June 18, 2011

How do I find the right real estate agent?

Finding the right real estate agent can make the difference in the quality of the experience.  Because searching for a home, or selling a home, may be the largest single financial decision you make, interviewing three agents is a wise exercise for you to undertake. If you had been attending open houses before you reached this point, you have already been interacting with agents and met some that you are already considering. You had probably eliminated several before you left the open house.

Which Agent Will It Be?

Finding the right real estate agent can make the difference in the quality of the experience.  Because searching for a home, or selling a home, may be the largest single financial decision you make, interviewing three agents is a wise exercise for you to undertake. If you had been attending open houses before you reached this point, you have already been interacting with agents and met some that you are already considering. You had probably eliminated several before you left the open house. You may consider other agents you are acquainted with in the community. The agent you choose must be able to wear many hats. Because this process often takes time, that will be spent with that person, bear that fact in mind when you are deciding. Your agent will become your real estate counselor, an information resource and your messenger. The fact is that it is extremely difficult to know in advance how they will perform. Asking the right questions helps both parties better envision the future. Your interests will be best served taking responsibility in determining, as best you can, what to expect before you engage them.

An Important Decision

The buying or selling experience can be markedly enhanced by the knowledge and services of your agent and the company they represent. That is why the advice to interview multiple agents before choosing one also applies to buyers and sellers with “a friend in the business.” When it comes to agent selection, my experience is that real estate is like other businesses in that they are not all created equal. Nor are the companies the agents represent equal. Because of the key role your agent will play I cannot emphasis enough to focus on the qualifications and services the agent can offer over and above the fact that they may be a friend, or seem helpful, or know your cousin. I have seen friendships lost and gained during real estate transactions. Select the company and the agent that have the knowledge and services to assist in saving time and money. Select the person who provides the time and data you need to make informed decisions with confidence.

What To Look For In the Interview

Consider each of your prospective agents carefully. Fortunately there are questions to ask and qualities to look for when formulating your opinion. When you focus on how well the agent listens, how willingly they answer your questions and the quality of their responses the differences between them appear. While personality cannot be overlooked, quality advice and quality time are of utmost importance. Take notes to refer to later in the process if you choose a candidate and a conflict should arise.

Invite the agents to meet at your home, their office or a coffee shop. Sometimes, you can ask questions at a “slow” open house. Asking permission to question them there by telling them you are interviewing potential candidates offers you a chance to observe their reaction. The questions below will help provide valuable information about your prospective agents and their companies. Asking these questions  may inspire more questions. Your conversation, your questions and the answers received should be particularly helpful for you in making a sound choice. You may be surprised by the differences in the answers you receive.

Here Are The Questions

Remember to look for how well the agent listens, how willing they are to answer your questions and the quality of his/her responses. As an example, an agent once stated to me that there would be no concrete in the plumbing of the home we selected if we worked with them. I saw this as an implausible guarantee, but it helped me decide not to use them. Look for clear, logical answers to each question you ask. While conveying sincerity, trust and honesty is a definite plus, how strong are the quality of the answers?

1. What sets you apart from other agents that benefit your customers?

2. What kinds of real estate training have you received?  What type of ongoing training and company direction do you receive?

3. What types of company support are you provided?  Why is that beneficial to your customers?

4. What is your position on home inspections and home warranties?

5. What back-up support is available when you are out of the office or on vacation?

6. Will you provide 3 references to me? I would like their names and telephone numbers.

7. What is your company’s track record for average market time, sales price received as a percentage of last asking price and rate of listings expiring unsold?

8. What services, if any, does your company offer that is not offered by other companies?

9. How do you establish your opinion of value for a home?

10. How do you find your customers?

11. What will you and your company do to terminate our contractual relationship if we are not happy with your service?

12. How quickly and how often will we be able to obtain recent “sold” comparables during our home search? Can you email them to us?

13. Why should I choose you and your agency to represent me?

14. What is your policy on returning customers telephone calls?

15. If a home buyer asks what you think a home they are interested in is worth, what do you say?

16. Do you have preferences as to the types of customers you work with or sectors in which you are most proficient? For example: Do you prefer buyers, or sellers? Do you have a preferred price range you work? Do you favor certain areas or neighborhoods?

17. Do you have an assistant or assistants? If so, what is their role in the service you provide to us?

18. Do you have other information you want to add you feel would help assure your selection?

19. What is your reaction to the DearMonty.com business model and approach the site takes to matching up buyers/sellers and agents?

20. Do you spend much time each day gathering information from the MLS computer system?

21. What is your favorite customer service experience that went beyond the customers expectations?

22. Will you share your licensing information with me so I may verify your credentials?

23. May I have your direct supervisor’s name and contact information?

One Last Tip

It should also take a true willingness to serve, a high level of competency and strong company support in order to become your representative. The answers should be right for your situation and “tested” early. Trust, but verify, is one of my favorite mantras. A promise made during a conversation requiring the agent follow up, should be noted reminding yourself to check if the follow up occurred. If it did occur, swell. If not, it could be a harbinger of things to come. Your efforts here will help your agent selection decision. To see other readers questions about working with real estate agents click here.