Who’s the Best?


Before I got into the Real Estate business I had all kinds of false perceptions about what this industry really was and how it worked and in many areas I was very surprised to discover that reality was a whole lot different than my thinking was. Take the dual agency thing I posted about earlier this week. I really thought that most all transactions were done that way, that you got a listing and sold it yourself…and got all that money! I was surprised to find out that wasn’t the case. I had plenty of other misconceptions as well but there’s one that I still hear frequently and involves the “status” or the “prestige” of a given Real Estate office and it can be both from the public as well as from other Realtors. Over the years I’ve heard these types of comments:

“Oh, when we sold our house in Michigan ten years ago we used a Re/Max agent and so naturally we called another one now” (I didn’t discourage that line of thinking, by the way)

“Alain Pinel is really the “high end” “up scale” Real Estate brokerage in this area”

“In our neighborhood we only will deal with Fox & Carskadon & Cornish & Carey” (Too bad they both got swallowed by Coldwell Banker)

” The name Zip Realty is perfect because it accurately reflects the knowledge level of it’s agents”

Now before I get deluged by angry Zip agents let me say that 1. I really did hear that one once. 2. It’s pretty funny and 3. MOST IMPORTANTLY I don’t believe it to be true. I’ve had a couple of transactions with Zip agents and they’ve been fine. I work at historically the most productive office in San Mateo county, yet when I go to Palo Alto to present an offer some of the agents there tend to act like I’m Jethro Bodine just in from the sticks. They have this interesting sort of “Re/Max…ewww” visceral reaction to my presence. It’s really pretty amusing, and if you think I’m picking on Palo Alto I had an office mate once in San Carlos who joked that his Passport didn’t allow him to travel to San Bruno to show or sell homes.

Here’s my point, I don’t think any one particular office is the best. I think there are great agent’s at Coldwell Banker, Cashin, Alain Pinel, Intero, Re/Max…and on down the line. I know great agents who work out of small 2 person offices and terrible agents that work out of great big ones. I’ve thrown around those numbers about the large percentage of agents that sold 2 or less houses last year, but here’s an equally amazing statistic…only 7% of the agents in the San Mateo county board sold 12 or more properties in 2007. Of that group you’ll find agent’s from several different offices. This business is incredibly agent focused. A smart seller will choose from a selection of the best because it will pay off for them. Honestly, one of the most shocking things to me in Real Estate is the fact that every once in awhile somebody get’s my office’s phone number from the Yellow pages, calls and tells the receptionist that they want to sell their home. She has a list in front of her of the agents that have signed up for a shift as the designated agent to receive calls at that time. Usually the floor call agents are the newest. I’m not trying to be mean to new agents, and I sure remember how hard it was to get started myself, but I can’t imagine wanting to sell a million dollar property and making the choice of who to use based exclusively on the brand name on the sign above the office door or in a Yellow Pages ad.  

I actually refer several clients each year to agents out of state who’ll help them in the market’s they’re moving to and when I do that I go to the database of a national organization that I’m a part of made up of like minded Realtors…not the Re/Max database.  Typically I’ll search agents there, call several of them and get a feel for them before I’ll pass the referral to my clients. What office they work for doesn’t matter to me at all…it’s the quality of the individual that counts most. In every instance I’ve gotten terrific feedback from my clients…who have in fact made a friend in their new town.


  1. Hilarious about Palo Alto! I can TOTALLY see that down there.

  2. If you think that’s bad you should see Atherton. I sold a house there in 2006…agent condescension like you wouldn’t believe, from agent’s that sell one house a year.

  3. It really comes down to the agent. I don’t pay much attention to the company. Most agents are independent contractors. So, when I refer out to someone who I don’t know, I interview the agent.

  4. I prefer (Notice it is a PREFERENCE) to work with an agent at a larger office so that if there is a problem there is someone to actually go to for help if the agent is not handling things appropriately. BUT, yes the agent is usually more important than the office

  5. If we’re talking about buyer agents, certainly the agent is way more important than the agency.

    However, I can see where an owner of a special property may prefer a larger brokerage firm. The larger firm often has more resources, readily available, to market that “unique” or “luxury” property, than the one or two person office. Of course, the agent they choose, within that firm, is still of prime importance.

  6. I was with two large offices, previously to opening my own. Size doesn’t seem to matter to the client. They want the personal service, experience and education of their agent, not of the company that the agent works at. I am thankful to be recognized and referred to my clients friends, family and co-workers.

  7. Jim – You make a great point that the agent is more important than the agency. When choosing any service, the immediate contact or service provider should be the primary factor in the decision process. I agree with Marilyn – when selecting a buyer agent, the individual you select may be the only factor – but when selling a property, it’s also wise to consider the resources supporting (and available to) the agent in order to effectively market the property to the greatest number of potential buyers.

Speak Your Mind