I was evaluating some Property Management software recently, which was still in the “beta” stages of development. Beta software is commonly thought to be ready enough to function, but is expected to have undiscovered bugs and flaws, and may not be ready or stable enough for production use. I decided against this particular software because it has shortcomings and limitations I cannot live with.
I started thinking of some of the many past encounters we’ve had with what I would call “beta version” Realtors. These are freshly minted, green agents who have passed some testing requirements, such as passing the real estate exam and completing basic training classes, but have not yet been proven as stable and reliable in a “production” environment.
Now all they need are some beta testers. Like beta software, many of these beta agents will never achieve the level of maturity and stability required to move into full production release status. They’ll never become Version 1.0. But they will be tested by some users (clients), with varying results, before the market spits them out. Some will pass the test and become great agents, but they still have to be tested first.
Will that beta tester be you? And is it a good idea to use a Newbie Agent to help buy or sell your home in Austin?
All things being equal, I think most people would be better served by an experienced, market proven agent, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be well served by a newbie. We’ve done quite a few deals with brand new agents and, in many case (but not always), they do a pretty good job for their client, even if it’s their very first deal.
The common elements present in a good “beta” agent are that they are careful, detail oriented, willing to listen, and they have a Broker who is actively mentoring or supporting them on the other side of the deal. In other words, they are a new, but very well developed and supported product.
It also helps if the particular deal we are working isn’t one in which some of the tougher problems and issues arise. But we’ve had a few very tough and complicated transactions with new agents on the other side, and they survived and will be better agents for the experience. New agents usually also don’t have any other deals going on, so they can stay focused and on top of things (provided they are that type of person to begin with). They are so excited just to have a deal going that they are fully engaged and available to the transaction and its participants.
One potential problem with newbie agents though is that they haven’t seen many, if any inspection reports and therefore don’t have the experience or frame of reference to put an inspection report into proper context for their buyer. Surviving the inspection and Option Period is an important element of every transaction. For example, experienced agents know that most 1980’s houses will produce an ugly inspection report, in part due to code changes since the house was built but also because it is in fact a 20 or 30 year old house. When a newbie buyer agent tries to negotiate for their buyer the curing of every last item indicated on an inspection report, their inexperience shows.
Experienced agents warn our buyers before we write an offer on an older house what to expect from the inspection report, and that the buyer needs to be prepared to accept some imperfections in the older home, or look for a newer home. We also have seen enough homes and inspection reports to know when a buyer should go ahead and walk away from a home with numerous and/or chronic problems, and we don’t hesitate in making that recommendation to buyers when we think a home might be a lemon. Newbies can’t make that judgment call with the same level of certainly as experienced agents.
So is an experienced agent always better? No, oddly enough.
Looking back on all the boneheaded things we’ve encountered with other agents, the newbies by no means have the corner on incompetence or mistake making. An experienced, arrogant, burned out agent 20 years in the business can screw up a deal just as quickly as a newbie. In fact, they may do so even more often because they are more stubborn and ridged in holding to their time worn “way” of of handling the transaction.
The other thing to consider if working with a Newbie Agent is your personal experience in buying or selling homes. If you’ve been through the process numerous times, I’m less worried about you using an energetic, focused new agent who is well supported by an experience Broker. But if you’re a first time buyer, looking in a new city and working with a brand new agent who just moved to Austin 6 months ago herself, you need to find a veteran agent who knows the city and neighborhoods well enough to provide you with a broader overview and perspective on your choices and options.
Finally, if a Newbie Agent is still working a full time job and is only available to handle transaction related tasks after hours and on weekends, I have to say I would not use that agent under any circumstance, unless perhaps they were teamed with a full time partner who can back them up. There are too many last minute, deadline driven tasks during a transaction for you to be properly served by an agent who can’t return your call until after they get off work at their State job.
So, if I were personally moving to a new area and buying a home, I would look first for an experienced, accomplished agent knowledgeable about the areas in which I would be looking. I would want them to be able to answer questions about the history of growth in the area, the current direction of growth, which schools are most favored, average and median prices in different areas of the town, where the traffic bottlenecks are, and other nuances I may not know to ask about. This would be especially important to me if it was lake property, urban condos or some other niche segment that I was buying into, for which a higher level of advice and expertise from the agent is a must.
But I certainly would not automatically rule out working with an enthusiastic newbie who had the support and resources of an established Broker and other agents in the office who could fill any gaps in knowledge or experience. Even the very best agents had someone as their first or second client.
Finally, one of our most valuable software tools, Google Calender, is still technically in “beta”, and we could not live without it. Sometimes the beta version can actually be the best for you.