If you are buying or selling a home, choosing a Realtor may seem like a straightforward task. On the surface, all Realtors seem alike. Most agencies offer the same services. But in reality, differences can be enormous. Buyers and Sellers that don’t do due diligence can wind up getting faulty guidance that could cost thousands and create unneeded additional stress.
Some Qualification Criteria
Real Estate Agent or Realtor?
First, it is essential to understand the language. REALTOR® is the professional trademark of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). A real estate agent who belongs to NAR has the legal right to call him or herself a REALTOR. It’s possible to be a licensed real estate agent without belonging to NAR, but I can’t imagine why an agent wouldn’t join. Doing so provides entry to virtually the total marketplace, along with other prime advantages which would be crucial to their success.
A real estate agent is a licensed professional who has to pass an exam in order to buy and sell homes on behalf of clients. A Realtor is a member of NAR which is a trade organization that has their own set of standards and a strict code of ethics. REALTORS® pledge themselves to protect and promote the interests of their clients. This obligation to the client is primary, but it does not relieve REALTORS® of their obligation to treat all parties honestly. When serving a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant, or another party in a non-agency capacity, REALTORS® remain obligated to treat all parties honestly
If you want to take things even further, some agents have specialized certifications. For example, some are “senior real estate specialists,” The SRES® Designation program educates REALTORS® on how to profitably and ethically serve the real estate needs of the fastest growing market in real estate, clients age 50+. There are many other designations that specialize in certain areas of Real Estate that agents can achieve with additional education through NAR.
Next, you’ll want to consider the agent’s experience level. Particularly for first-time buyers and sellers, it’s significant to work with someone who’s familiar with the process, and that familiarity comes with experience. Usually, this information should not be difficult to find. Many agents will spotlight their experience level on their website and other marketing materials as part of their digital advertising program.
Local Market Knowledge
In addition, you should hire a real estate agent who is well versed with your local real estate market. The strategy behind buying and selling will differ depending on whether you’re in a buyer’s market or a seller’s market. A knowledgeable and experienced agent should be able to guide you through current market conditions in your locale and help you have a successful result.
The last criteria you should look toward is the agent’s availability. Real estate markets can move very fast. When a property comes up that you may think is a good fit, you have to be ready to make an offer. That’s why you need an agent that you can count on to consistently stay in touch.
How Can You Find a Real Estate Agent You Can Trust?
Now that you know what to look for in a real estate agent, the next step is finding one that is right for you.
Ask For Referrals
Often, the first step to finding a buyer’s agent or listing agent is to ask around for referrals. While your family and friends who have recently gone through the process of buying or selling a house are great places to start, your lender is also a good resource.
Whoever you end up asking, be sure to collect information on what they liked about their real estate agent, whether there was anything they disliked, and why they feel the agent is worth recommending.
Do Your Own Research
From there, the next step is to do some research on your own. These days most real estate agents will have a large internet presence. Take time to go over their website, peruse their social media, and meticulously read any online reviews or testimonials. One or two negative reviews should not be a deal-breaker but any more should be a sign to move on. Based on this information you should get some feel of whether you like what a particular agent has to say.
Interview Your Top Choices
Now you can start to work on putting together a short list of candidates. Ideally, you should be able to come up with two or three real estate agents that feel right for you.
Call each agent on your list to ask them to schedule a time to meet with you. Any agent who has been in the business for a while knows that interviewing is part of the hiring procedure, so most should be enthusiastic to talk to you and answer any questions you may have.
If an agent does not want to commit to an interview, it’s generally a red flag. You want someone that will communicate with you throughout the buying or selling process. A non-committal response to your request should alert you to seek another option.
How Do You Interview a Potential Real Estate Agent?
Of all the steps in the process of finding a buyer’s agent or a listing agent, the interview is conceivably the most important. This is where you’ll be able to get a feel of each agent’s personality and be able to conclude which one is best for you. With that in mind, follow the steps below to assure a fruitful and informative interview:
Be Honest About Your Needs
Begin the interview by telling each real estate agent about who you are and what your needs may be. Think past the obvious issue of needing to buy or sell your home and be precise.
If, for example, you’re moving to a new job, mention it. If you’re on a fairly tight timeline, mention it. If you’re looking to sell your house as is, make sure you relay that to the agent. You get the idea: mention all relevant information.
The Right Agent
Real estate agents need to sell themselves to prospective clients so most real estate agents have polished their presentation. The superior ones, however, will first listen to your needs and goals and adjust to your needs. Listen with an open mind but appraise how well the information seems to suit your needs.
After you’ve both had a chance to talk, take the time to ask questions. The best agents will listen more than talk and make honest recommendations after listening to your questions and concerns. Keep in mind how comfortable you feel with each answer and recommendation, you may not like what they recommend but are they being sincere? Remember they are the Practitioner.
If you aren’t quite sure what to ask, we’ve compiled a list of suggestions below.
If You’re Selling Your Home:
- How many sales did you close this year?
- How many homes have you sold in my locale?
- Were they in a comparable price range to my home?
- What is your marketing campaign for a home like mine?
- Do you use a professional photographer or home stager?
- How long do you estimate it will take to sell my home?
- Do you have a specific type of buyer in mind for my home?
- Is real estate your full time job?
- What portion of your business comes from referrals?
- What kind of contract do you offer?
- If our relationship is not working what are my options?
If You’re Buying a Home:
- Do you have thorough knowledge of the area or neighborhood that I’m interested in?
- How often will you make me aware of new listings that coincide with what I am looking for?
- Can you recommend other professionals I’ll need such as an attorney or a home inspector?
- Do you attend home inspections?
- What is your average list price to sales price ratio?
- What are the top 3 things that separate you from your competition?
- Can I review documents ahead of time?
The first step to expect from your Buyer’s agent is to recommend a few local lenders. This may differ based on your needs. Most experienced agents will be aware of several programs from local, state, or Federal Governments as well as local builders that have incentives if you use a preferred lender.
A mortgage pre-qualification or pre-approval gives you an idea of how much house you can afford. It’s not a guarantee, since lenders need to scrutinize your application through exacting underwriting standards before you can close on a loan, but a pre-approval provides a picture of what you’re likely to qualify for based on your income, credit history, and current debt-to-income ratio.
Absent a pre-approval, you risk hiring an agent only to look at homes that a lender won’t approve you to buy. You’ll have more success if you’re looking at homes that fit your financial situation. Having a pre-approval also gives you the ability to make an offer immediately when you find the right home, this is a big plus in a fast-paced market, Sellers will want to know if you are pre-approved prior to accepting an offer.
Why It’s Critical to Find a Good Real Estate Agent
A good agent doesn’t just help you find your dream home or sell your current residence. They also advocate for you throughout the buying or selling process. Because they’ve seen so many deals succeed (and fail), an agent can provide perspective if you lose out on your dream house or the inspection process turns up some major red flags. They’ve “been there and done that” and they can get you through trying times.
Making Your Final Decision
Once it’s time to choose your real estate agent our advice is simple: go with what you feel. At that point, you’ve done your due diligence and have a studied idea of how each of your top candidates handles their business. Ultimately, select the one you trust the most, the one you believe will have your best interests in mind when selling your home or help you buy a new one. By SC Law every agent should provide you with a South Carolina Disclosure of Real Estate Brokerage Relationships. If you are a Buyer you will want to be under a Buyer agency agreement and Sellers should be under a Listing agreement, this makes you a client and requires the agent to promote your best interests.
Don’t let the process of selecting a real estate agent become overwhelming. By following our guide and with a little effort on your part, you should be able to find a real estate agent who will be on your side every inch of the way.