I’ve written several times about the importance of finding a good real estate agent. It seems like common sense, yet more and more people are entering the market to buy or sell a home without an agent. I have also often heard that more and more, those very same people that opted not to use the real estate agent wish they did.
The fact is, finding a good real estate agent will make buying or selling you next home a somewhat painless transaction. Notice I said “good” real estate agent, because I also know several people that thought they had a “good” real estate agent, only to find that the whole transaction was a complete nightmare from start to finish. So let’s focus on a “good” agent with the understanding that this agent will have experience in the field of real estate, beyond a good market, who knows your market, who will listen to you and understand your needs, and conduct themselves in an ethical manner.
From the National Association of Realtors comes the term ‘Realtor’, in which all Realtors are licensed to sell real estate, but not all agents are Realtors. A Realtor belongs to an association whereby they follow a list containing a number of underlying standards of practice, establishing a level of conduct that are higher than ordinary business practices or those required by law. In short, only a Realtor can display the Realtor logo that belongs to the National Association of Realtors.
An agent friend of mine from the San Francisco Bay Area says he gets most of his clients through either those people he meets at an open house, or through referrals. Just last week while working an open house in his area, a neighborhood couple happened to stop to have a look. Though they didn’t really like the house, the were very impressed with how my friend presented the marketing material for the listing, was extremely professional, was aware of the other competition, and knew the neighborhood…even down to a good place for lunch. They called him several days later to help them find a home.
Alternatively, a referral is one of the best ways to find an agent. Keep in mind that most agents work from repeat business or because their clients refer them friends and associates. Ask a friend who they had used to buy or sell their home. Ask how their experience was and their likes and dislikes as well. Will they use that agent again in the future? A successful agent will pride themselves on client satisfaction, usually going beyond their responsibilities to ensure success. If your friends had a great experience, chances are, so will you.
Watch the print advertising and follow the neighborhood signs. The internet can be a great source for research if you know what you are looking for. Find the ‘For Sale’ advertisements in the paper for your neighborhood or look for the ‘For Sale’ signs that go up and search the agent or broker office website. See what other listings they have to ensure they are your neighborhood specialist or perhaps just a one-up listing in your area.
If you know an agent who may be unfamiliar with the area or specialty in which you are looking, ask that agent for a referral. Not all agents are good for the job. Perhaps you are looking only for a new construction condo, or want to take advantage of a 1031 exchange. Agents are typically happy to refer clients to associates, especially if the service you need is not a specialty of the agent who is referring you.
Interview a few potential agents for the job. Try to meet them at one of their listings, not at their real estate office. Ask questions about their local knowledge of the competition, school districts, and any other areas of interest that a buyer or seller may ask. Ask for them to provide some references as well, including recent clients. Are they new to the business? Have they ever experienced a down market? Are they up on current technologies that will help expedite a sale or listing?
In short, it pays in dividends to find not just an agent, but the right agent. The purchase or sale of a home is typically one of the largest investment decisions you will ever make. Having the benefit of the right professional to guide you through the process will make that process that much more enjoyable.