Tips on choosing the right real estate agent
- Finding the right real estate agent to help you sell your home is everything. Real estate transactions are complicated, and if you’re like most home sellers, one of your largest assets is on the line. But all real estate agents aren’t created equal. Some agents get personally involved every step of the way, while some farm out a lot of the work to others or just wait for things to happen. The amount of formal education an agent has, the knowledge they have about the area and the real estate listings they have access to vary widely.
- Before you get started, it’s important to understand exactly what (or who) you’re shopping for. Many people use the terms “REALTOR®” and “real estate agent” interchangeably, but they aren’t mutually inclusive. A real estate agent is a person who has a real estate license from the state in which they practice (keep in mind, though, that the requirements for getting a real estate license in most states are pretty minimal). A REALTOR® is a real estate agent who has earned additional certification from the National Association of REALTORS® and subscribes to a strict code of ethics.
- For the most part, the exact title of the real estate professional you work with isn’t as important as the level of commitment, energy and local knowledge he or she may have. But trying to find the real estate agent who embodies all the above can still be a challenge. Read over the following tips for choosing a REALTOR® (or real estate agent) and you’ll be ahead of the game:
- There are a few types of real estate agencies out there – small ones, large ones, franchises and independent agencies – but don’t get too hung up on the differences. The individual agent and what the company offers is more important than the type or name of the real estate agency although a good reputation usually means the service and professionalism of the agents is above par. Our reputation is as important as any part of the business. People equate your reputation to your name, which is the most important thing we have.
- To find the right agency requires legwork. There are lots of real estate agencies listed in the phonebook (and online). But if you pick one at random you’ll probably regret it. Explore the market where your property is located and look for REALTORS® and brokers that are active in the market.
- Search for a REALTOR®, not individual homes or properties. You may be looking through your newspaper’s real estate section one day and fall in love with a home that a particular real estate agent has listed. However, the agent might tell you that property is taken, but they have others you’d love. Chances are you’re not going to get the first home you fall for anyway. Work directly with your REALTOR® to find your property. Call them first to find out about a new listing or a property you just drove by. The long-term relationship you have with your real estate agent is more important than any particular property. That relationship will more times than not lead to your getting your property sold or your being able to locate just the right property or home.
- Look for experience. The real estate profession has a high rate of turnover, which means lots of untested agents are constantly moving in and out of agencies. If you’re considering working with a particular REALTOR® or broker, ask how long they’ve been practicing. If it’s been less than two years, be sure to check them out closely. Ask why you should work with them having less experience than another agent.
- Look for commitment. Many real estate agents only practice on a part-time basis and they might not have the time or drive to give you the attention you deserve. Ask them how many hours a week or how many days a week they are actually in the office. Many agents say they are full time but actually only work a few days a week in the office. Also, many brokers are only interested in representing properties within a certain price range. If your home isn’t in it, they might not give it their all. Look for a full-time agent that has experience with the type of property you are selling
- Interview real estate agents you’re interested in working with. We suggest you sit down with at least three prospective REALTORS®, so you can get a feel for them and what they can do for you. Don’t be afraid to ask them how well they know your neighborhood and exactly how often you’ll hear from them. Ask for references and check them. Evaluate prospective agents based on personality as well. Your relationship with your real estate agent will be a working one, and if you don’t think you’d work well with him or her, it won’t work out.
- Ask friends to refer you to real estate agents they’ve had good experiences with.
- Work with a team of agents. In today’s market the times of the single agent are passing. Look for an agent that is part of a team. You get more “bang for your buck”.
- The Internet is such an important tool in selling real estate. Make sure that your agent has the skills and tools needed to expose your property on the Internet. According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2005 survey of Sources Used by Buyers showed that 77% of homebuyers began their search for a home on the Internet. Make sure you’re real estate agent can get it done on the Internet. Some of the items you should look for are:
- Virtual Tours
- High Quality Internet site that is also user friendly
- Your home should be available on many, many sites
- Other website contracts to drive traffic to their website
- Listings on Realtor.com (Nations #1 Real Estate Website)
- System in place to respond to leads quickly (Study shows that many real estate agents take 3 days or more to respond to a lead or worse yet NEVER respond.) Make sure you’re agent and company has a system.
- High quality photos are a must. People want to see pictures.
- Make sure your listing will be available on the Internet immediately.
- Your agent should have a professional email address. Many customers are leery responding to an address like the free ones you get from so many providers now. (ei – firstname.lastname@example.org, @msn.com, etc.)
- Select a real estate agent who can work with your schedule. If you can only see homes on evenings and weekends, you won’t go very far with an agent who only works days.
- Ask any prospective real estate agent what they’ll do to sell your home. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. Agents should be ready to answer them. It sounds elementary, but not all agents work the same way. At a minimum you’re agent should:
- Use the Internet as stated above
- Be consistent with newspaper advertising
- Have a substantial presence in ALL local area Homes Magazines
- Be willing to hold Open Houses
- Supply timely feedback to you
- Take advantage of local Radio
- Supply Professional Full Color promotional materials
- Supply personalized marketing brochures and flyers
- Take advantage of Direct mail to market your property
- Demonstrate to you a proven track record
- Provide you with references
This list is not intended to be all inclusive but rather to give you some idea of the type of services and marketing you’re real estate agent should provide to you.
Some brokers will advertise your property and spread the word to other agents they know. Others will just stick up a sign and add your property to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service, a directory of homes for sale) and wait for inquiries. The more proactive your real estate agent, the better.
Do your homework to select the best agent for you!