In addition to shopping for, and listing, property, real estate agents write up offers and counteroffers, manage the marketing, and oversee inspections. Good agents obsess over properties, meeting with other agents to get the word out about a home they’re selling, or finding the best property for their clients. And, if they’re doing all this right, the buyers and sellers should barely notice.
Between pre-qualification or listing, and signing the final paperwork, choosing an agent might not be high on a homeowner’s property list. Some choose an agent by accident or serendipity – opting for a friend of a friend or a the face on a random sign, for example. But for everyone else, it’s important not to make the mistake of assuming your choice in agent doesn’t matter. There are a few easy strategies you can take to find the agent that’s right for you.
Who’s the agent in your neighborhood?
If you’re goal is to buy or sell in a specific neighborhood, take a drive around and look at the real estate signs. What are the names you see? Often times, the most common names in a neighborhood will be from those who have those most experience there – and, as a bonus, often live there themselves (a good endorsement as any). Taking this step will often give you a short list of names to begin your research.
Licenses, Certificates and Awards
Do not make the mistake of calling just any agent a “Realtor,” with a capital “R.” A Realtor is licensed by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to, among other things, uphold the group’s standards of ethics. Anyone with that license will likely be eager to make that distinction, because it’s not easy to come by and demands a lot of its adherents.
But it’s not just a Realtors license that identify an agent that will work best for you. Industry certifications, such as the Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) or Accredited Buyers Representative (ACB), can offer a piece of mind that your agent specializes in a certain type of real estate, or is trained in how to represent buyers, respectively.
Be careful to check who backs the credential an agent is claiming to have. Realtor licenses, CRS certificates and ABR accreditation have strict standards, backed by venerable associations, often accompanied by classes and testing. The CRS, for example, requires the agent have completed a minimum of 25 transactions overall, or $8 million worth of transactions, between at least 10 separate cases, over the two years, in addition to hours of coursework and testing.
Ask about past clients
The right agent can bend a transaction to your favor. Whether a buyer looking for a perfect match, or a seller looking to get a little more, past performance is a great indicator of which agent you should choose. Most agents, if you ask them, should be happy to talk with you about their recent transactions. If selling, ask the agent about the types of homes they’ve sold – ideally, you’ll want an agent with experience selling similar amenities under similar circumstances.
If buying, be sure to ask about the asking price versus the selling price. Or, alternatively, ask about securing properties in “hot” neighborhoods. An agent that can get the best price or, alternatively, find a home where it’s otherwise difficult to find one, is a sign of an agent worth working with.
Sometimes an agent might have trouble getting back to prospective clients – some of the best agents are, after all, working around-the-clock to help their current clients. In this case, simply ask if they can provide references from past homes to do your own sleuthing.
If an agent isn’t comfortable offering that information, or doesn’t have it handy, it’s probably safe to move on to the next one on your list.