Goals

What to Look for in a Realtor

photo: A.M. Kuchling

Buying or selling a home can be stressful. Unless you have the time and expertise to promote your property yourself or look for a new one, you will probably turn to a real estate broker for help. That extra expense could be well worth it: A good realtor can make all the difference on how profitable your business transaction turns out or how happy you are with the purchase of your new home.

Here are three factors to consider when selecting a realtor:

Listing Agents Vs Buying Agents

To start with, you should know the difference between a listing agent (selling agent) and a buyers’ agent. A listing agent works for the seller: they advertise the property, show it to prospective buyers and assist in negotiations. They get paid when the home is sold and their commission is a percentage of the sale price.

A buying agent works for the buyer. When buying, it’s better if you get your own a buyer’s agent rather than let the seller’s broker call the shots. The selling agent will be loyal to the seller might convey information about you to the seller that can work against you.  For example, say you make an offer to pay $300,000 for a home but innocently convey to the seller’s agent that you are willing to pay up to $350,000. That agent is bound to the seller and will not hesitate to pass along this information. With it at hand, the seller might change their mind and counter with a higher price or decide to hold out. The National Association of Realtors has information on buyer and seller agents.

Qualities to Seek

Attention

Selling a home these days is a far cry from the go-go days of the real estate boom when all you needed to spark a bidding war was a house with four walls and a roof. To successfully sell your home now, you need an agent who is attentive and proactive.

During the first couple of months of your business relationship (yes, selling a property will probably take at least several months), the realtor should demonstrate that they are on your side and actively promoting your home. They should call or email you frequently with updates. They should make suggestions on the property’s listing price and give you advice on how to improve your home to make it more desirable.  If the only contact you had with the realtor was when you signed the contract and you haven’t heard from them for several weeks, start thinking about finding someone else.

Expertise

Obviously, the realtor you choose must have knowledge about the specific area where you are planning to buy or sell. The last thing you want is a realtor who tells you, “I’m not really sure what the crime rate is in this area,” or “I’m not sure what the property values are in this area.”  Of course, realtors often focus on many areas and we should not expect them to know every single detail of a certain location. But they should at least offer to research the facts for you. If they don’t, look elsewhere. An unknowledgeable agent can ruin your business transaction or not market your home properly.

Credentials

According to the National Association of Realtors, all realtors selling homes must be licensed by the state they work in either as an agent/ salesperson or as a broker. Look into your state’s governing agency to find out if your agent has an active real estate license in good standing. Also, find out what other designations the agent holds. The better trained they are, the better equipped they may be to help you close on a profitable deal.

Personality

Chances are, you’ll be working with this person for months. Make sure you “click” — you like talking to them (and, hopefully, vice versa) and feel like they understand your wants and needs.

Questions to Ask

How will the agent sell your home? Where will the home be listed? With online listings, will these be high traffic websites? Will the home appear in print ads in newspapers or magazines? Will there be an open house? These questions will help you determine whether your home will be marketed effectively.

Also, if you are buying, will the agent represent you, the seller or both? While there is nothing wrong with dealing with an agent who represents both the seller and the buyer, it’s in your best interest to have an agent who only works for you.   

Buying or selling your home isn’t easy, but with some research and good questions you can end up with a great agent and an even better deal.