Boy Is It Hard to Find A Listing Agent/ Realtor in VA

This is part 1 of a new series on picking a Realtor to list your home in Virginia. Make sure you subscribe to the blog.

Wow, do I feel for you! It is REALLY hard to find a good Listing Agent/Realtor… anywhere (not just Virginia).

How do I know? Because I’m going through it right now! I’m helping my brother pick a Realtor to sell his house in Texas (yep not doing FSBO since I want him to net more).

Overcoming his hesitations are EXACTLY like customers here. It is HARD to cut through the BS. Here are some typical questions he had and my answers. (He was amazed that I had a blog post for everything. Also I apologize for jumping around.)

1) I taught him to not fall for the oldest trick in the Realtor book… the Buying a Listing Trick (recommend a high price to win the listing, just to drop later, which nets the client even less). He got that, so he warned the agents he was talking to that he wanted real pricing and he would NOT pick based on the highest price.

2) When he mentioned staging, one Realtor’s reply was Sure we can do that, or we can list, wait two weeks and then stage it. That might save you some money.

What! Boy did this tick me off. Made me want to pull my hair out and look like I did before my hair drug medicine (see actual photo of me).

Any good marketer knows that you have one chance to make a great impression. You want all marketing efforts to peak at the same time (even down to the exact best day to list, which I think is Thursday). 80% of your visitors will see your vacant stale house? No way. “Run from that Realtor!”

But doesn’t it sound so good? “to save you some money.” Everyone wants to save money!! Even though that might “cost” you tens of thousands. Here is a video on staging costs (specifically granite) and calculating your return on investment (staging ROI)

3) Realtor and Stager in one? Some might be offended by this, and go ahead and call me a Brainist.” I don’t think those with a degree in design can do staging full time AND be a full time Realtor. They are completely separate parts of the brain. (I messed up here, I initially had him talk to a combo stager/Realtor, but he got the sense that the combo‘er, not to be confused with a comb-over, was not a numbers person. The combo’er said, “my Realtor friend Sally thinks we should price it at XYZ.” That isn’t what a seller wants to hear.)

Also it is hard to find a good stager/redesigner. Some even lie! And you know I’ll call them out on it. See: Stager Caught Lying About “17 day avg” Results!

4) Find a great stager 1st and you will find a great Realtor. (kinda sounds epic?)
(shameless plug… earmuffs… If you are looking for a listing agent in Northern Virginia, MD, DC, then you can skip this step since you already found us… end shameless plug.)
Whenever I jump into an abyss (non DC area) to help a college friend, or a relative find a Realtor… I first find a great stager (I use ActiveRain). I ask the stagerWho uses you frequently and always uses super wide angle photos?” Man of man this eliminates 97-99% of the Realtors and leaves me with some great options. I’m sorry, while it won’t guarantee anything, if I find a Realtor that requires all of their listings be staged, I am 99% confident they will not be a Sucky Listing Agent. Ask Dave and Bill, they were thrill when their houses sold in a down market for over what they were expecting.

5) Another Realtor wanted to hurry and list the property in 48 hours.
I told my bro, no fear… I have a blog post for that too. THROW-UP listings. Do it “RIGHT,” Not “RIGHT NOW!” I consider this to be a trick. Some Realtors go to some brain-washing Realtor training programs (you know who you are) and they push: #1 GET THE LISTING SIGNED. And “How many listings did you sign up this week, did you make quota.” They don’t really care about getting their client top dollar. They just wanna crank through a mass quantity of deals. Fast, Fast Fast. Sorry, it takes time to do it
right, and doing it right, nets the seller MORE!

6) Another hesitation from my brother: “But I want the Realtor that sells everything in the neighborhood.” While there can be some benefits, I know some VERY sucky agents that do a crapload of business.
Here is their secret… They spend $100,000 (yes 5 zeros) sending out postcards endlessly. The postcards look like they are trying to sell somebody’s home. But the inside scoop (which you only get on this blog, so make sure to sign up) is they are NOT marketing the home at all (postcards don’t sell homes, especially “sold cards”). They are MARKETING THEMSELVES NOT THE PROPERTY!

They spend a boat load of $ to get you to call them. That in NO WAY correlates with them being any good at getting you the highest net.
Why don’t I get into that business? If the $100k pays for itself, why not? Because it disgusts m
e. I’ll just blog and save a forest. I love flipping through those 4-color magazines in grocery stores. With full page ads “selling” homes. That does NOT sell homes, that sells the Realtor and lets them say “look I will put you in this glossy magazine” that no buyers look at. They instead use the interweb.

Other BS.
7) Don’t fall for the guy that uses in his pitch “Google XYZ area and look, I’m #1.” Like above, that just means they know how to do Search Engine Optimization by hiring a firm in India to write mini articles to get their ranking up. Search engines do NOT sell your home, but it might get you to contact that Realtor. Sure sounds powerful doesn’t it? If he can market himself, he can market my home. Yes logical. But no, it is not correlated.

