Selecting an Agent

You and Your Realtor

When you hire a Realtor to help you find a home, it’s probably the most personal relationship you’ll ever have that doesn’t involved sex. By the time you reach the settlement table, you agent will know a lot about you.

Good agents develop a lot of skills that they don’t teach us real estate school. We become financial advisors, and if you are buying with a spouse or partner, we might become relationship advisors, mediating differences in what each of you want in a new place. Then there is mind reading.

So bottom line? You’ve got to find someone you like and trust. Choose your agent carefully!

Where NOT to find an agent

Internet agent hunting is sort of like Internet dating. A lot of the information on the agent listing on sites like Zillow and Trulia are made up, and the ratings are often made up as well. And many agents do a lot to hide their lack of experience and knowledge.

So what to do?

Audition Several Agents

Internet agent hunting is sort of like Internet dating. A lot of the information on the agent listing on sites like Zillow and Trulia are made up, and the ratings are often made up as well. And many agents do a lot to hide their lack of experience and knowledge.

So what to do?

Audition Several Agents

If you’ve done business from someone in the past who did a great job, you might start with a call to your former agent. You could also ask friends or colleagues for recommendations. You can also check out the weekend Open Houses in your area where you can meet agents face-to-face.

As you check out the possibilities, here is the information you need to make a smart decision:

  • Experience – how long have they been selling real estate? If you get a vague, “I’ve been in the business for 10 years,” don’t assume that business was real estate. The only wrong answer to this question is a misleading one. There are veteran agents who totally know what they are doing, and there are excited, energetic newbies who are clueless and very well supervised by a mentor.
  • Productivity – have they sold enough houses or condos to know the ropes? You probably don’t want an overextended superstar. But you don’t want someone who’s been trying for the last several years without selling more than a house or two.
  • Expertise – many agents work what are called “niche” markets. They totally know one neighborhood or condo development and stay close to home.

As you meet with agents to discuss the possibility of working together, think of it as an audition. You want to find someone who is perfect for the part!

The agent’s company is also important. Some provide a desk and phone and that’s about all. Others have impressive support staffs to help keep their agents productive and take care of the day-to-day administrative tasks for them.

And I just learned the hard way about the companies that offer what seem like super technologies. Most of them are too complicated for the agents to actually use – unless the support staff helps out so we can step away from our computers and spend our time checking out listings and getting our buyers in the door first!

What Should You Expect Your Agent to Do?

When buying a home, you want a real estate agent who:

  • Listens carefully to what you say;
  • Explains the process in language you can understand;
  • Encourages you to ask whatever questions you need answered;
  • Knows where to find the best houses in your price range;
  • Sets up an email alert so you learn of new listings as they come on the market;
  • Provides pricing information on homes similar to any you might want to make an offer on;
  • Knows the nuances of the market well enough to interpret the pricing information;
  • Understands the paperwork required to make an offer;
  • Negotiates skillfully to get you the best price and terms, depending on the details surrounding your particular transaction;
  • Knows how to maneuver in a bidding war so that you do what you have to without doing anything foolish to get a house;
  • Knows and can recommend reputable lenders, home inspectors, title companies, movers and other professionals you may need;
  • Doesn’t make you crazy; and
  • Is reasonably accessible by phone, text or email.

Working with an agent who turns out to be a bad fit can turn your home buying experience into something quite un-fun.

One of my dear friends had an old Transylvanian grandmother whose favorite words of wisdom were, “Every lid has a pot someplace.” And this applies to real estate pretty well!


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