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!)

Road Map to Renovation

 

Knowing you want to renovate is often the easiest step of the home improvement process. Deciding what to renovate, where to spend your money, and whether or not to do it yourself are more complex parts of the process. Here are other things to consider as you begin to make your home improvement plan.  

 

Determine your end goal. What do you envision for your end space? What are your long-term plans for your home? Take measurements, collect images and refine your idea so that regardless if you are doing it yourself or hiring someone there is a clear vision to follow. 

 

What tools will you need? If you are planning to DIY any portion of your project, consider the tools you may need beyond just materials and time. For example, if you are going to lay a tile floor, do you have a wet saw? If you do not, would you buy or can you rent?  

 

How much plumbing and electricity are involved? Anytime you start moving pipes or wires, things can get dicey. It’s best to leave these parts of a home improvement project to a professional and get a consultation in advance. Contrary to what often happens on television, it can be very expensive or impossible to move some plumbing or wires. Your project may also need a permit, depending on the scale—something a licensed contractor needs to obtain.  

 

How much time will your project take? Are you looking at a five-year plan, broken down into stages? Or is this something that could be done in a long weekend? Setting a realistic expectation now can help prevent undue stress later on. Generally, everything takes longer than you anticipate.  

 

Does this make financial sense outside of your budget? A common pitfall of home improvement is putting more money into your home than you are able to get out of it.  If you are spending less than five years in this current home, you should consider smaller projects. Have a real estate agent check comps in your area to make sure your plan doesn’t outpace your home value.  

 

Do your contractor homework. Ask specific questions and expect specific answers. Check their references. Ask for pictures of previous projects. Ask friends and family for recommendations. Take your time to compile estimates in order to feel comfortable that the person you hire is both reputable and understands what you are trying to achieve.  

 

Sign a contract. Don’t do work without a contract as it protects both you and your contractor and lays out the expectations. The contract should include a detailed project description, required permits, license and inspections, and insurance or property damage liability. It will state warranties, lien waivers and a clear timeline plus allowances, as well as the ways and circumstances you would receive any money back for unfinished work.  

 

Will my insurance be affected? Check in with your insurance agent to determine if any changes you’ve made to the house affect your policy. You don’t want to get caught being underinsured.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

The Countertop Crossroads

 

You’re done. Done “decorating” with a carefully positioned pot-holder or vase. Done apologizing for your mauve countertop circa The Golden Girls. You just want your scratched, gouged, burnt, or simply hideous countertop to be new. Unfortunately, your budget has other ideas. Don’t lose hope just yet! There may be an option you haven’t considered. You may be able to repair your old or damaged countertop.  

 

What Can Be Repaired? Solid surfaces, laminate and tile.  

 

What Are the Repair Options? Solid surfaces were popular in the eighties and are extremely durable and seamless, they are the easiest to repair because of how durable they are. Laminate, solid surface or tile can also be re-covered with a composite material. The material goes on as a liquid and dries into a hard, new surface.  

 

Can I Choose Different Colors? It’s all well and good to repair a mauve countertop from 1992, but you’re still left with the same countertop. Don’t worry! If you choose the composite material, you can choose both different colors and finishes—from something resembling granite to something as simple as a different color solid surface.  

 

Will I have To Remove My Cabinets or Sink? Typically, no.  

 

How Long Does It Take? Anywhere from one to three days.  

 

What does it cost? Solid surface repair can run between $200-600, depending on the problems. Composite material will run around $1200.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21