“THIS IS THE JOB”: Seven Things That Real Estate Agents and Brokers Do that Are Not Good Enough

In a post last week, I argued that the enemy of the good is not the great, but the crappy. That is, the classic cliche that the “enemy of the good is the great” has some truth for perfectionist types that have difficulty finishing projects because they’re never quite “good enough,” but the bigger problems in the real estate industry are actually caused by agents and brokers who  do crappy work instead of good work.

The enemy of the good, I argued, is that so many people settle for doing things poorly in situations where doing them great does not take all that much more time, energy, or money.

Why? Because sometimes those things are boring, or difficult, or take a lot of time. But like I tell my agents: THAT’S THE JOB!  The job is doing those things.

Put it this way. You know what job I don’t want? Being a mover. I really wouldn’t like being a mover. I hated having to move myself, and that was my own stuff. I’d really hate schlepping around with YOUR stuff.  When I lived in Manhattan, I had a four-story walkup, and every time I got something delivered, the guys (not being sexist, it was always guys) would huff and puff while they climbed the stairs, complaining about the walkup.

My reaction was always the same: “THIS IS THE JOB!”.  If I lived on the ground floor, I could carry my own stuff in.  The only reason I AM PAYING YOU is that it requires carrying heavy stuff up stairs, and I am a soft, pasty man who doesn’t like carrying heavy stuff up stairs.  So stop complaining about the job.

It’s like if you went to the dentist, and the dentist looked at you and said, “Oh, God, more teeth. I hate teeth.”  THIS IS THE JOB!

So let’s stop complaining about things that we have to do for our jobs. If we can do things the right way, and the right way requires just a little more work than the crappy way, then do it the right way.

I got some emails from people who asked for specific examples to demonstrate the point, and I came up with exactly seven. Not nine, not six, but seven.  Amazing how that always happens.

So here are seven things that most agents and brokers could do that would be great, but most do crappily:

1.  Crappy Pictures of Listings

This is one of my pet peeves about the real estate industry.  Even thought great pictures of listings are the single best way to market a home, most agents take too few pictures, and take them poorly. It’s like the old joke: the food is bad, and the portions are too small.

There’s no excuse for this. Good digital cameras are cheap, and if you learn how to use them they can take really great pictures. You just need a decent-sized sensor, a wide angle lens, and a basic understanding of lighting.  And then you just need to keep snapping. Most MLS systems allow for a lot more pictures than most agents submit, and some allow for high-resolution photos. Instead, though, you’ll see a listing for a high-end property that has 4,000 square feet, a pool, and two acres, and you’ll get eight pictures with none of the pool, or the grounds, or half the rooms.

That’s unacceptable, and it’s not because the agent was trying to be great and thus couldn’t be good.  The agent was willing to settle for crappy.

2.  Crappy Property Descriptions

The same goes for property descriptions. It takes a little time to sit down and write a good property description, one that engages the reader, describes the entire property, and inspires buyers to want to see it. Probably not a lot of time. Not as much time, for example, as it took me to write this post, but a little time.

But most agents under self-imposed pressure to get a description done in the inadequate 24 hours that most MLS’s require to get listings uploaded will just dash off a couple of cliches, use abbreviations as if they’re under a strict word count, and just leave it there like a festering pile of crapulence for the entire listing term without every revising it.  Not good enough.

3.  Crappy Listing Information

What are the taxes? What is the square footage? Does the property have an updated certificate of occupancy for the new porch or downstairs bathroom?  That’s something that buyers need to know, and listing agents need to provide. But most agents never confirm the taxes, never go to the municipality to get the property card to confirm the C/O, and are often afraid to provide estimations of square footage for fear of being sued if they get it wrong.

But that’s the job. You’re brokering a piece of property. How can you do that properly if you haven’t confirmed that the property is legal.  All that’s going to happen is that the lack of the C/O is going to show up on a municipal search and delay the closing. Or you’ll get the taxes wrong and the buyer will demand some sort of concession. And even if you get the square footage wrong, just make clear in listing that it’s estimated and you’ll be pretty much safe from lawsuits.

Getting that information, and getting it right, is not a lot of work, and it’s the job.

4.  Crappy Broker web sites.

Okay, we’ve hammered the agents enough, what about the brokers? Most broker websites are abominable.  Indeed, most brokers don’t even have a website, and it’s 2011.  I can set up a reasonably professional website with a dedicated domain in bout two hours for less than $100 to write Star Trek fan fiction, and brokers who are selling millions of dollars in real estate every year do not have a website.

