Whether you are buying or selling a home, the choice of a realtor is critical. It can be the difference between a smooth transition and a regrettable experience.
If you want an experienced realtor, make sure you are actually choosing a realtor. Real estate agents or brokers require licenses, but they must continue on to join a local Realtors association to call themselves realtors. Realtors are held to the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which may be stricter than your state’s laws.
It is certainly possible to be well represented by an agent or broker, provided he or she is experienced and locally respected. So whether you are looking for a realtor, broker or agent, follow these steps for a successful search:
- Research/Shop Around – There are plenty of resources to allow you to research real estate professionals in your area – everything from local word-of-mouth to agency websites to national real estate sites such as Zillow and the National Association of Realtors website.
You want to narrow your search to two or three professionals in your area that you can follow up with in greater detail. Check their licensing and past history, and their area of specification. For example, does the agent typically handle homes in your price range? Do they have any specialized expertise you may need, such as a short sale or simultaneous buying and selling?
- Interview Them – Follow up with your short list of realtors and agents to find the best fit for you.
Any real estate professional should have ample knowledge of home values in your areas for sellers, and available homes in your preferred price range for borrowers. Interview realtors and agents to verify his or her market knowledge. Ask how they would plan to market your home and what tools they would use.
Are they available on a schedule that matches yours? Do they provide other services such as helping to arrange inspections?
Do not be afraid to ask for references as well as other basic questions such as how long they have been in business, how many homes they have listed/sold, and how often they will contact you for updates.
In the end, you want the answer to this question: What makes you the best person to help me buy/sell my house?
- Understand the Loyalties – It is very important to understand whom the realtor or agent is working for, the primary responsibilities they have, and the rules they are working under. Their fiduciary responsibility is to the client – but it is not always obvious who the client really is.
States vary in their interpretation. It could be the person who pays the commission, or it could be the buyer in a state that follows “assumed buyers agency”.
You may believe a client has a primary duty to you as the buyer when it is actually to the seller, or vice versa. They may also be a dual agent, representing both buyers and sellers. This situation may work out fine for you – just make sure you understand whose interests are being represented. If this arrangement makes you nervous, look for an exclusive buyer’s agent or seller’s agent depending on your need.
- Trust Your Gut – Do you have a rapport with the realtor or agent, and can he or she explain issues in an understandable fashion? If you are not comfortable with the individual, it is difficult for him or her to help you to find the best deal for you.
Invest the time in looking for a suitable real estate professional and choose wisely – because aside from a marriage, buying a home is probably the most important transaction in your life.