With all the real-estate websites available on the Internet these days, it’s possible for anyone with a computer to do a lot of the stuff that only a real estate agent used to be able to do. Certainly, you don’t need a professional in order to locate homes for sale in a particular area or get a good sense of where prices are in the category that interests you. But this kind of research may be the least important thing a great real estate agent can do for you.
I’ve been a real estate agent myself (specializing in commercial properties) and I’ve worked with real estate agents on all of my own real estate transactions. I know from personal experience how much they can help you. But I also know that not all real estate agents are created equal.
So how do you find the one who can guide you through the process intelligently and help you close a great deal? Here’s a list of things you should look for.
- A great real estate agent will listen to you carefully. Great agents are great listeners. They have to be in order to really help you. When a great agent meets you for the first time, he or she will pepper you with questions to find out what you’re looking for, what you really want, why you want it, and most important, what you think you can afford.
- A great real estate agent will help you figure out what you really can afford. The first thing a top-notch agent will do is run your numbers and give you a ballpark estimate of what your price range should be. A great agent will also provide you with referrals to lenders who can help you get pre-approved for a mortgage.
- A great real estate agent will save you time by narrowing your search. A great agent won’t run you ragged (and waste your time) by dragging you around to countless properties. Rather, the agent will help you figure out what you are looking for, show you a selection online, and allow you to narrow your choices before you actually hit the streets. He or she will then “tour you” to ones you’ve chosen—and keep track of what you like.
- A great real estate agent will educate you about the market. Great real estate agents know more than simply what’s for sale in a particular neighborhood. They know the neighborhood. They can tell you all about an area’s history, what makes it special, and where they see the market there going. If you’re looking at a new development, the agent will know the developer’s track record and plans for the future.
- A great real estate agent will show you ways to get more value from the property. From the moment a great real estate agent first sees a house, he or she is thinking about what could be done to increase its value. Install new kitchen cabinets, redo the floors, knock out the back bedroom and add a master bath—great agents will look at houses and immediately begin suggesting ways you could make it more valuable.
- A great real estate agent will hold your hand at closing. The closing of a home purchase at the title office can be a scary few hours. Great agents will go over the paperwork with you and your attorney, checking it for errors. They will also work closely with you and your mortgage banker or broker to make sure everything is as it should be.
HOW TO FIND A GREAT AGENT Finding an agent who is ready, willing, and able to do all these things is not as hard as you might think. You should start by asking trusted friends and colleagues for recommendations. If one name keeps cropping up, that’s a good sign. Make a note if you see a particular agent’s name repeatedly on for-sale signs in the neighborhood where you want to buy. You can also collect business cards from agents you meet at open houses.
As your list of prospective agents begins to take shape, do an Internet search on all the candidates you’re considering. Look for articles, chat room or blog posts, and personal websites to get a feel for their work, their style, their values, and how they market themselves.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK TOUGH QUESTIONS When you’ve narrowed your list to three to five prospects, schedule a meeting with each—and treat your meeting like an actual interview. I recommend that you ask the following questions:
- How long have you been in business?
- How long have you worked in this particular market?
- How many listings (properties for sale where you represent the seller) do you have?
- How many clients are you currently working with?
- How many deals did you do last year in the area I’m interested in?
- Why should I work with you rather than one of your competitors?
- What makes you a good real estate agent?
- What is your process—how do you work with your clients?
- Do you have a team or an assistant? Will I be working with them or you?
- Can you give me the names of three clients you’ve worked with whose situation was similar to mine?
Based on their responses, ask yourself how you think it would be to work closely with each of them. Does your gut say this person is trustworthy? The only correct answer is whether the agent feels right for you. It’s all about chemistry.
Finally, before you commit to a particular agent, check them out with your state’s real-estate commission or licensing board. You want to verify that your choice is not only licensed but also that his or her license is in “good standing,” meaning the agent has kept current with all educational requirements. You also want to find out whether he or she has any record of complaints or disciplinary actions.
Hope this blog post helps you find the great agent you deserve. Be sure to leave a comment below!