Choosing a Good Agent
After saving up for a down payment and cleaning up your credit score, you set out to find the best real estate agent in your quest to find the perfect home. After interviewing all of the big name offices in your area, you end up more confused than ever. Every agency sounds the same. What's going on?
For starters, you need to get more personal. You want a successful brokerage, but beyond the glossy exterior of the office it's the relationship with the particular agent you choose and how good they are at their job that is going to matter most to you now through closing.
5 Tips in Finding the Right Agent:
1. Do some legwork. Literally.
Take a walk or drive around your neighborhood and check out the for-sale signs. Does one company dominate the area? Are there fliers or other marketing materials available? Most importantly, do SOLD signs go up after days, weeks, or not at all? If you need help, there's a real estate app to help with most of this.
2. Visit open houses.
Stop by open houses to view other homes on the market. This is also a great way to see the agent in action, and meet them in a casual setting. Are they friendly, informative and professional? How do they respond to other people coming to the open house?
3. Ask friends/family who they've used
Ask people you trust for agent recommendations, but take what they say with a grain of salt. Did they recently buy a home in your same price range? Have they had a successful time selling their home? Just because this agent worked out well for them does not guarantee the same experience for you, but chances are, if you trust your friends and family's choices, the agent will be good for you, too.
4. Check out ratings and reviews
Online agent ratings and reviews are the next best thing to a personal referral. Knowing the experience that lots of other people had with a particular agent is valuable information. Zillow allows you to search a specific area to find agents with the highest ratings and best reviews. OR, after you've walked around your ‘hood and gotten a few business cards at open houses, you can search for agents by name and read their reviews. Either way, online research should be a part of the process.
5. Interview multiple agents
Buying or selling a home is one of the biggest financial events of your life so take the time to interview at least three agents before deciding whom to hire. You want to find someone who demonstrates knowledge of your area and expertise in the buying/selling process, that is, familiarity with all the technicalities such as title, appraisals, financing, negotiation, inspections, etc. Above all else, make sure you'll feel comfortable having this person guide you through an overwhelming and stressful process.
- Does the agent work mostly with buyers or sellers? Some agents specialize in listing properties while others prefer to work primarily with buyers. Choose an agent who is tuned in to your needs. If you are a first-time buyer, look for an agent that is willing to help walk you through the home buying process.
- Get references and phone numbers of recent clients. References should never be a problem. If you can't get the whole list, get a minimum of three. And be sure to ask friends for references; often that's your best bet because they won't steer you to someone who didn't work out.
- How do they communicate and how fast? The world has gotten much faster, thanks to online communication, so you need to ask your agent how they communicate (phone, email, text) and how fast you can expect a response. In a hot real estate market, buyers and sellers want instant access. Make sure your agent can support your expectations.
- What is the office like? Don't be overly impressed by a big office. Many great agents go solo. Others like being around a lot of people. It's a matter of style. They all have access to the listings in the Multiple Listing Service. However, you can tell some things from how organized the office looks. How you are going to be treated is the most important factor, but you do want to know that the managing broker is competent.
- How many years has the agent been in the business? Experience is helpful. However, being in the business a long time does not necessarily indicate the best person for you. Other factors, like familiarity with your market, communication style, or just plain personality may be more important.
- Is the agent a salesperson or a broker? Being a real estate broker indicates some initiative as more education and licensing is required to obtain a broker license. That said, some agents have no desire to obtain a broker license so don't use this exclusively to weed out agents. You might also inquire about continuing education, like the GRI (Graduate, Realtor Institute), e-Pro (Certification for Internet Professionalism), and others. Good agents keep ahead of the curve.
- Is the agent available to work around my schedule? A little give and take is a good thing in all relationships, but you don't want to have to cater to your agent's busy schedule. Often the busiest agent isn't always the best. An agent with fewer listings or active buyers may be more responsive to your rime and this may be a better choice for some. Find out how many open houses and clients the agent is committed to and feel them out about your time frame.
- Ask if the agent has enough time to devote to your quest. You need something now! An aggressive agent should start e-mailing you listings within a day or so and have a plan that allows you to see as many properties as you can handle in your time frame.
What About Rookies?
Everyone says you need an agent with a lot of experience, but you've met one you like who is new to the business. Should you use the rookie?
A new agent isn't necessarily a bad choice.
- For starters, new agents have a lot more time to spend on you. Busier agents may take the time to enlist you, but, as the case in a lot of relationships, the attention can get a little more scarce once commitments are made. A new agent, on the other hand, is going to do everything she can to get a sale, unencumbered by clients who want to spend more money than you do.
- New agents may be more technologically savvy.
- Sometimes new agents have been successful in other fields, and have a proven track record in the business world.
No one is stopping you (unless you signed an agreement with a single agent), but using more than one agent can be a bad idea. It seems like having a battalion of agents out there hunting down your perfect home is a good way to cover a lot of territory in a short period of time, but it really doesn't work that way.
Experienced agents ask you up front if you are working with anyone else and quickly lose your phone number and e-mail address once they find out you are seeing houses with multiple agents. Even if you tell them you aren't, it becomes obvious pretty quickly when you have already seen homes they line up for you.
If the perfect place for you isn't available right now, good agents keep looking till they find it.
By Diane Tuman
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