How to Find a Real Estate Agent

The hardest part of any task is getting started, and buying and selling real estate is no exception. Before you begin ‘Marie-Kondo-ing’, packing boxes, or even browsing online for a future home, you should be looking for a real estate agent. A good real estate agent can make the difference between getting a house you love or settling for a house you like. They can make the difference between a smooth process and a process that makes you swear off real estate ever again. Whatever your price point, there are some basic things to look for when it comes to shopping for a real estate agent. You need someone on your team who knows your area, how to price a property, how to market it, and how to negotiate.

Sellers: 

  • Start the search by getting recommendations from friends or colleagues. 
  • Interview at least three brokers. Questions like: Have you sold in my neighborhood? Have you sold in my building? 
  • Ask what deals they’ve recently made and how long they’ve been in the business. If someone is new, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Other things like connections and passion can compensate for experience. 
  • Get references and check them.
  • Ask for a listing presentation — a pitch that includes data on comparable sales and the specific plan the broker has for marketing your property.  
  • Ask your top candidates to show you some other properties they’re representing. It will give you a sense of how they will handle your property. Would you buy from them?
  • Beware of the broker who tells you only what you want to hear. If one realtor estimates your property at the number you want, not the number the others have estimated, there’s a reason and it’s not because the other ones are wrong. If one realtor says you need to make no changes, and the rest say you should update the bathroom, again. . . it’s not everyone else that’s wrong. At the end of the day, the market determines the price your property will sell, not your realtor. 
  • Finally, do you like them? You will have to work with them over a long process, with moving pieces and other people involved. And if you don’t like your realtor, probably potential buyers won’t like working with them either. 

Buyers

  • Instead of asking the right questions, when looking to buy a property you want to pay attention to a realtor who asks the right questions. A conscientious realtor will ask you: What’s your timing? Are you prequalified for a mortgage? What’s your financial picture?
  • A good realtor will be familiar with your area. If they don’t often work in the location you are considering buying, they may not know how to get you the best deal or negotiate as well. 
  • Pay attention to the details. A great realtor will listen to your needs and also be intuitive to what you really want. Good instincts and listening skills go a long way in buying and selling. Look for that realtor who’s going to say “This isn’t what you were originally looking for, but I think we should take a look anyway. . .” After all, if it was as simple as shopping online for a house, you wouldn’t need a realtor. But a finding the right home in the right neighborhood is so much more complicated. A great realtor will make it feel as easy as loading your amazon cart.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of going with a solo realtor versus a team. The advantage of the team is the idea that someone will always be available. But on the flip-side, if multiple people are handling your experience there’s a risk of getting disjointed and inconsistent service.
  • Don’t be afraid to go with someone else if you get into the process and find the fit isn’t right.  There’s no contract. (And don’t sign one!)

Four Areas Your Real Estate Agent Should Be an Expert In

We’ve all heard the horror stories of friends who have used bad real estate agents. Whether it’s just general incompetence or shady ethics, it’s enough to make the thought of having to select a real estate agent a chore up there with cleaning up after your pet. So, why should you work with a real estate agent? And how do you pick the right person for the job? Here are four areas you need look at before hiring someone.

Local expertise: While it’s tempting to browse national real estate websites and think all there is to picking a house is finding one within your search parameters, the truth is real estate agents are knowledgeable about the community you’re moving to in a way no national website can compete with. A good real estate agent knows businesses and their impact on market value, local attractions, architectural styles, appliances, trendy furnishings/fixtures, and heating and cooling systems. Agents also know the market and what you get for the money in a neighborhood today, as compared to the past several years.

Negotiation expertise. A good agent is your Kenny Rogers Gambler. They know when to hold ‘em, they know when to fold ‘em. Whether you’re buying your first or tenth home, an agent will have you beat when it comes to experience with real estate transactions. How low can you start without upsetting the sellers to the point where they won’t write you off as a tire-kicker? Will you offend them and lose the house entirely? What are other homes selling for in this area at the end of the day? If there are other offers coming in, what will make your offer stand out for the others?

Contract expertise. Contracts is a forgotten abyss of annoyance, and the only guide through the abyss is a good agent. There are financial and legal obligations that must be met by both buyers and sellers and an agent’s experience will make the entire process seem like a piece of cake. It’s their job to make this look easy.

Referrals. When buying a home, you’ll need a team of professionals: mortgage professionals, lawyers, appraisers, home inspectors, contractors, radon remediation experts, landscapers, moisture specialists, etc. Good news, a good agent knows good people, and will line everything up for you. An agent needs to Concierge service and built-in advisor throughout the home buying process.

Asking friends how they felt with their real estate agents through these four areas, as well as listening to what a prospective agent has to say about them, will help steer you away from predatory or disappointing agents and into a great relationship.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21