Behind the Curtain of Real Estate (Pay No Attention.)

People everywhere* are always asking me**, “Jay, what does a Realtor’s daily life look like?  Do you just drive people around and look at houses all day long?”

I’ve always felt like there’s a sort of “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” element to Real Estate.  You are purchasing one item (a house) from another person, and yet there are dozens of people involved and literally hundreds of pieces of paper to sign.  What is going on and what are all these people doing behind the scenes?  Do Real Estate agents really need to even be a part of the process?

Kristen and I lived in Indonesia for a while, and at the airport in Jakarta, there are these unofficial “baggage guys” in the airport parking lot.  They want to carry your baggage to your car and get paid a couple of bucks for their effort.  This one time, I was walking back to my car with one rolling suitcase- not really struggling with the bags, right- and this “baggage guy” almost wrestles the suitcase away from me so he can roll it the final 50 feet to the car.  Then he wants to get paid for it!

Is that the Real Estate profession in a nutshell?  Someone who gets tries to get paid for their involvement in a transaction even though their services were totally unneeded?

No.  Please please believe me- No.  Good Lord, No.  I’ve said it and I’ll say it again- No.


Except, maybe… yes.  Sometimes yes.


First the YES: there are still Real Estate agents out there who essentially think they should get paid for just putting a hand on your “baggage.”  If they are on the listing side, all they do is stick a For Sale sign in your yard and they’ve done their job.  If they’re working with a Buyer, they open up a few houses to show you and then you don’t see them until the settlement date, when the house closes and they get paid.

The good news is that those types of agents are a lot harder to find these days.  A lot has changed in Real Estate, even since the early 2000’s.

Now the No: Let me pull back the curtain and show you what actually goes on behind the scenes.  This is a snapshot of what I do when I work with a Buyer client:

First, we discuss what you want- #beds and baths, sq footage, price range, neighborhood, etc.  Then I set up your own personal website to help you organize all the Richmond area houses that match your criteria.

My fancy Realtor software helps me create a waaay better search than Zillow

Limit your search to one specific neighborhood if you want to

Next, I help you navigate through financing.  There are a lot of different types of loans and a lot of lenders out there.  I try to stay informed about all of them and help you secure the right type of loan to meet your goals and stay on budget.  For first time buyers, this step can be especially daunting.  I make it my job to help you figure it out.

Next we do the drive around and look at houses thing.  Like I said, some Buyer’s Agents think this is their entire job.  This is actually probably the smallest part of my job.

When you find the house that you want to buy, I do a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis).  I search through public tax records, do a search for everything that has sold in that neighborhood in the past year, everything that is on the market now or pending, and create a report which will give us a detailed understanding of what the best reasonable (even a reeeaaally good Realtor can’t help you get a $300k home for $200k) price is for that home.

Then we write a contract.  If you know what you’re doing, there are dozens of contingencies, clauses, and subtle (you might read shady there, but don’t… just subtle) ways to create as much leverage as you can while writing a contract.  I help write the contract and negotiate price.

Now we need a closing attorney.  A good one can save you from some serious liabilities when buying a house.  I have found the ones who I think are the best in Richmond and I connect you with them.

By Closing date, there's a lot of paperwork to keep track of

There’s usually anywhere from 30-90 days that it takes from the time you write a contract until the day you can actually close on a house.  During that time period, I am like the head coach of the closing team we have assembled- the Mortgage Lender, the Title Company, the Closing Attorney, the Home Inspector, the Sellers and their Agent, Contractors… I am in constant communication with all of them to make sure they are doing what they need to be doing.  This is arguably the most important part of my job.  All these different people involved in one transaction with one exact closing date… I make sure that everyone on the team is giving their 100% so we make it to the closing table with no surprises.

That, friends, is a peek at what goes on- or should go on- behind the scenes of a Real Estate transaction.

Have any Real Estate question you’re curious about?  Send them my way!



*My Mom and Grandma

**It happened once


Jay McGee used to live in Southeast Asia, doing language research and literacy development. Now he’s a Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty. He gives a microloan to somebody in a developing country every time someone in Richmond buys or sells their home with him.  Learn why here.


  1. says:

    Thanks for the article J, I found it very informative. May God bless you in your work there and I wish you and your clients the best of success!

    • Hey Jonathan, Great to hear from you! Are you still in the line of work that sends out newsletters? I’d love an update if you are.

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