You’ve decided to buy a house. You begin to interview potential real estate agents to help you through the process. You need someone you trust enough to stand by your side and represent to be sure you get the best home for the best price.
First, you’ll need to know what different titles mean. The first thing you might notice while trying to find home-buying help is all the different titles: agent, broker, Realtor®, etc. Are they all the same thing? Not exactly.
A real estate agent is anyone who’s earned a license to sell property, which typically entails taking 100+ hours of course work and then passing a state exam. A broker is someone who’s continued his studies and can hire agents to work under him. A REALTOR is either an agent or broker who is a member of the National Association of Realtors®. Realtors adhere to a detailed code of ethics to treat their clients honestly and fairly. Consider it added insurance that they’re committed to your cause.
Now, here are the 3 things you must look for when choosing your REALTOR…
1) Find someone who’s schedule fits the demands of your search.
If they’re not a full-time agent, you need to know when they’ll be available. If the only time you can see houses is in direct conflict with times they have to be working their other jobs, you could miss out on a lot of properties. Find an agent who isn’t juggling multiple jobs, heading out of town on vacation, or has events of lesser importance that they will allow to get in the way of you sealing the deal on that perfect home!
2) Talk with their recent clients.
Ask agents to provide a list of what they’ve listed and sold in the past year, with contact information, says Ron Phipps, past president of the National Association of Realtors, or NAR. Before you start reaching out to people the agent has worked with, ask if anyone will be “particularly pleased or particularly disappointed,” he says.
With past clients, “I’d like to know what the asking price was and then what the sales price was,” says William Poorvu, adjunct professor emeritus at Harvard Business School and co-author of “The Real Estate Game: The Intelligent Guide to Decision-making and Investment.”
Find someone who has experience, history, and traction in your area. Great Buyer’s Agents know that one of the greatest assets they can offer their clients in community knowledge. As you consider an agent, be certain that you’re hiring someone who has both mileage and transactional experience in the communities you’re considering.
3) Find someone who is above the competition.
This may sound obvious but believe it or not, most agents do not know what makes them unique or what they have to offer that others in the industry do not. Ask them what 3 things separate them from the rest of the agents and REALTORS in the market. A good agent won’t hesitate to answer this question and will be ready to fire off why she is best suited for the job. Everyone has their own standards, but most consumers say they are looking for agents who say they are:
- Honest and trustworthy
- Excellent negotiators
- Available by phone, e-mail, & social media
- Good communicators
- Able to maintain a good sense of humor under trying circumstances
Don’t settle for anything less than the best. Most people naturally gravitate towards hiring a friend who is an agent. While I don’t advise that being the first and primary filter for hiring, if you’re wanting to go that route, be sure to, at minimum, interview 2 other REALTORS because what’s at stake is, for most families, their largest asset. Don’t leave the financial future of you or your family up to someone who, while they may be a good friend, isn’t qualified to assure that you’re setup for financial success and emotional security for the years to come.