Story by Annette Brooks
A home is often your largest investment, as well as a place to put down roots. Something this important in your life requires finding the right real estate agent to help you buy or sell. Large or small, condo or ranch, old or new. Yet how do you choose, with so many real estate agents vying for your attention through online advertising, direct mailers, and signs? By spending a little time upfront and following a few easy steps, you can cut through the hype and hire an agent, you can trust and work with.
First, consider the kind of experience you desire. Are you interested in a personalized boutique group experience, or do the broad resources of a big brokerage firm appeal to you? Once you have an idea, do some sleuthing. Review current listings for the area in which you are buying or selling. Are there a few agents that stand out in the market? Do their listings mirror the kind of property you want to buy or sell? Like many professionals, real estate agents have their market niche. It should align with what you’re trying to accomplish.
Keep in mind that while an agent with several listings indicates a healthy business, you also want someone with enough bandwidth to serve you effectively and efficiently. Understanding how an agent can provide the level of service you desire, through either a shared or dedicated support team, for example, helps you determine if an agent may be a good match.
Once you’ve narrowed your list down to two or three real estate agents, check them out. Most have websites with extensive information about their background, experience, listings, and area sales. Also, verify licensing. When you feel comfortable, schedule a meeting. If you leave a message, notice how long it takes them to return your call.
When you meet, request a list of what the agent has listed and sold in the past year with contact information. As you talk with past clients, inquire about their overall experience. Remember to get specific details, including how the agent communicated with them and how often, and about the asking versus the final sales price.
As a seller, notice if an agent’s previous properties were like yours in price, location, and other salient features. Ask about current homes on the market that are similar to yours. A good agent should know about other properties that are available off the top of his or her head. Make sure the agent provides a detailed plan of how your home will be marketed — via Multiple Listing Service (MLS), sending your home “fact sheet” to the agent community, print advertising, online promotion, a video tour? Ask if they routinely follow up and provide feedback after all showings.
A real estate agent that works hard knows the market and is looking out for your best interest is an asset from both a personal and financial perspective. Listen to what they tell you, then follow your instincts. And if the agent you choose doesn’t perform as expected, discuss your concerns with him or her.