If you are buying or selling a home, choosing a realtor may seem like a straightforward task. On the surface, all realtor seem alike. They all charge about the same fee, 6% of the sales price, and most agencies offer similar services. But, in reality, differences can be huge. Consumers who don't do their homework can wind up getting bad advice that could cost thousands.
Here’s how to make sure you pick the best realtor for your transaction:
General Search. When looking for a realtor, the best place to start is by asking friends for referrals. If you're new to the area, do an informal search of the properties in the neighborhood. If the same name pops up on lots of real estate signs, you've probably found someone who specializes in that particular area. This can be a real plus, since the agent will probably be well versed in the homes, schools, municipal services and other important information.
Once you've narrowed down the list, make an appointment to meet with the real estate agent in their office. Before you start talking about houses, find out as much as you can about the agent:
How long have they been licensed as an agent? An inexperienced agents may be fine for uncomplicated purchases like condos or townhouses. But for the most part, you want to look for somebody who has at least 5 years of experience. Getting licensed is relatively easy. Staying with the business for at least five years isn't and shows a strong commitment to the profession.
Is the agent part-time or full-time? While all agents have to start somewhere, working with a part-time agent may not be in your best interests. Part time agents have other commitments that can get in the way of giving you full-time attention. In addition, agents that are part time may simply not be successful enough to have developed business adequate to support a full time commitment.
What awards has the agent won? Most full time realtors worth their salts will have several.
How accessible is the agent? Do they maintain office hours? Can you call them at home? By cell? Buying real estate can be a traumatic experience. With lots of surprises along the way, you'll want an agent that's easily accessible if you need to reach them.
Take note if the agent is good listener. Do they cut you off before you've finished a sentence? There's nothing worse than wasting time looking at houses you have no interest in because the agent has not listened carefully to your needs.·
Once you feel convinced the agent can do a good job representing you, you need to decide what kind of contractual relationship you will have. It used to be that agents always 'represented' the seller of the home. Nowadays, things are much different and you can choose what kind of relationship you will have with your realtor:
Buyer's Agent: This is clearly the best choice if you are buying a house. The buyer's agent works only for the buyer and is bound to represent you above all other interests.
Seller's Agent: The seller's agent works only for the seller of the home. This means that they essentially look out for the seller's interest - and not yours.
Disclosed Dual Agent: In this type of arrangement, the agent works for both the buyer AND the seller. This often happens when an agent sells a property they have also listed for sale. The problem here is obvious. The agent is serving two masters and can not put the interest of one above the interests of another. As a home buyer, you're better off working with an agent that is bound to look out for only you.
One mistake many inexperienced home buyers make when choosing a realtor is to call real estate offices based only on a sign in the front yard of an advertised property. What they often don't realize is that whichever agent shows them that house becomes their agent for the sale. Cold calling a group of real estate offices is a lousy way to select the professional who will help you through the biggest purchase of your life.
For best results, choose the realtor first -- based upon the agent's experience, reputation and your personal comfort level; is the best way to be certain your agent truly represents you!