The Smart Buyer’s Guide to Real Estate
Part II: FINDING THE BEST REALTOR
BY DORIS CHRISTELIS, REALTOR®
So you’re thinking about buying a house. Stop. Do not pass go. Househunting is not like looking for a new piece of jewelry on Etsy, nor should it be your hobby while you lie in bed with your iPad wistfully whiling away the hours on Zillow. Just as you look for professionals to clean your teeth and vaccinate your dog, you need a professional, and this pro’s help, in learning how to really go about buying a home.
Part I. Finding A Smart Realtor.
1. Most people do not buy a home many times in their life. That’s why something called Realtors® exist. Realtors are agents 2.0 that have had additional training and are legitimized by the National Association of Realtors. If you want your professors to have PhD’s and you want your schools to be accredited, make this a must.
2. With that said, not all Realtors are created alike. Be as choosy with your Realtor as you would be with say, picking a relative, if you could! You should feel immense trust in this person and all the advice they should offer, want to spend time with them, believe them to be intelligent, and find them easily accessible and highly responsive.
3. So where do you find a Realtor? Sure, you can trust Zillow or Redfin – NOT! “But they looked so nice in their profile picture and have lots of initials after their name!” Do you know what those initials stand for? Does the agent? Shop around.
(a) Remember how all the other moms hated Mrs. Smith, the 1st grade teacher, but you loved her. Go ahead and ask friends and colleagues if they liked their agent, but ask them specifically about those characteristics you care about and how they would rate them on those criteria?
(b) Also be sure to Google the agents you’re looking at and read their reviews. One person’s expectations may be vastly different than yours, but if you are not reading rave reviews move on. With that said, be wary of the agents that have hundreds of reviews. My bet is they are too busy to properly service YOU.
(c) A good place to find Realtors, and see them do their stuff, is at open houses where they should be working as hard for the Seller as they would for you as a Buyer. Eavesdrop. Ask questions. Pick up any materials they created to see if they are impressive.
(d) Call reputable agencies in your target towns and ask their manager to recommend a few agents based on what you need. Be really specific: “I want a female agent that does not have a lot of other clients right now so she can focus on me. I want her to preview homes for me as I’m busy and only can see houses on weekends. They should be really technologically savvy and very responsive. I hate voicemail. I hate serious people. And they should speak Klingon.” I’m not kidding. The more specific you, are the better match they will be.
4. Interview a few prospective agents in the same way that a seller might interview different agents to represent them. The same way you would if you were hiring a nanny or an executive assistant. Google them again. Look them up on LinkedIn and Facebook. Ask them questions like:
“How many hours a day to you work as on real estate things” – 5-8 would be a good answer. Any less they are not pros and any more they are too busy.
“Do you have any other jobs?” – Hopefully not. Real estate should be their one and only.
“What percent of your clients are buyers vs. sellers?” – Stay away from anyone who says 100% or 20%. Ask for a list of their listings sold and purchased in the past 2 years. Do they seem to reflect what you are looking for in your new home? If they have only sold condos and you are looking for land that is not going to be a good fit.
“Can you tell me about some of the houses your clients have bought in the last year?” – Look for enthusiasm, descriptions, issues and how agent helped overcome them, details and creativity.
“Can I talk to a few of your past clients?” – Why not? You get references when you interview nannies, right?
“What do you consider to be different about you versus other agents” – Ah…the answers should impress you, amaze you, cause you to want to hug them as you realize you have found YOUR agent.
“How up to snuff are you on using electronics?” – This may not matter now, but you don’t want to find out when you need them to send you the purchase and sale agreement electronically and they don’t know how.
I want my clients to be as vested in me as I am in them and the more digging they have done the more trust they will have in me once they “hire” me.
5. Don’t sign anything committing you to working with an agent! You never know what might happen. Locking yourself in could force you into a relationship you can’t end without a financial penalty. And make sure that you never have to pay your agent anything. That is what the sellers do. They pay their agent and your buyer’s agent.
6. Take your Realtor out for a test drive. Are they all the things you expect an agent to be based on #2 above? During a visit to a home, do they make note of things you would not have noticed? Do they ask you questions to provoke further thinking on your part? Do they interact well with you and others they meet? Do you just not like them? If so, start looking for a new Realtor.
So you found your ideal agent. They will wave their magic wand and find you the perfect new home. Perhaps. Stay tuned for Part III of the Smart Buyer’s Guide to Real Estate – Househunting 301 to make sure.