Finding the right real estate agent to help find a home can be a lot like dating, but it’s important to ask the right questions to get a solid understanding of a professional’s background and experience to make sure you end up in the right home.
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Andy Asbury, CEO of Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Area Leaders outside Minneapolis, says buyers aren’t doing their due diligence when picking a realtor. In fact, he estimates between 60% and 70% of buyers go with the first agent they interact with.
“They need to go, sit down and get to know the person by asking them questions,” he says. “Most of the time they aren’t going through that interview process.”
Adam Leitman Bailey, New York City realtor and author of Finding the Uncommon Deal, adds that buyers often mistakenly choose to work with the most “famous” broker in their area, without realizing that agent is out of their price range and may not be the best fit.
“People want to hire the best broker in the world and they don’t realize that if the person is doing the $5 or $10 million listing and that isn’t in your price range, they will be giving their best and biggest clients the most respect and time,” Leitman Bailey says. “They will be giving you to their assistants.”
Here are a few questions to ask a realtor before deciding if he or she is the right fit for you:
What is your success rate? This information is easily attained, without even having to ask the realtor out front, Leitman Bailey says. “The internet is the greatest invention for real estate,” he says. “You can see the brokers on their websites and what they have sold in the past 20 years.”
Also check to make sure he or she is licensed, by asking in person or inquiring online, he adds.
How do you communicate with clients? Everyone has a preferred form of communication, and it’s important to make sure your realtor will use what is most convenient to you. “For some it’s important the agent text messages,” Asbury says. “Not everyone will want that. A lot of people now don’t want to be picking up the phone to answer a simple question, so you can tailor it to how you like to communicate.”
Can you give references? Both realtors recommend asking prospective agents for actual customer recommendations. Leitman Bailey says to ask former clients what it was like to work with the broker, response times and knowledgeable level about a particular community.
Do you work full-time as a realtor? Asbury says if the person you are considering is not a full-time realtor you may want to reconsider. Part-time agents might not being able to commit the time and effort to your house hunt, he says.
“It’s very important they do this full-time.”
Do you have the time for me? This may seem personal, but Leitman Bailey says it’s an important question to ask.
“Many terrific brokers go through bad phase because they are going on vacation, or have a death in the family or something bad happens,” he says. “Tell them you will be looking heavily during this time and want to know if they have the time for you.”
If the broker says ‘yes,’ but with a caveat, you need to be comfortable with that, and potentially being put into another realtor’s hands if the one you want will be taking time off.