Choosing a Real Estate Agent – 10 Things You Must Know
Hiring a real estate agent to market and sell your home is an extremely important decision. For most people, your home is your primary asset – you need to choose the best real estate agent available to help you protect the equity you have built in your investment. Buyers have an equally important decision to make. Your real estate agent has access to the information on your next dream home – you need to rely on them to find you exactly the types of homes you’re interested in. The tough part is, there are literally millions of real estate agents out there to choose from. How do you pick the right one? During your interview with an agent, you should keep the following 10 tips in mind:
1. Pay attention to way the agent acts on your first meeting. Dress, body language, confidence – these are all tell-tale signs that will tip you off as to how serious and experienced they are. Let’s face it, real estate is a business – you want to hire an agent that will treat your greatest possession with the respect it deserves. Dress is a big indicator – a shirt and tie should be minimum dress requirements for a first meeting with a client, if not a full suit or formal dress for a woman. Any agent that dresses down for your appointment might not be taking their job seriously enough and probably isn’t someone you want to hire to market your home. Also pay attention to body language and confidence – does the agent seem at ease in front of you or do they seem nervous? Is their presentation smooth or fraught with hesitation and questions they weren’t able to answer? Does the agent seem difficult to talk with or not willing to explain details to you? You are looking for an agent who gives you the respect you deserve by dressing for the occasion, is knowledgeable and at ease speaking with you (a potential client), will take the time to answer your questions honestly and acts like they have done many such interviews in the past.
2. How did the agent follow up with you when you contacted them? How long did it take? Usually agents who are serious about the business should return your contact request within 24 hours. If the agent you are interviewing took longer than 72 hours to respond, you might want to seek an agent who is better about follow-up.
3. Beware of agents who ask you this question: “So, how much do you think your home is worth?” An experienced agent should tell you what your home is worth and stand by that figure based on a strong analysis of sales data for comparable properties. That’s one of the reasons you are paying your agent, isn’t it? Any agent who asks you what you feel your home is worth before they give you a figure is looking to use that figure against you. If you think it’s worth less than the sales range the agent already determined, the agent might take your listing at the lower amount to sell it fast, maybe costing you thousands of dollars. If you think it is worth more, the agent might simply agree with you to gain the listing and cost you months of time while your home sits on the market un-sold before eventually having to lower the price. You eventually determine the listing price of your home. However, home pricing is one of the most important pieces of advice your agent can give – don’t work with someone who isn’t confident about their own estimates.
4. Make sure your agent addresses exactly how they will market your home. A good agent doesn’t rely on just one or two areas to market your home. You need an agent who gives your home the greatest exposure in as many areas as possible. This is one of the biggest services your agent can provide. Any agents who skimp on marketing or try to explain why certain marketing avenues aren’t important are trying to pull a fast one. Marketing costs money – many agents would rather put that money in their pocket and try to convince you that it isn’t needed. But if they aren’t marketing your home, what are you paying for? Your home on the MLS, a sign in the yard and the hope that someone will eventually buy it? Make sure to choose an agent that offers you the service and marketing your home needs to sell.
5. Watch out for sales gimmicks. Agents who have to rely on tricks to gain business such as “I’ll buy your home if it doesn’t sell”, “Your home sold in 30 days or I’ll sell it for free” and other similar programs usually don’t explain the fine print very carefully. The bottom line is – would you rather work with a REALTOR who is focused on doing business with you and selling your home the right way or one who tries to hook you with one of these programs which, in the end, is the last thing you want to happen?
6. Does the agent make full use of current technology in their business? An agent who isn’t on top of current technology such as internet marketing and e-mail correspondence might be missing a large portion of potential buyers. It’s also a bad sign that the agent isn’t willing to adapt to current business practices.
7. Is the agent familiar with the local market and current industry trends? Are they honest in assessing market conditions and how this affects your current buying or selling situation? We are in a buyers market right now – inventory is high and homes require more time to sell and more aggressive marketing. Is the agent trying to gloss over these details or view them with rose-colored glasses?
8. What type of guarantees does the agent provide? If you are unhappy with the service you are being provided, are you able cancel your listing or buyer agency agreement without penalty? Good agents will give you a guarantee of services and some may even allow you to terminate the listing or buyer agency agreement without penalty if you are not provided with the services you are promised.
9. How focused is your agent on customer service? It should be a top priority. You should look for an agent who is willing to keep you regularly informed about all aspects of the buying or selling process.
10. When will the services that the agent is offering to provide be delivered? A Virtual Tour is a great tool, but if it takes the agent a month to produce it, it’s not doing you any good for that first month when you can expect your most activity? For buyers, when can you expect the agent to show you your first homes?