Buying or selling a home is one of the biggest financial decisions most people make, yet many decide on a whim which real estate agent will represent them. There are many factors to consider when selecting a Realtor; how long have they been a Realtor or do they have the right credentials? All realtors are not created equal and it could mean thousands of dollars left at the closing table. Here are a few tips on how to find the best Realtor to suit your needs.
The tried and true way to find a reliable agent is by getting a recommendation from someone you trust. If you have a friend that had a positive experience with a Realtor, your satisfaction is almost guaranteed. For many agents, referrals are their livelihood and they will likely work harder knowing a friend or client will hear of the outcome.
Choose the Broker or Real Estate Agency First
If you don’t have a referral from a friend, select the Broker or Real Estate Agency First. There are several national real estate firms that may have offices in your local area, however, select a local firm based on a particular office’s reputation. Next, ask that office to recommend a couple of their best agents and interview them.
Select and Agent with the Right Credentials
Realtors are not created equal. Just as doctors specialize, real estate agents do as well says, Dana Dratch of Bankrate.com. Some Realtors, take additional classes to specialize in specific areas. For example, CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) means additional training in handling residential real estate and ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative) means an agent completed additional education in representing buyers in a transaction. If the agent calls himself a Realtor with a capital “R,” that means he’s a member of the National Association of Realtors. “The most important thing you get is an agent who formally pledges to support the code of ethics, says Ron Phipps, president-elect of the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors.”
Choose a Realtor that Handles Homes in your Price Range
If you don’t have a trusted contact with a recommendation and you’re looking to sell, you can also select a few agents by attending local open houses and meeting agents that have listings similar to yours. A few questions to ask if you’re the seller is are the properties similar in price, location and features and how long has the home been on the market? You’re looking for someone that specializes in exactly what you’re selling. For example, if you select a Realtor that generally deals with million dollar homes, he may not be the best fit for a $200,000 home. Also, ask prospective agents about their marketing plan for your home. If the only thing they are offering you is to be listed in MLS, your home will not be marketed to its fullest potential.
Next, ask the Realtor to speak with their recent clients and provide a list of what they’ve listed and sold in the last year, with contact information, says Phipps. He also suggested prior to making phone calls, ask the agent if any past customers will be pleased or disappointed.
Remember, “A real estate agent has a high fiduciary duty, a duty of trust and confidence. It is the most important duty of any sales person or broker in real estate. An agent must disclose all the material facts of any transaction, everything they know about the property, good or bad. If a salesperson knows there are three inches of water in the basement every time it rains, he is obligated to disclose that fact,” says Donald Brenner, professor emeritus at American University.
In the end, you need an agent that you can get along with and that will work the hardest for you. Sit down and ask lots of questions, you are doing the agent a favor by giving him your business.
What to Ask a Potential Agent
Finally, here are four questions, the experts agree, you should ask any agent, whether you are buying or selling courtesy of Bankrate.com:
Do you work full time? Generally you’re better off with a full-time agent who keeps up with the local market, financing considerations and laws. Part-time agents, on the other hand, can provide full-time attention to one client at a time.
How long have you been in the real estate business? Real Estate is a field with high turnover. Choose a Realtor with several years of good experience.
How many homes have you listed during the past year? Or, how many have you sold in the past three months?
How often will I hear from you? How frequently does the agent normally communicate with his clients and how (phone, e-mail, fax)? If you don’t care for the answers, you should discuss at length until you’re satisfied.