As part of that Realtors’ (NOT MINE) “10 questions to ask a Listing agent”
“How many Buyers are you working with currently? Everybody knows the more buyers your listing agent is working with, the better your chances of selling your property quickly. It will also
affect price because a listing agent with many buyers can establish an auction-like atmosphere where many buyers all bid on your home at the same time.”

8) I got this from a blog reader today, “Jake” thought I’d like to highlight the BS. This came from a Realtor he was getting a newsletter from (he betrayed me I guess):

Are you kidding me? See pulling out hair photo above. This is such BS. And if it isn’t, make sure you are not hiring that agent as a buyer agent, because she just admitted she is going to screw you if you buy her listing. (Meanwhile I tell buyers NOT to buy my listings)

9) Not all Real Estate bloggers are good Realtors. (and vice versa). Ha, this is worthy of another full post.

I had a prospective buyer (from my blog) call me and say he was hesitant because he used a New York Realtor that was a well-read blogger, but they ultimately didn’t think he was any good.

On the flip side, I had a buyer that wanted a recommendation for a Realtor in another town. I gave her a great Realtor’s name. But the seller didn’t want to use that Realtor… because she didn’t have a blog. Too funny. I have been bugging her to start one, but she says she isn’t a witty writer. Also she gets tons of referral from satisfied prior clients and is happy with her deal flow. Kudos to her!

Morale: not all Realtor bloggers suck, and not all non-blogger Realtors don’t suck. (got that?)

So the bottom line is I feel for you. It is tough. So much trash to weed through. All I can say is if you read this far into the blog post, you are doing your homework and I commend you. Class 2 is for you to read the rest of my Listing Agent Advice posts. ;-)

Wish me luck with my brother, and a blogger loves his commenters, even if you say “hi, thanks.”
Sign up for more progress reports on my brother’s listing.

Written by Frank Borges LL0SA

Please report typos.
Brain photo by Gaetan Lee

  • 9
  • March
  • 2009

19 Responses to “Boy Is It Hard to Find A Listing Agent/ Realtor in VA”

  1. Gabe Sanders, Stuart Florida Real Estate (Premier Realty Group) says:

    Great post Frank. Thanks – I hope a lot of people read this.

  2. Margaret Woda, Maryland Real Estate (Long and Foster, Crofton Real Estate) says:

    When someone you know is trying to choose a good REALTOR, it really does bring home what consumers are going through. Each time one of my children went looking for an agent, I ended up tweaking my marketing or presentations. Just look… it gave you tons of inspiration for this excellent post!

  3. Missy Caulk-Ann Arbor- Realtor(R)- Ann Arbor Real Estate (Keller Williams-Ann Arbor) says:

    396,087 Points 71 Featured Posts Localism Sponsor Outside Blog Listing Router

    It always helps us to see the junk out there when we are either buying or selling. I agree with you on two points specifically:

    1. Impossible to be a full time Realtor and Stager
    2. Not all good bloggers are good Realtors

  4. Jon Zolsky (FunCoast Realty LLC) says:


    When my friends need help outside of my area, I go to CRS site and go by the area, where I need help. Then I look at the list, and then compare paying attention to education (they have tons of continuing courses), whether they are on AR and whether I like what they write.

    But the first test is the photo. If on CRS site the list of 20 and there are 3 photos, I already narrowed to 3 agents.

    I think it eliminated a lot of troubles that you are trying to avoid, and so far worked very well each time.

    The funny part is that I do not have CRS myself.

  5. FRANK LL0SA Va Broker- says:

    18 Featured Posts

    Jon, You nailed it. You don’t have a “CRS,” and either do I. I know many bad agents that dedicate their life to having as many symbols after their name as possible. And the 3 photos… that doesn’t mean they are better, it just means they thought about registering on the site, or have nothing better to do because they have no business.

  6. Marianne Sweet, Home Sweet Home Staging, LLC Rochester Hills, MI says:

    Well Frank, you’ve touched a nerve in me today. I just lost a job to a staging Realtor.

    I was asked to submit a bid on a vacant flip house because I was highly recommended by another Realtor. The flipper told me up front that he had used this staging Realtor in the past, but thought it smart to get a second opinion. He told me that while I would be more reasonably-priced and knew I would do a great job, he felt a loyalty to this staging Realtor and was going to hire her (as the stager, NOT the listing agent, by the way). OK. I respect that. I just pulled up the photos on MLS. The staging is adequate, but far from fabulous.

    So, while I understand a listing agent staging their own listing as part of their marketing/commission, I question having a side business staging for other sellers.

  7. Jeff Royce, Frankly Real Estate says:

    Marianne…you just touched a nerve in me. I just lost a listing job to an agent who didn’t want to stage (I have clients do a full staging). The seller told me he preferred the other agents strategy of pricing the house very low, in it’s present condition, and letting the market bid the house up.

