The purchase of a home, for the vast majority of individuals, is the single biggest financial decision made in their lives. Clearly, then, it becomes evident that the selection of a real estate agent is a serious consideration that should not be taken lightly. But what factors should be considered in the selection of a real estate agent?
Real Estate Agent Reputation
Not all real estate agents are the same. Some real estate agents have a reputation for being difficult to work with. For example, an agent that is pushy, argumentative, unprofessional, is late for appointments, or misses deadlines can frustrate the buying process. A real estate agent should have a reputation for getting along well with all parties to a transaction, buyers and sellers included. An agent that takes a lawyer-like approach of zealous advocacy for one side in a real estate transaction causes the other side to walk away from the deal. Communication and “people” skills are important, as well as diplomacy and tact in the event a difficult situation should arise. And clearly, honesty is tantamount.
Communication skills involve more than just communicating information – in fact, the primary test of effective communication skills is the ability to listen. An agent should listen to your needs, consider them, and then use that information to guide you to the neighborhood and home that is perfect for you.
Ascertaining the reputation of a real estate agent requires some detective work. It is wise to ask for references, on both sides of the transaction. Ask about problems that occurred during the process, and how they were handled. Talking to both buyers and sellers about their experience in dealing with a particular agent can provide insight as to how you can expect your real estate experience to unfold.
Geographical Area of Expertise of the Real Estate Agent
It is important as well to ensure you are dealing with a real estate agent who is a “local specialist”. Many states technically allow licensed real estate agents to participate in real estate transactions anywhere within the state. However, a local specialist will be familiar with local selling practices. For instance, property transfer taxes vary by locale, as does the party responsible for paying them. In some locations, there may be different customs for the division of city and county property transfer taxes. You want to be sure that you are dealing with an agent familiar with local customs so as to avoid paying unnecessary fees.
One idea is to canvass the neighborhoods in which you are considering buying. If you see lots of yard signs for a particular agent in those neighborhoods, it is a good bet that the agent is a local specialist.
A local specialist will also be able to provide you with information on schools, recreation, churches and synagogues, shopping, and entertainment options in the area.
How to Select a Real Estate Agent
Word of mouth is usually the best and most reliable source of information regarding any particular real estate agent. This type of information is reliable in that it has not been “spun” by the agent and the source of the information has no particular motivation one way or the other, except to relate his or her experiences.
Be sure to interview more than one agent. Prior to conducting an agent interview, make a list of items that are important to you. These items might include proximity to freeways or commuter rail lines, style of home, age of home, proximity to schools, local tax rates, or any other number of items that may or may not be “deal breakers” in your mind. Additionally, you may be interested to find out whether or not the real estate agent has support staff that will assist in the handling of various aspects of transactions. Additionally, making a list of these priorities will assist your agent in finding the perfect home for your family.
Ask the real estate agent you are considering for referrals to other real estate agents for you to interview. An agent that is secure in his or her quality of service and reputation will have no hesitation to provide you with the names of competing agents for you to consider. An agent that provides this information to you is likely an agent with whom you would want to do business.
Other factors to consider are whether or not real estate is the agent’s full-time career, the number of years of experience the real estate agent has, and any real estate designations possessed by the agent.