I must admit that, in general, real estate agents (including Palo Alto Realtors) are not my favorite people. I haven't had the best experiences with them over the years. As a group, I rank them on a par with used car salesmen and the sleazy telemarketers who try to interrupt me at dinner time. So when I needed to sell my house (my mother's house of many years, actually), I grit my teeth and braced myself for battle.
I interviewed several local Realtors, including a couple of so-called top agents. They were so much like such a bunch of clones that it was laughable. They would all show up in their luxury cars, wearing fancy clothes, very slick and acting really self-important. Each one came with a flashy laptop slideshow and huge presentation binder that looked as if it called for cutting down a small forest. They all said pretty much the same things, about my house and about themselves. They talked about how they're so great but when I asked them to tell me how specifically they differ from everyone else, they didn't have very good answers. Just the standard B.S. like, "I provide excellent service" and "my record speaks for itself." They were also pretty much the same in terms of the commissions they charge and when I touched on the subject, they got very defensive. (I thought commissions were negotiable but they don't seem to think so.) Then - the part I hate the most - they whip out their listing contracts and try to pressure me into signing.
Talking to a friend of mine (who is very particular), I got a referral to Dan at Pacific Century Realty and arranged for him to stop by the house to talk. His clothes are not flashy, he doesn't drive a fancy car and he's only carrying a simple clipboard with a few sheets of paper. He asks questions and he listens more than he talks. He clearly answers all my questions, concisely, with no sales pitch. He seems more like a teacher then a real estate agent. (Later I learned that he used to teach college.) As the discussion comes to an end, I brace myself for the standard confrontation about signing a listing contract on the spot. But, guess what, he just says I'm welcome to contact him with any other questions that occur to me later. He tells me he enjoyed meeting me - and he's out the door. No sales pitch, how refreshing!
But the main thing I learn is that, unlike the other Realtors, Dan's company really IS unique. I can list my home with him for just 1% and still get full service! In fact, he offers some really neat high-tech stuff that other companies don't offer, the companies that want to charge me more. The system is explained very clearly on their website but basically the idea is that if I meet certain conditions, like doing routine communication by email instead of by phone, they pass the savings along to me. What a concept. I like it.
Now, here's the kicker. If Dan attracts a buyer directly during the pre MLS period, he will also discount the commission on the buyer's end. That's pure gravy, as far as I am concerned. The great thing for me was that it actually happened. So I saved like 4% on the real estate commissions (that's about $50k right there) PLUS the price I got for my house was higher by six figures then the other Realtors told me I could get PLUS the buyers were all cash PLUS it took only two weeks to close the escrow. From start to finish, from the time I first met with Dan to the time I got my money (wire transfer) from the escrow company, the total time was less than a month!
During the first week, there were some pretty tough customers (buyers) who were testing the waters and floating offers. What I noticed about Dan was that he may not SEEM like a tough negotiator but he really got the job done. He basically killed everyone with kindness, which I personally thought was pretty cool. Once I asked him if being more of a hard-nosed jerk wouldn't be better for getting what you want in negotiations? He explained to me that emotions run high in real estate and the end result is usually better by keeping things amicable. You don't have to act tough to be tough. At first I was skeptical but in the end Dan proved to me that he was right.
Conclusion: If I can keep tens of thousands of dollars in my pocket and also come out on top in the deal, with no downside, why would I not want to do that? I think it would be crazy not to. I learned from experience that a discount Realtor (discount brokerage) can actually offer superior service. So I've named Dan and his company in my estate papers (Living Trust), to automatically handle my other properties in case anything happens to me. That's how highly I regard him. He is highly skilled, extremely thorough and personally delightful, as well as absolutely trustworthy.
P.S. I disregarded Dan's suggestion about choice of title company and hugely regretted my decision. Suggest you take all his recommendations seriously because they are based on years of experience.