Choosing a buyer’s agent to represent you in the real estate market is the single largest purchase you’ll ever make.
It sounds simple enough finding a Realtor to help you choose the place where you’re going to live for the next five, seven, 30 years. The first real estate agent you meet might seem friendly enough, but don’t rush. Ask yourself if they will be a good fit to work with you?
Selecting a Realtor can be daunting (and should be one of the very first things you do if you’re contemplating buying a home.)
To start with, you might not know the questions to ask or you might not know how to compare agents. Additionally, you can’t always approach the research process as you would with other purchases or decisions. There really aren’t any review sites out there that are consistently credible (one GenY buyer recently said they don’t read agent reviews. They don’t trust them).
Most everyone can tell if a camera takes a good or a bad picture — people take pictures every day– but most people don’t hire Realtors but every five to seven years … and a lot changes in that time frame.
As the fall and spring real estate markets approach, here are a few relatively straightforward questions to help you down the path.
1 – Will you truly represent me?
What is your prospective Realtor’s policy on single agent/dual agency? (hint: in my opinion, a situation in which one agent “represents” both sides of a transaction benefits one person – The Realtor ).
Will they advise you to walk away if that’s the best route for you? (tip: Most Realtors get paid on commission when a house closes, so this is advice counter to their immediate own best interests.)
You don’t know if they don’t know how to fill out a contract. You don’t know that they have a full-time job and they do real estate on the side. You might not know that they’ve represented three buyers in the past 18 months … and have never done a short sale, foreclosure. You don’t know if they have a great reputation in the real estate community. So … ask. (I told someone the other day that I see every interaction as a potential job interview).
2 – What are your hours?
I tend to tell my clients that I work when they need me to – which is frequently after hours, meaning that I show houses or meet weekends (much to my family’s chagrin, that often means 9pm skypes …). Make sure your agent’s schedule meshes with yours. I met some clients recently at 9pm at their house … after they had a chance to settle down.
3 – How do you communicate?
I learned some time ago that my preferred method of communication may not be my clients’ – and not to make assumptions about how my clients communicate. So I tend to ask. Do you text? Email? Skype? Google hangout? What works best for the client?
4 – Are you productive? Do you know the market?
Not so productive that they can’t call or email you back, mind you, but productive enough that they know what’s happening in the market. Today’s real estate market is different than the market six months ago. If your agent is doing this part-time at best, be prepared.
5 – Are you family?
Hiring a family member to represent you may not be the best idea in the world. Ask yourself this: could you fire them if need be?
A few more questions to consider that don’t have objective answers, but are crucial to ensuring a great experience..
6 – Do I like you?
This matters. You’re potentially going to be spending hours upon hours with this person; much of it in their car. There has to be some sort of chemistry there. I’m often with buyer clients for four to six hours at a time – driving around all points of Charlottesville and Albemarle. You don’t want this time to be painful. You need to be as relaxed and at ease as possible sot that you can focus on identifying where you want to live.
These are some questions to help you get started … ask for a buyer consultation meeting in which you and your prospective agent can mutually assess if you will be a good fit for each other. Knowing that your goals are mutually aligned is an important first step.
Above all, treat this seriously, as if you’re hiring someone to help you make good decisions about how you’re going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (because you are).