    Frank…I appreciate the post. I’d love to see some empirical evidence of how much higher staged houses sell in comparison to the amount spent on staging them. I’m guessing not enough sellers stage to get a good pool of data for that study though.

  8. Leslie Olson - Home Staging and Interior Design - Marin County CA: says:

    Frank — your blogs are always refreshing and informative, thank you!

    I’d also want to select a Realtor who’s honest and forthright about the market (overall and specific to your area). Setting realistic expectations is important, and comparables from a year ago — even 6 months ago — aren’t relevant today. Artificial optimism and spin make me very suspicious. Does the Realtor work with a particular (or more than one) stager? Can you see examples of their work? Are the examples appropriate to the architecture of the home and its target market?

    I concur with everything Michelle mentions above — excellent comments.

    By the way I just moved from Austin a few months ago. If your brother is looking for a Realtor in Austin I might have some suggestions.

  9. Anonymous says:

    As always, enjoyed your blog. This one was especially good and I loved the wheel cam video too. When we ever do shake enough quarters out of the couch for a down payment, you’re our man. The only thing: check your spelling on “moral”. ;) Also, will you ever do another post on the rent vs. buy calculation again, given the “new economy”?

  10. Edward Lui, Georgetown Texas Real Estate says:

    Yeah, I hate those agents with all those symbols after their names too. Is your bro near Georgetown?

    Edward, abcdefg!@#$#@$)*, CRS

  11. million says:

    Does baking brownies = staging?

  12. Brandon says:

    All great advice Frank!

  13. Brian says:

    Great post – I always enjoy the “wheel-estate cam” videos!

    You are right on the money once again… I’ll admit, I’m a 1st time home buyer with -no vision-! I see the newly remodeled homes, “granite” counter tops, wood floors, kitchens, etc… and get SUCKED right in to want to pay more! I honestly don’t know how much the remodeling costs… I just think it’s $$$$ so perhaps it’s better to pay up front and appreciate it. That’s a better $$ deal for the seller though, not me.

    PS- Really enjoyed the “coupon book” tips and humor! Deals, deals, deals!

  14. Brian says:

    Boy Is It Hard to Find A BUYER Agent/ Realtor in MD/VA

    Where do I go about finding one… does FranklyRealty have any up in the Baltimore/Columbia region? Most all of the realtors on the franklymls are Northern VA as well. =(

  15. How unfortunate that some (or perhaps most . . . you did say a “crapload” of business) consumers equate postcards and glossy magazine ads with competency and/or the right agent for them. In your experience what kind of references are these agents able to offer prospects (assuming they get asked for any)?

  16. Gabriel Thy says:

    Great blog! Love the aesthetics. Love the info. First of all, I’m a fading punk rock geezer who’s run the gamut in terms of unrelated fieldwork I’ve accomplished in my fifty plus years. Secret agency kind of stuff. Insert laugh track. No, I mean it. From civil engineering to self-published author (ah, more common ground), from web developer to being active in the DC arts community for 25 years, and way too much in between to bother you with right now, but let’s just say, I’ve earned my backaches. So I like your style. Just got my VA realtors license (don’t hiss), but need to sell my elegant but eclectic condo in DC ASAP so my wife can join me out in western Loudoun County. I know you advocate against FSBOs which scares me all the way down to my britches since that was my bottom line saving strategy. But I dig all the other straight talk I’ve been reading (much of which has matched my own keen instincts) since I first joined the real estate industry, uh, less than a month ago. OK. More than you needed to know, too much more perhaps, but I look forward to sifting through what I’ve missed of your postings, and getting those fresh hot cross buns right off the presses. Thanks for being here Frank…

  17. Rob Alley says:

    Great post –

    You are right once again… I’ll admit, I’m a 1st time home buyer with -no vision-! I see the newly remodeled homes, “granite” counter tops, wood floors, kitchens, etc… and get SUCKED right in to want to pay more! I honestly don’t know how much the remodeling costs… I just think it’s $$$$ so perhaps it’s better to pay up front and appreciate it. That’s a better $$ deal for the seller though, not me.

  18. As a stager and wife of a realtor, I loved, loved, loved this blog!
    Great humor and great advice as to how to select a realtor. When my husband and I tried to sell an out of state property, we made the HUGE mistake of choosing a “combo’er” realtor/stager. This combo’er definately did not know how to access the design part of the brain. The realtors “staging” efforts resulted in severely compromising the seller/realtor relationship because we were so unhappy with the service. I had to get on a plane and go undo the damage so that we could get the house sold.

  19. Sandy Baker says:

    Well – I want to join the long line of stagers reacting to your post. Selling a home is one distinct skill and staging / decorating a home is an entirely different skill set. I don’t pretend to be able to sell a house and I don’t know any realtors that are qualified to stage. Leave it to the professionals!

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