Online showing request buttons. I love the one from Zillow. Just think, you too can "appear as the agent!"
by Sean Hess (Sean@StAugTeam.com), Broker and Manager for St. Augustine Team Realty (www.StAugustineTeamRealty.com). Join us on Facebook.
In a perfect world you could jump online, press the “I Want To See This House” button (or “Schedule A Showing” button, etc.) available on a lot of the home search engines, show up, and someone would be there to let you in.
But it doesn’t really work that well in most places.
From a real estate brokerage standpoint it’s pretty tricky to set up.
“What,” you ask, dear reader “is so incredibly tricky about setting up an appointment?”
It’s a good question, just bear with me for second. I’m going to hit on several points while I work my way back to answering the question.
The real estate industry is dominated by smaller companies. Even if you go to one of the nationally known franchise offices, chances are that franchise owner has only one or two offices. So even though it’s a big franchise (think Re/Max or Century-21), chances are it’s still a small company with a limited resource base.
Item 2: Real estate agents, almost without exception, are independent contractors. “So what?” you say.
Well, “So what?” so this: You can’t order independent contractors to do anything.
Yep. Can’t order ‘em around. They have to pay attention to the law, and in my state I do have some minor authority related to that over my agents (like for instance, I can demand for them to respond if I have questions about a file … that’s a state consumer protection). But I can’t force them to come to meetings, answer the phones, or run out to a house that someone wants to see.
If I do order them to do things as a condition of their job, or if I try to schedule them in any way without their consent they suddenly become employees and my tax structure suddenly changes, and I have to pay them salary. There have been companies that have tried to do this, but without the commission motive driving their agents (the agents don’t have to work too hard if they’re already getting paid), nearly all of these companies have failed.
Item next: When someone punches the “I Want To See It” button we don’t know if they can afford the house yet.
If you are a real estate agent working solely on commission there’s a huge opportunity cost to running out and showing something to an as-yet unqualified buyer.
While you’re out running to show a house to a looky-loo who can’t afford the house they want to see, you miss the opportunity to show it to someone else who can, and your family doesn’t eat. Let that sink in for a minute…
Item last: There’s a huge safety issue with running out to any house to meet a stranger. I don’t feel comfortable with doing it, and most agents don’t feel comfortable doing it either.
So how do companies get agents to answer the phone, etc?
Well, answering the phones or responding to showing requests via email or the “I Want To See It Button” is called “opportunity time” in most real estate offices.
The agents recognize that this is a way to meet additional prospects. This solves the first problem of getting independent contractor agents to take the requests willingly for a set time (as opposed to forcing someone to sit in a chair during a set time).
The reason they aren’t going to show it to you right away are for a mixture of the other three reasons.
If someone is waiting for your request via opportunity time, they aren’t getting paid to sit there, and they aren’t going to hand you off to another agent. So you will have to do it when they can do it, though generally opportunity time agents have more flexible schedules and will be able to work it in.
Secondly, you still have to be qualified, and that might take some time. When you are qualified with a mortgage broker and they’ve met you, then you aren’t a safety risk anymore and you can go out.
If I had a big enough company (let’s say I’m a big-and-ballsy real estate start-up in LA with 100 agents—the typically smaller offices that dominate real estate won’t have the manpower), maybe I put three opportunity-time agents together on the same shift. As the leads come in I have an administrator hand these lead to the first agent, then the second agent, and so on, in order. The agent qualifies the lead and either decides to go out or hold the lead and stay in the pool. Knowing agents, they’ll figure out a way to hold the lead until the shift ends, drop back into the pool and get more leads, and then have a bunch of leads to choose from when they get finished.
But there you are back to square one again!
The upshot is this: You can’t see a home “right now” as a raw beginner.
However, if you’ve been working with an agent already, generally they will drop everything to show you a house “right now.” So you won’t have to hit the “I Want To See It Now” button. By the way, if you do try and schedule an appointment with another Realtor or company while you’re already working with one, chances are both will drop you, because they can’t trust you.
Lastly, if you are a raw beginner, and you aren’t already working with an agent, just email the listing agent. They will qualify you as well, but if you aren’t willing to get qualified there’s an even chance they won’t show you the home.
We will definitely help you find a home, and we’ll help you get qualified first. Just contact me at the email up top or email Kate Stevens, my partner and Broker Associate (904-377-2276).