Steps to Hiring a Realtor

I’m still a huge fan of the sitcom “Modern Family,” but my notion that the show was using a real-life consultant to get its (real estate) facts right was dashed by last night’s episode.

Either that, or California Realtors practice way differently than their Minnesota counterparts (always a possibility — I found out that local practices vary considerably handling a Manhattan deal long distance a few years ago).

What did the show get wrong — at least by Minnesota standards?

To clinch a listing, Phil Dunphy agrees to both price the client’s home, and do a “knockout” first open house.



If for no other reason than Broker liability, hosting an open house without first being officially hired is a big no-no.

Practically, there is also the considerable marketing effort that goes into preparing for and publicizing a first open:  professional photos, literature, MLS advertising and Realtor networking, etc.

Before any of that, comes carefully measuring the house and taking an inventory of its features (both for MLS and marketing purposes); debriefing the owner about condition, repairs, etc.; navigating any municipal point-of-sale inspection and the Minnesota Seller Disclosure; tackling any needed repairs and recommending cost-effective updating; and professionally staging the home.

And pricing it.

What Price?

Much like a doctor at a dinner party who’s asked for an armchair diagnosis, it’s risky for a Realtor to toss out a projected selling price for a home.

For one reason, without doing your homework, it’s likely to be wrong; for another, it’s awfully hard to backpedal from that first, erroneous price — especially if it’s too high (at least no one dies if you get the diagnosis wrong!).

So, like most Realtors, I’ll offer a fairly wide price range — based on a cursory review of market activity — when I’m interviewing for a listing.

Only once I’m hired will I spend the 4-6 hours it takes to carefully sift through comparable sales, tour “Active” homes currently on the market (my prospective client’s competition), and then hit my Excel spreadsheet to crunch numbers.

P.S.:  Dear Christopher Lloyd and/or Steven Levitan:  not that I need an excuse to get on a plane to LA in the middle of a Minneapolis winter, but if you dangle a modest consulting fee in front of me, I’d be happy to help you with the show’s “Realtor verisimilitude.”

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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