yours", but if you've gone through three or four of them, and no one's called you back, then what value does having those five listings really--? It's just profile, but there's no real work happening behind that to really advantage you as the seller. Whereas you might meet the next agent who has two listings on-the-go but that dial girl on their team, worked that file incredibly well and build relationships and add value to the consumers that they met and push them to the next property. You'll get so much more out of that person as a seller than you will, out of the other agent.
Rebeka: Actually I've got a good story on that which was one of our ones, one of the first ones we worked together. One agent who I'd spoken to said property sells itself once he put it online. Kind of bullshit. That was-
Sam: Wish that was the case.
Rebeka: Yes, it's important of course. I have it in a very long text message from them. The buyer of that property was someone who wasn't looking and you'd almost harass him to come because you're like, "This house is perfect for you." They came on a Thursday night, saw the house on their way out to dinner because he had kind of baited them into it. Then they ended up buying it and they were by far the best candidate for it, but you knew they wouldn't have looked for it because they'd seen so many and been like, "Uh, too much"
Sam: There's a real difference-
Rebeka: -or "Too hard."
Sam: Yes, or too hard. It's easy to do nothing. The property-sells-itself kind of agent, the turnkey agent. They're a dime a dozen. Really, it's 98% of our industry is like that. You've really got to work towards, "What does it mean to have the best team on your side?" If I was selling my house, and I was looking for an agent, I'd go through this process of narrowing down the field. Then I'd be really, really particular about watching who managed the campaign in that particular fashion. Who tried to serve me well as a buyer.
I recently bought a property and the agents that stood out the most to me as a buyer, not necessarily the agents that had the most business going on, but they were the ones that were the hardest working and the most active on me as a buyer. They're the ones that I would probably lean back on. That's a really good way to select an agent. I think also the way they manage the open-for-inspection process. How many people are there? How does the house look? Does it look good, feel good, sound good, smell good? We've always got that kind of--
Rebeka: Are they guiding the person-
Sam: Are they guiding? Yes.
Rebeka: -into getting the most from their property by fixing it. I've known people who like agents to go and clean a little bit because that's the first thing someone should see and it's not quite right.
Sam: Sweeping the floors first and opening up windows, whatever. There's so much that can be done before a house is just whacked on the market or is the agent rolling up there two minutes past the open time throwing a flag and opening the door, and just rushing people through the door. There's a real difference to the experience. The thing we need to remember when we're selling a house and picking an agent is that people don't buy the product, I think I've said this to you before, but they buy how they feel about the product.
They're always transacting on the feeling. "I'm going to pick this house because it felt good." What helps you feel good about something? The whole journey, the drive into the street, how I'm greeted. Am I greeted with a smile? Am I greeted with a handshake? Am I treated politely? Does the house look good, feel good, sound good, smell good? Is there appropriate information? Am I responded to quickly? If anything turns me off. I've known lots of buyers to discount properties because of the way they would trade it. They just don't want to deal with that person. They shun the property because they've had a really bad experience at the door.
Rebeka: Because it's easy to do nothing, right?
Sam: It is easy to do nothing and it's easy not to help people feel really comfortable because some people think that the houses will sell themselves.
Rebeka: That kind of "it's easy to do nothing" is really clear. Like I'm in the process of moving, I have to pack my boxes and so I've got to get a mortgage, all of these different hurdles need to be passed before I'll move house. If your house is okay and that one's a bit better but I've got to go through all of this effort and it's line-ball then you haven't sold that experience. I don't know, you've got to get people to cross a big bridge, really?
Sam: Yes, totally is a big bridge. You never exist in isolation in the market. You're always under some sort of competitive threat, so I think we need to be mindful of that when we're selecting an agent because they will impact the way that person feels. If they impact the way somebody feels, then they will impact the way the market feels and the way that ultimately they respond to your home. That will impact your price.
You also need to be mindful that that person-- You could end up in a one-buyer situation which happens and that person or that team will be responsible for getting the best out of the prospective buyer. You also need to trust that they are good negotiators and they can make people feel comfortable and that's probably the next thing I'd suggest considering when you're talking about selecting an agent. Is how do you judge their ability to manage a negotiation? I've seen a lot of people win business who are terrible negotiators, but they were the cheapest agent.
Rebeka: If you're an agent and you're discounting your fees upfront, what does that say for you?
Sam: I wish it was more widely understood. Naturally, I understand that that can sound self-serving. We want better fees but there is a standard of fee that exists in any marketplace. If you want to push and test agents down to the nth degree on fee, that's fine, but just watch the way they handle themselves. Some agents squirm and get I call it "hot bum" syndrome. They feel like moving around on their chair and they get really uncomfortable in that conversation.
Rebeka: Not backing themselves.
Sam: They're not backing themselves, they find it hard to say no. They're uncomfortable with silence in a negotiation. They feel the airtime up with babble. You should watch that. How quickly do they say yes to you just to get the business up? They'll probably do the same thing when a lowball offer comes in on your property. They'll probably manage that in exactly the same way. People are habitual and the way they manage one thing is probably the way they manage everything, particularly with negotiation.
How do they justify their value? Will they stand and fight? Are they prepared to walk away? All of those things, because those traits and habits will work for you or against you when you're selling.
