Four Tips for Finding the Right Real Estate Agent
Buying or selling a home is a huge step. Realtors can make this easy. Or not.
I know the principle well. When my wife and I bought our first home almost a year ago, we were on our second real estate agent. The first time around our search felt taxing, mainly because our real estate agent, who we met at an open house, had a very low view of most flips. At the time, flips were just about all we could afford for the home size we wanted.
At every turn, the agent was ready to give us a horror story about how clients ran into big problems in the weeks – even days – following the purchase of a renovated home.
Eventually, we had enough. I broke up with the agent via a phone call, text and email dialogue. A month later, we found a new agent. Within two weeks, we found a house and our offer was accepted. It was that easy.
Our experience was more luck than anything else. Your experience doesn’t have to be left to fate, though. We’ve talked with real estate agents across the country to get the best tips for finding the right agent or Realtor for your housing search.
It is important to note that real estate agents and Realtors are different, though in many cases, they help you in the same way. For the purpose of this article, we will use the terms interchangeably.
Interview Three Candidates Before You Make Your Decision
Many of the agents we talked with recommended the interview method. Find three Realtors you’re interested in and then set up times to talk with them. Have a prepared list of questions you want to ask.
Teri Connors, an associate broker at Stoebe & Shuster Real Estate Group in Westhampton Beach, New York, says how your potential agents respond will tell you a lot about your compatibility with him or her.
“When interviewing agents write down your questions and don’t be afraid to ask them. If an agent won’t take the time to answer your questions and make sure you’re comfortable at your first meeting don’t expect the relationship to get better after you have the signed listing agreement.”
Use this interview time to get a sense of where the agent’s priorities are, says Justin Paulhamus, Vice President at M Squared Real Estate in Washington D.C.
“Most agents are transactionally minded, meaning they’re trying to make or hit a goal. You want an agent that has your best interest at heart,” Paulhamus said.
If you’re looking for an agent to sell your home, ask the following questions, says Lance McHan, a Realtor based California:
- What kind of open-house events do you usually run?
- How do you drive traffic to the home during open houses?
- What are your staging recommendations?
- How do you interpret the data that’s available about the market and our home?
Never Underestimate the Trust Factor
I can tell you from experience that buying a home has a lot to do with what you hear from your agent and how they help you understand all the factors involved with the house you’re trying to buy. There’s a tremendous amount of trust involved, especially if it’s your first time buying a home.
And with that trust, says D.C.-area Realtor Robyn Porter, comes an inevitable intersection of life, changes and stress.
“Trust is a huge part of a successful Realtor/client relationship. Many of my clients share with me personal stories about why they’re buying (or selling) a home,” she said.
In the midst of those colliding narratives, you don’t want to feel like your real estate agent is working against you.
“A good Realtor/client relationship works when both parties feel like they’re working with their friend,” Porter said.
Find Someone You Feel Comfortable Being Around
Buying a home is about as invasive a financial decision as you’ll ever experience in your life. All your money mistakes and triumphs will come out in the open and, sometimes, your agent will find out about it. This is why Fathom Realty‘s Sheryl English says you need to be comfortable with the person you hire to help you buy or sell a home.
“They are like the priest in a confessional. They have to know all your pertinent information: the good, bad and ugly. You have to feel comfortable enough to know that they know this information to put your deal together and serve in your best interest,” English said.
The best Realtors will do everything they can to build a genuine rapport with you not only because it makes you comfortable, but they know your comfort will lead to glowing recommendations to friends.
“For the good agent it should not be about one transaction but about creating a beneficial relationship with lasting value where you feel comfortable using them as a resource for all your real estate needs and questions,” said William Fastow, an agent with TTR Sotheby’s International Realty.
Don’t Be Afraid to Be Challenged
Finding the perfect home is a literal adventure that’s full of Shakespearian delight and tragedy; it’s an emotional rollercoaster, to say the least.
A good agent, says Chicago-based Realtor Brian Wasson, won’t be afraid to challenge you –respectfully, of course – when you want to settle after a long battle of rejected offers or pull the trigger too soon.
“A good realtor should be able to respectfully challenge notions and possible misconceptions. There may be times when you and your agent disagree on a strategy, design choice, or value,” Wasson said. “Both parties must hear what the other is saying and communicate respectfully for the relationship to be fulfilling.”