Perceptions of Real Estate

WHO IS BETTER AT REAL ESTATE, men or women? What do consumers really think of the real estate profession? Are your customers listening on social media? Some stereotypes and industry assumptions have just been smashed by a landmark survey analysing vendor experiences with agents. Kylie Davis from CoreLogic reports on the findings.

The Consumer Perceptions of Real Estate Agents survey conducted by CoreLogic attracted nearly 300 respondents who had recently sold a property. They were asked to rate their experiences and rank the behaviours and skills that they thought their agents had excelled at – or done poorly.

The aim of the survey was to understand the quality of real estate agent performance and service in Australia and how it matched – or missed – the expectations vendors have when selling their homes.

Respondents were sourced from around the country from the MyRPData client base and social media, with 54 per cent having sold their home within the past two years and 26 per cent having sold in the past six months, ensuring their experiences with agents were fresh in their minds.

First up, the survey identified that the stereotype of real estate agents being untrustworthy smooth-talkers who put their own needs above those of their clients is not the same as it used to be. The overwhelming majority of vendors – 66 per cent – rated their overall experience when selling their home as either ‘excellent’ (31 per cent) or ‘good’ (35 per cent), with 20 per cent claiming the experience was ‘average’ and 14 per cent ‘below expectations’.

A huge 68 per cent of respondents said they would recommend their agent to friends or family, with 36 per cent claiming they expected to stay in touch or use him or her again and an additional 26 per cent saying they would consider it.

“Agents need to be honest and realistic – even if it means they don’t get the listing” – survey respondent.

The survey also identified that real estate agents are managing price expectations well, with 50 per cent of those surveyed selling for the expected price and 23 per cent selling above. One in four sold below the expected price.

The time it took a property to sell was also directly related to the satisfaction vendors felt about their agent. Of those surveyed, 39 per cent sold their property in less than 30 days while 24 per cent sold between 30 and 45 days. Only five per cent took a year or more to sell.

But vendors also highlighted the importance of transparency around price conversations.

“Agents need to be more honest about the price appraisals upfront so they don’t have to condition you down,” said one respondent when asked Just one agent Two agents Three agents More than three agents 0% what agents should do to improve their services. “Agents need to advise about prices realistically, and not inflate them to get the listing and then tell us we need to come down,” said another.

The survey also identified a gap in agent behaviour in this space.

When asked what information the agent had provided to show their market knowledge when presenting to win the vendor’s business, 79 per cent said they had been shown information about recent sales and 74 per cent were given an estimated value of the property in the presentation – identifying that one in four vendors were not provided with information about their property value during the presentation.

Even fewer agents (52 per cent) demonstrated to potential vendors their own recent sales and just over half (54 per cent) demonstrated their ability to sell homes similar to the vendors’ by showing recent sales of similar properties.

Just over half (55 per cent) of the agents delivered information about the suburb, such as median prices, growth rates and so on, and only 28 per cent delivered information on the current time on market to vendors as part of their presentation.

Nevertheless, 66 per cent of vendors rated the standard of presentation given by the agent about their property as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’. Only seven per cent said the standard was poor.

“Next time I sell, I will do more research myself and ask a lot more questions in order to be sure the agent was achieving the best price” – survey respondent.

One of the surprises of the survey was the approach vendors took when selecting an agent. Just over half those surveyed (52 per cent) interviewed two or more agents (34 per cent interviewed three or more) while 38 per cent interviewed just one agent before deciding who to use.

When asked to choose which influences had helped them decide upon their agent, 58 per cent were  influenced by seeing an agent successfully sell a local property and 36 per cent relied on recommendation by friends. These two elements were significantly more influential than traditional marketing, such as seeing the agent on a property website, newspaper advertising or signboards. Only three per cent of vendors said they had been influenced by an agent’s social media. The need to do their own homework was a factor. An average of 18 per cent of respondents said they were completely reliant on their agent to provide information on their local market, such as median prices, time on market and top sales, with 82 per cent of vendors conducting their own research to some degree.

But 79 per cent of those surveyed researched similar properties online to see the competition, 55 per cent read up on local market conditions and 37 per cent attended open for inspections of properties similar to their own. The survey also flagged the rising importance of property reports. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed had sourced a report, either free from their bank or mortgage broker, or purchasing one themselves.

Honesty was identified across the survey as the number one imperative that agents needed to demonstrate to vendors from day one to build trust. This was achieved through regular communication and behaviour that was accountable and dependable. Respondent after respondent identified the need for regular feedback and communication with their agent.

“Agents need to communicate with the seller. Keep the seller continually informed with what’s going on and what needs to be done,” said one respondent. “Agents need to communicate more honestly and effectively – even when the news is not good,” said another.

The customer service and response time delivered by agents was rated as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ by 65 per cent of respondents, with 79 per cent of vendors stating that the help their agent provided to ensure they understood all the elements of the sales process and knew what to expect was either ‘good’ (45 per cent) or ‘excellent’ (34 per cent).

Agents were consistently rated very highly by vendors for their ability to handle open for inspections and the sales process, following up potential buyers, marketing and negotiation. However, these were largely regarded as ‘hygiene factors’ by vendors and part of the minimum service level that agents were expected to achieve in order to do the job.

Market knowledge was also regarded as essential, with 40 per cent of respondents stating their agent’s knowledge of the market was ‘excellent’, and a further 36 per cent and 20 per cent saying it was ‘very good’ or ‘good’ respectively. The bulk of vendors surveyed rated their agent’s marketing materials and presentations as ‘very good’ (38 per cent) with 26 per cent categorised as ‘excellent’.

