By Michael Repka, Esq.
1) We never take money from both sides of any transaction
Most brokerages, and even many individual agents, take money from both sides of the same transaction when they have the opportunity. While some try to characterize these payments as “referral fees” and have another agent in their office submit the offer in the other agent’s name, the listing agent and/or the brokerage still have a financial incentive to favor one offer over others.
This creates a disincentive for the agent to persuade competing offerers to increase their bid. Also, these agents would have a material financial incentive not to uncover other agents that might have interested buyers and procure higher offers from these alternative buyers. I believe that some agent’s (or office’s) desire to get commission from both sides of the transaction contributes to the number of “off-market” listings that sell without all potential buyers knowing about the opportunity. It really is surprising how many agents ask their sellers to give them an opportunity to promote the property privately (e.g., to only their buyers or only select agents’ buyers) prior to letting all interested agents and buyers know about the listing. It only stands to reason that more buyers and enhanced competition would result in a higher price.
We believe that this financial conflict of interest, irrespective of whether disclosed or undisclosed, is untenable. Therefore, if a member of the DeLeon Team on the buyer’s side submits an offer on any DeLeon listing, then we waive 100% of the commission from the buyer side. It is simply the right thing to do and it keeps our focus on getting the highest possible price for our sellers.
2) We do not let independent contractors use the DeLeon name or branding
Traditional brokerages, such as Alain Pinel, Coldwell Banker, Compass, Intero, Keller Williams, RE/Max, Sotheby’s, and most of the others, do not employ real estate agents. Rather, they permit independent contractor agents to affiliate with them and use their offices, resources, and branding. Although traditional brokerages do employ managers and other personnel, in my experience with traditional brokerages, most contracts and files are not even reviewed until well after the contract is binding and the client’s obligations and liabilities are set.
DeLeon Realty, on the other hand, actually hires, trains, and develops all of its agents, and other professionals who are all full-time employees. They receive generous salaries, health insurance, 401(k) matching, paid vacations, fully-sponsored company trips and cruises (with spouses), and much more.
Given that we pay our employees, rather than having independent contractors pay us, we have to be very selective in the people that we hire. We also have a strong incentive to train and retain these stellar professionals.
Additionally, our structure fosters collaboration and creates certain economies of scale, as well as other efficiencies.
3) We provide legal advice
As discussed in [insert name and page number of article that Colette and I wrote for this edition], DeLeon Realty’s unique structure, and the fact that the brokerage is entirely attorney-owned, enables us to offer our sellers legal advice and guidance at no additional charge. Our sellers sit down with a trained real estate attorney to discuss their disclosures, the process of selling the home, title issues, and tax issues. This service is not, and cannot be, offered by most traditional real estate agents and brokerages.
Recently, we hired an additional attorney to help buyers throughout the purchase process. He explains the provisions of the contract, discusses the disclosures, and explains the title report. Further, he strives to create the optimal deal structure, both from a tax and a transactional point of view.
In the rare event of a legal dispute with another party, we assist sellers in understanding their rights and responsibilities and enforcing those rights. However, in the interest of full transparency, we do not provide this assistance if the dispute involves a buyer represented by DeLeon Realty, or if there is any other unwaiveable conflict of interest. However, it should be noted that this would simply put the client in the same position in which they would be with a traditional brokerage.
4) We provide a licensed contractor and handyman
We have a licensed contractor and/or professionally trained handyman pre-inspect our listings, make simple improvements, and oversee repairs and improvements done by outside vendors.
Generally, real estate agents lack the professional expertise, tools, vans and, quite frankly, the time to properly oversee all of the work that goes into preparing a home to command a premium over the fair market value. One solution would be to trust everything to outside vendors and let them decide what work to recommend. These vendors would then monitor themselves and have a financial incentive to recommend more work. However, our sellers gain a great deal of value by letting our trained professionals recommend the scope of work, review the estimates, and oversee the entire process. While I supervise the process, I gain tremendous insight from my robust and highly skilled team. Given that we do not take any money for supervising this work, or have any sort of kick-backs or markup on the fees charged by outside vendors, our focus is to make sure that our sellers spend the minimum amount possible to maximize the sale price.