And even if they have a website, most of them are pretty crappy.  I’m not talking about “crappy” in the way that the smart guys at 1000WattBlog talk about real estate websites that are not intuitive or up-to-date or client friendly, and have the challenge of competing with well-funded national sites like Trulia or Zillow. I’m talking about stuff like this (no names or links, because I’m not trying to disparage anyone personally):

  • A local competitor of mine in Orange County, New York, one of the top 3 brokers by marketshare in the area, whose front page of the website has two paragraphs of text with three grammatical errors and discusses all of its 2009 accomplishments.  2009!!!!  Obviously, one of the 2010 accomplishments did not involve updating the website…
  • A local competitor of mine in Rockland County, New York, one of the top 5 by marketshare, whose website has scrolling text, flashing links (smiley faces), about 50 link icons and over 80 links on the sidebar.  80 links!  Lots of stuff I don’t even know what it is, but I did find the “Contact Us” link there, coming in at number 75, right above the “Find Your Agent”.  Can you imagine sifting through 75 links to find a “contact us” page?
I could do this all day, but the fact is that at least those companies have websites. By my calculation, about 35% of the business in our market is done by companies that don’t even have one.  That’s seems odd, given that the internet has kind of become a big thing.

5.  Crappy Agent web page pictures.

Earlier this year, my company had an “Extreme Makeover” training class for about 300 agents.  During the full-day class, we provided every agent who attended with new head shots.  The photographer was actually in the back of the room, and people signed up for times and would get up from the class to take their picture when it was their time.  Why? Because I was tired of low-resolution, lousy headshots on marketing materials and the website.

You can go get a good headshot for $40, and put it on every piece of marketing that you do. Or you can continue to have that cropped, low resolution photo that a friend took with a camera phone four years ago, and use that as the way you present yourself to the world.  Get a new picture.

6.  Crappy Disclosure Documentation

Disclosure documentation is a fact of life in the real estate business.  Every agent meeting with every client is supposed to provide a set of documents for disclosure and acknowledgment. If that’s the case, though, why are most disclosures so crappy? Why are brokers still requiring agents to provide clients, at the first meeting, when first impressions are formed, with documents that are fourth-generation copies of copies, on different-sized paper, all bundled haphazardly in a cheap folder.

It’s such a terrible system.  The first impression you make on your clients is that you’re too cheap to get professional forms copied. Brokers — find out what forms you definitely need for a new listing, and a new buyer, and get them bound together and copied professionally so that they look good, don’t get lost, and make a good impression. It costs a little more, and it takes a little more work, and you get killed on printing costs when the stupid department of state makes a technical change on the New York State Agency Disclosure form and leaves you with 5,000 extra copies of your bound disclosure packets that you now are going to use for mulch (okay, that’s pretty much just me, this year).

But on the whole, you make a better impression than when your agent has to root around in a folder looking for some grainy copy of a form that might have fallen out in the car.

7.  Crappy Industry Knowledge

Why do so few brokers and agents stay on top of what’s happening in the industry? Every year, I attend about four or five industry conferences. I see the same people there. We all know each other. But I’m shocked at how few agents and brokers actually attend these gatherings.

And for the most part, agents and brokers don’t even follow industry news.  Each week, I send out an email with industry and real estate news.  The biggest response I get is that the email is too long.  Too long!  It’s news about the industry we work in, with information that keeps us up to date about how we can best service our clients!

Imagine going to the doctor and he looks over at a pile of medical journals on this desk and says, “Oii, I hate reading all that stuff.”  Would you feel good about your upcoming surgery?

Yes, going to industry conferences can be expensive and a drain on your time. And, yes, trying to follow the unending stream of news about the industry and the market can seem like a full time job. But that is, after all, the job.

So do the job well.


  1. Jeff Rothstein says:

    you crack me up…the truth always makes me laught…I couldn’t agree with with you more…”Crappy is the enemy of good”… unless its great crap.

  2. Bottom line, the real estate industry is filled with licensed individuals who do not take their jobs seriously or even consider their job as a true profession. It’s unfortunate for those of us who do take the JOB seriously will be judged based on a rotten apple within the barrel. Love the term, crapulence!


  1. […] In a post last week, I argued that the enemy of the good is not the great, but the crappy. That is, the classic cliche that the "enemy of the good is the great" has some truth for perfectionist types that have difficulty finishing projects because they're never quite "good enough," but the bigger problems in the real estate industry are actually caused by agents and brokers who  do crappy work instead of good work. The enemy of the good, I argued … Read More […]