Nevertheless, the confidence  that vendors had in their agents to achieve the results expected changed throughout the sales process.

Before the sales process began, 57 per cent were confident the agent would do a good job and they would get a good price; 39 per cent were hopeful and just 4 per cent dubious that the agent would succeed in selling the property and meet their expectations.

During the sales process, this level of confidence slipped to 50 per cent, with the number of vendors becoming dubious jumping to 11 per cent.

Once the property was sold, only 41 per cent reported being delighted with the performance of the agent, with 42 per cent feeling okay about the experience and 17 per cent unhappy with the final result.

There were marked differences in the way male and female agents performed in this space.

“Our agent got us a higher price than even he expected through good negotiation skills.” – survey respondent.

Vendors were more likely to identify themselves as being impressed and delighted by their agents when their agent had demonstrated behaviours that ‘championed’ their needs as a vendor.

This included suggesting improvements to the property – and helping coordinate the work needed – from things as simple as window washing and small styling recommendations through to organising minor renovations, painting and repairs; alternatively, demonstrating marketing and sales techniques to get the vendor the desired outcome.

Vendors also highly valued agents who were empathetic to their situation and offered emotional support.

“Our agent suggested a marketing strategy which I wasn’t aware of and it worked wonderfully. Obviously the strategy had been developed by him through experience and local knowledge,” wrote one respondent.

“My agent organised a dinner voucher for my husband at a local restaurant while I was away during a weekend of inspections – I was touched by their thoughtfulness as it was a stressful time,” wrote another.

The survey showed 28 per cent of vendors rated their agent’s negotiation skills as ‘excellent’ and 32 per cent said they were ‘very good’. Forty per cent of agents demonstrated ‘excellent’ knowledge of their markets, with a further 36 per cent classified as ‘very good’.

The surprises:

  • The survey identified some surprising behaviours that many agents do not do when working with vendors, especially in light of the importance that vendors placed on better transparency and communication around price
  • Nearly one in five agents did not present any information about recent sales to the vendor
  • One in four agents did not estimate the value of the property to the vendor as part of their presentation
  • Just under half the agents did not present any recent sales to their vendor that their agency had achieved
  • Just over half the agents (54 per cent) did present to vendors homes similar to theirs that had recently sold on the market
  • Only one in five agents did demonstrate the average time on market to vendors.

What some agents do just plain wrong :

  • Just over one in 10 vendors rated their agent’s skills as a negotiator as poor
  • Fifteen per cent of vendors rated their agent’s ability to follow up as poor
  • Twelve per cent of agents were rated as poor in their ability to handle the sales process.

The survey revealed there is a significant difference in the satisfaction levels that vendors experienced when dealing with a female agent compared to a male agent.

Female agents were more likely to be recommended by a friend (47 per cent) than their male counterparts (33 per cent) while male agents were more likely to be chosen after being seen successfully selling a local property (59 per cent for men compared to 53 per cent for women).

Female agents were more likely to deliver an ‘excellent’ quality presentation, compared to just 22 per cent of the male agents, and 66 per cent of vendors with female agents felt they were very well prepared before going through the sales process, compared to 56 per cent of vendors with a male agent.

Women were also perceived as more helpful by vendors, with 40 per cent of respondents rating their agent’s ability to ensure they understood all elements of the sales process as ‘excellent’ compared to 32 per cent of male agents.

The most significant difference, however, was in the consistency of experience vendors had across the sales process.

Before the sale process started, 59 per cent of female agents and 58 per cent of male agents were able to inspire confidence in the minds of their vendors that they would do a good job and get a good price for their property.

Once the sale had started, however, while confidence levels in female agents eased to 55 per cent, male agents fared much worse, falling to 48 per cent.

Once the property had sold, 45 per cent of vendors with female agents reported feeling delighted with the final outcome, compared to just 39 per cent of those with male agents. Nevertheless, the proportion of respondents who reported moving from confident to disappointed across the sales process was higher for women than men. Female agents started out with just one per cent of respondents worried about their ability before the sale began; but this number jumped to 19 per cent of their vendors later reporting they were disappointed – a movement of 18 per cent. The figures for male agents went from five per cent at the start of the process to 17 per cent afterwards – a movement of 12 per cent.

However, female agents were consistently more likely to be rated ‘excellent’ at key skills than their male counterparts.

Female agents significantly outperformed their male counterparts in the skills of handling open for inspections (41 per cent of women agents rated ‘excellent’, compared to 33 per cent of men), providing regular feedback (45 per cent of female agents rated as ‘excellent’ compared to 31 per cent of male agents), following up of potential buyers and leads (43 per cent of female agents rated as ‘excellent’ compared to just 29 per cent of male agents) and negotiation skills (38 per cent of female agents rated ‘excellent’ compared to 28 per cent of male agents). Female agents were also more than twice as likely to be identified as excellent at managing the sales process – 42 per cent for female agents compared to just 28 per cent for male agents.

However, there was little difference in the final price performance. The survey shows male agents were slightly more likely to sell a property above the expected price of a vendor than female agents (24 per cent to 22 per cent respectively) with 49 per cent of male agents selling around the expected price compared to 52 per cent of female agents, and both sexes evenly represented at 21 and 22 per cent in selling below expectations.

And the gender of an agent made no difference in the likelihood of a vendor recommending them to friends and family, with 68 per cent of vendors with male agents and 69 per cent of vendors with female agents saying they would happily recommend.

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Kylie Davis

Kylie Davis is the head of content and property services marketing at CoreLogic. She spent nearly four years as Network Editor of Real Estate at News Corp Australia, creating a national desk of real estate reporters across more than 100 titles and training them in the use of data and market journalism.