How I pick agents

Was just thinking about the commonalities among the sales agents we’ve recruited to Adaptive Realty, Inc. and thought it might make interesting for everyone.

Here’s what we look for:

1. Integrity – This one is obvious. I can tolerate mistakes (the first time someone makes them; not the second). But I absolutely can not tolerate dishonesty. At the end of the day, if one of my agents screws up a deal because s/he lied or covered something up, I’m the one getting sued. I don’t mind (and, indeed, encourage) playing rough if that’s what it takes to deliver for my clients. But I need total transparency / honesty and I won’t settle for less.

2. Reading and listening comprehension – Being successful at doing real estate deals requires you to quickly take in large amounts of information, figure out what’s important, and then maneuver to get the outcome you want. There are tons of tricks and subtle nuances, but you can’t access any of them if you can’t read / listen and comprehend quickly and accurately.

3. Curiosity – I still learn something new on almost every deal I do. Do you know why there is CW zoning in a one part of Westlake? I do. Do you know what material sewer lines were made out of in the 1920s? I do. Do you know the reasons you can legally evict a tenant under the RSO ordinance? I know that, too. Why do I know all this weird trivia? Because I pay attention, ask questions, look stuff up. Over time, the little bits of information cohere into a framework that allows one to look at deals in a more sophisticated way. But that only comes from being curious enough to gather all the information along the way.

4. Tenacity and (controlled) aggression – This is a big boy/big girl game. When there’s a good deal, you need to jump on it. That means you need to get off your ass and MOVE before the other guys do. You can teach people a lot of things, but you can’t make them energetic and tenacious. Either they bring those traits to the table or they don’t.

5. Ability to sell – I don’t just mean “to clients”. A huge part of an agent’s job is to sell his clients’ offers to listing agents. There are all kinds of tricks for distinguishing your offers from other peoples’, but a big part of winning in this game is conveying to the listing agent that your client is serious and intends to close. That’s all about selling.

6. Numeracy – This is pretty self-evident. My whole brokerage is based on the following concept: If the numbers make sense, lean hard towards doing the deal. We’re not doing rocket science here, but you need to be able to look at and understand spreadsheets, etc. If you can’t do that, you might as well go peddle townhomes in the Valley.

7. Willingness to get dirty – A large part of what we do involves looking at a screwed-up building over the course of a 2-3 hour inspection and helping the client figure out exactly how screwed-up it is and what it will take to fix it. Being willing to get your hands (and knees) dirty crawling around / underneath apartment buildings is part of the game.

Did you notice that “experience” isn’t on the list? It’s not that I won’t take on experienced agents. It’s just that I find that most agents who’ve been doing this for a little while have not been doing it particularly well. I’d rather find people who have the above characteristics but who, for whatever reason, didn’t “click” with another career*, then train them to be great at real estate.

We’ve got four people working with Adaptive now who fit the bill, but we’re always looking for more. If you know someone who you think might have what it takes to do this stuff well, send them my way.

* Interestingly, I’ve had a lot of success with people who went into creative fields after college, recognized that those fields don’t pay very much, then decided to try real estate.