Published December 26, 2012
Before hiring an attorney, a contractor and even a mortgage broker, homebuyers and sellers need to find the right real estate agent.
Selling or buying a house is likely to be one of the biggest financial transactions of your lifetime, making it crucial to find a qualified agent that will best represent you.
“Transactions are becoming more and more difficult to get together,” says Dan Kruse, a real estate agent with Century 21. “There’s a need more than ever for good representation for both buyers and sellers in this marketplace.”
Real estate experts advise interviewing at least three agents before settling on one and to look for someone who comes with experience, good reviews and credentials, but is also someone you wouldn’t mind spending time with since the buying and selling processes can take months.
According to Lynn Ikle, a Redfin real estate agent in Baltimore, you’ll want a real estate agent that is in the business full-time and has made it a career, rather than someone a license who just dabbles in real estate during spare time. “Someone who does real estate all the time will know which houses are selling, how long they are on the market and the right price to sell.”
She also suggests asking potential agents how many houses they’ve sold a year. If the answer is two to four, Ikle says the candidate is either bad at his or her job or is not in the industry full time. She adds that a solid agent should be selling at least 10 houses a year.
It’s also important to know where the agent is operating. If you are looking for a house in a specific neighborhood you need an agent well versed in that desired location. And if you are selling your house the agent needs to know the other local agents. “If they understand that market they’ll be able to price your property and present that property with that market knowledge,” says Coldwell Banker consumer specialist and North Carolina agent Jessica Edwards.
Experts recommend asking questions to test agents’ knowledge on the current market. For instance, you want them to be able to tell you how much other houses in your neighborhood are selling for, how long the houses are staying on the market, what’s a reasonable price range for your house and any suggestions to drive the price higher.
Ask qualifying questions such as strategies used to sell homes and any unique qualifications that makes an agent better than the competition, suggests Kruse of Century 21. If an agent comes in and promises to sell your house at a clearly too-high price that should raise a red flag that he or she isn’t being genuine.
Homebuyers looking a non-standard home purchase like a short sale or foreclosure should seek out agents with expertise in that area.
Experts advise staying away from agents that try to get you to sign an exclusive contract during the first meeting or even during subsequent meetings. Signing an exclusive agreement means you’ll be stuck with that agent for a set period of time, which could end up costing you money if your agent doesn’t perform well. There are many real estate agents willing to work without a contract, so don’t feel pressured to sign one.
In this era of Facebook, Twitter and other social media it’s also a wise choice to go with someone who is Internet and technology savvy. After all, 90% of all home searches start on the Internet so you want an agent that knows how to use the Internet to market and search for homes. “Facebook, Craig’s List and YouTube have really grown in popularity and are becoming more and more important,” says Edwards.