5) We provide a professional interior designer
We often receive compliments on how beautifully prepared and staged our listings are when compared to other homes on the market. Virtually all of the credit for this must go to our incredible, trained designers. Our interior designers are just that—professionals. Although some of our competitors promise that they, or one of their assistants, will manage the process of designing and preparing the home, it is hard to imagine that they would do as well as a professional interior designer with years of schooling and experience (not to mention immense talent).
When we get a new listing, I go to the property for our “kick-off meeting” with my interior designer, licensed contractor or handyman, and a couple of people from my marketing team. We discuss my strategic vision for promoting the home and some general thoughts about the marketing message.
Beyond that, and reviewing all of the estimates with my team to make sure that the financial investment is likely to result in a higher sales price, they craft the vision for which we are so well known.
6) We are very dominant in Silicon Valley and #1 nationwide.
When it comes to real estate, size matters. On the listing side, it is very important to know which agents have clients looking for a home like yours. I personally negotiate and sell well over 100 homes per year. Through this process, I am in constant contact with other agents that have clients looking for a particular type of home. Often, we will receive 6 or 8 offers on a home, which leaves us with knowledge of 5 or 7 disappointed buyers that we can redirect.
Our dominance in Palo Alto (last year we sold approximately five times as many listings as the #2 agent), is particularly helpful to sellers in surrounding towns. This is because I can redirect Palo Alto buyers that get outbid on a house in Palo Alto to my other listings. In fact, I think that is why in 2018 we outsold all other agents or teams in Menlo Park for the first time in our history. Thus far, 2019 has been even stronger.
Additionally, we are the #1 real estate team in the entire United States in sales volume based on the results compiled by REAL Trends and published in the Wall Street Journal on June 28, 2019. This notoriety draws a lot of attention to our website, which prominently features our listings on the front page.
7) We create all of our marketing materials (no third-party templates)
While most real estate agents and teams rely on third-party templates for their marketing material, the DeLeon Team employs the most robust marketing team in the area to create unique and top-notch materials in-house. In addition to my personal experience as the area’s most active listing agent, we employ two full-time graphics designers, a copywriter, photographer, and photo editor, each of whom contributes immensely to the strength of our marketing collateral. These professionals are in addition to our international marketing manager and online marketing specialists mentioned below. As is true with each of the professionals that make up the DeLeon Team, all of these full-time employees are hired to support our clients and there is never additional change for any of our time or expertise.
All of our materials are custom designed and produced to showcase the individual characteristics of each of our listings. Because we create all our material, it tends to stand out from the crowd and is widely acknowledged to be of higher quality.
8) We have very strong Chinese and online marketing presence
Expanding upon our fundamental belief that no one person can be good at everything, we have augmented our strengths through targeted hiring. We employ a full-time marketing person specifically to promote our listings to the international community by: hosting a Chinese radio show that addresses real estate topics and promotes our listings; writing custom ads for publication in various local Chinese newspapers; maintaining our Chinese website; and overseeing Chinese online advertising including aggressive use of the We-Chat platform. My colleagues and I regularly travel to China and India, and have gone on business trips to Dubai, Russia, and Brazil. Additionally, we frequently advertise in a variety of Indian publications.
Similarly, we hired a full-time person exclusively to promote our homes online and via social media, both paid and unpaid.
These eight reasons should help you choose your next real estate team
Simply put, no one person can excel at all of the disparate tasks involved with properly preparing and marketing a home in Silicon Valley. Our annual payroll is more than $6 million and our operational budget, which includes the most aggressive marketing in real estate, is about the same.
Some agents argue that it is unfair to compare us to individual agents or small teams given our incredible resources, sales volume, and marketing budgets. However, that is exactly the choice that sellers get to make when deciding the right representation for them.