Rebeka: Yeah, I agree. We had a fairly tense conversation about-
Sam: The couple?
Rebeka: Some, a couple of tense- but that's okay because it's a big job for you and it's a huge decision for me. Some of those things, sometimes I don't want to hear what you've got to say. I don't need to stomach it. Sometimes I'm like, "Well, we want to negotiate." You're like, "Well, why am I going to negotiate with you if I can't hold my end of the other side?" I understand that. From that perspective, I think that's actually really logical and smart, but it's not something that you come out from the first instinct.
Your first instinct is, "Am I getting a good deal?" You are getting a good deal because what are we talking about? We're talking about a fraction of a per cent across the sale price, but if you can get an extra 50,000, 100,000, it's nothing comparatively.
Sam: Ultimately, you don't realize the value of your agent until you look back retrospectively. You have to do a lot of work upfront to make sure you've got the right person and the right team. The fee is not irrelevant. It's highly relevant. It just needs to be fair and reasonable. Make sure you're getting fair value, but don't pick your agent on the fee is the underlying advice because, in the end, it's about what's leftover. It's about the net outcome, the net proceeds of the sale. If you save 5,000 on an agent, and they cost you 50,000 because they didn't know the buyer, they couldn't negotiate, it's a really expensive lesson to learn. You're better off paying 3% for the right agent rather than 1%. I see it every day of the week. It's an expensive lesson to learn.
Rebeka: Yeah. I think there's a level of comfort you've got to have with that person as well. Going back to that relationship that you were talking about, it's trust. Trust to me is, let's say like the seven touch factors before you can really understand a person. I do that, but when someone speaks poorly of someone else and agents have a habit-- Some agents, you could say, have a habit of telling you maybe a little bit more about the buyer than they should. Some of these types of things or telling stories. I feel like that's a good indication of what you're going to get on the outside as well. You're looking at all that relationship stuff. You're going to be in a stressful situation generally.
Sam: Yes, totally.
Rebeka: Even if it goes really well, it's kind of stressful.
Sam: It's never without its stress. The best campaigns have their stressful moments. The best houses have challenges. The best results are not always achieved in a straight line. The scenic route is taken more often than not- to get to the right outcome, so you've got to be prepared. That journey with whoever you're engaging, Liking them and trusting them is really, really important. There are so many things that are much more important than just the fee.
If you're recapping on the things that are important, do your homework, create a shortlist, market, test them, understand their process to make sure it matches with your requirements. Part of that process may include, when will they communicate with me? Will they bring all of the offers to me? Is the strategy right for my home?
Rebeka: You're right because that's the thing. You also need them to present a strategy because you've got off-market, you've got auctions, you've got expression of interest. They're all great strategies but for the right house.
Sam: Yes, totally. This shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all approach. Just the agent's willingness to view the home, take some time to consider strategy is something that I would be looking at. Like, "Well, yes, they're thinking about it. They're not just trying to put me through the production line." That's important. That's really important.
Rebeka: Some of those strategies are more of a pain in the arse than others for the agent. If they're willing to go down that path, then that's also good.
Sam: Absolutely, a very good sign that you're on the right path if all of that is coming out, and it's being discussed and you're going through that process, and then you can pick the best agent from that process that we've just recapped on.
Rebeka: I think there's so much more that we love to go into. Maybe this is another topic. There's so much in this because it is emotional and it's a big decision. There are not that many times where we're transacting hundreds of thousands of dollars, and having to do it based on a 30-minute or 15-minute viewing.
Sam: Totally. Sometimes it might pay to get some third party advice. Some people do that if they're really anxious and they can't do it themselves. They can engage with advocates and things like that to help them navigate that process. That's also an option that exists. If you're in a market that you're totally unfamiliar with and you can't get that intel easily, there are professional services out there that can help guide you and help you, as well.
Rebeka: We are, actually, interviewing a buyer's advocate at some point, so stay tuned to hear all about that. If we happen to be in the Inner North and selling a family home, and we wanted to reach out to you, how would we do that?
Sam: You can email me. It's a very long email address, so I'll just give you my phone number. Actually, that would be 0425-834-583 is the best way to get in touch with me.
Rebeka: Make note of how long it takes him to call you back because that's a good indicator. [laughs] I'm joking, I'm sorry.
Sam: [laughs] It's very true.
Rebeka: That's really unfair. [laughs]
Sam: [laughs] It is very unfair.
Rebeka: Conference, to get out to pick up the phone all the time. [laughs] Thank you so much for that
Sam: You're welcome.
Rebeka: Again, I think that's a really good understanding of where to start with. To be honest, I wish I had have had all this information when I started. When I started, I used an agent who'd been hounding me and maybe, wasn't the right person for that specific job that I was doing, so I had to learn the hard way. I think learning the hard way is a good lesson but it's expensive, and it's much better to get the information upfront.
Sam: Totally. Yes, absolutely great. In summary from my end, just be aware the agents who make it all sound too easy, give you the highest price, the cheapest fee, and then hound you. I think there's something to be said about being wary of that.
Rebeka: Look, a couple of off-market references never goes astray. They would find that out fairly quickly if I had have done that, but I didn't. Lesson learned. Thank you so much.
Sam: You're welcome. Thanks for this.
Rebeka: We'll speak to you soon.
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