For National Homeowner Education Week, I thought we’d start with some candid advice about choosing a great Realtor. I’ve bought several houses myself over the years and I have certainly worked with Realtors in a professional capacity for more than seven years. Here’s what I’ve gleaned from my experiences, both good and bad…
1) Experience May Not Be Everything- This one is always up for some debate because sometimes agents new to the industry are eager, attentive and have all the time in the world to spend with you and sometimes a well established Realtor is to busy to properly take care of you. But sometimes, the exception to these points are also true. Think of yourself in your own job – you may have been more eager to please earlier in your career but more savvy as your career progressed. In my opinion, character traits are more important than experience – I want to see that my Realtor demonstrates confidence, the willingness to work to do the right research and the gumption to ask their peers or associates for help when they need it. These traits come with the person, not the experience.
2) Your Realtor Should Know the Area You are Considering Well – I live in Stony Plain, Alberta and it always amuses me when I see an Edmonton Realtor listing or showing a house out here. The most desirable street in Stony Plain is not the one with the biggest, fanciest houses. It’s actually a large cul de sac, just off of main street, with house styles ranging from war era to the 1970’s. It backs on to a “hidden park” where the children of the area are often seen traipsing over to in bare-feet with blankets and picnic baskets under there arms on a hot summer day – no kidding. It hearkens back to days gone by when life was simpler and safer. A For Sale sign is rarely seen on this street because most homeowners there have a list of buyers that have knocked on there door over their years, inquiring about when they may be moving. If you find yourself standing in one of these house, you’d better make an offer before you leave or your chance will be lost, guaranteed. How would a city Realtor know all of this?
Every neighborhood, everywhere, has one of these golden streets or areas and a local Realtor should be able to introduce you to them. In addition, they will know what a fair price is for a home in their area of specialty. Sure, any Realtor can look at the comparable properties on MLS and gauge what range should be acceptable but trust me – an area specific Realtor works there own territory like a chef works their own kitchen. They know where all their ingredients are, how to put them together and produce something wonderful in an efficient time frame.
Looking at a few different areas? I would pick someone who was well versed in my top choices with very good research skills or the willingness to work with Realtors in other areas.
3) Avoid Viewing A House With the Realtor Listed on the For Sale Sign – There’s a few reasons for this. First, you should understand that once you view a property with a particular Realtor, there is an unspoken rule of sorts that says that person then represents you, at least in regards to that particular property. These days, many Realtors even require you to sign a contract committing yourself to them before they even consider showing you a property.
In regards to a double ended sale, where the Realtor who lists the property also sells the property, that person must work for both the buyer and the seller in an equal manner and even the most skilled and honest person would have difficulty striking a balance there. Let’s face it , what ever side you are on – seller or buyer – you want your Realtor entirely in your corner. It’s WAY to expensive of a purchase to do things any other way. First time buyers need to be especially careful to avoid this situation – more experienced buyers who are confident enough to navigate the market and the home buying process on their own and can essentially act for themselves are better suited for this arrangement.
Sometimes a deal can be had when a Realtor double ends a real estate transaction because they don’t have to split their commission and may be willing to forgo some of it to make the sticker price more attractive. However, then you are negotiating with your Realtor as well as your seller and this takes a bit of experience and a dash of moxy.
The other reason to steer clear of this set-up is that you are bypassing the Realtor selection process. It would mean that you would be choosing this particular professional because there name is on a sign, not because they have earned your business.
4) Choose Someone You Get Along With – Look, this may seem fluffy, but you’re going to be making the biggest purchase of your life with this person, you should at least want to lunch with them. And it’s not just so you can enjoy the idle chatter while house hunting, it’s because you will probably be having some very frank discussions along the way and you want to feel comfortable doing this. You don’t want to feel rushed or pandered to or talked down to or talked over. You’ll want someone who you can lay your cards on the table with and who will be respectful of the things you know and don’t know. That kind of person may take several appointments to find so ask for referrals and then be prepared to have a few lunches or interviews until you find the right person. I promise you, you won’t regret taking the time to do this.
5) Be Sure You’re Realtor Will Be Accessible and Proactive – It’s important that the professional that you choose will take your calls or will get back to you within a few hours. Likewise, look for someone who has a plan and doesn’t wait for you to contact them with a list of houses you’d like to see, unless that’s the way you want it. Today, many Realtors have the ability to email you regularly with appropriate properties. Ask your potential Realtors about their marketing plans if they will be selling your home and what tools and resources they can provide you with if they are helping you find one. A Realtor worth there salt will have a plan – as they say, failing to plan is a plan to fail.
6) Your Realtor Should Be Sympathetic to Your Situation – When interviewing Realtors, be really honest about your needs, your financial situation and your future plans. A quality Realtor will want to work with you to find something that best fit your needs and won’t put you in a bind, like purposely showing you homes above your price range so you will over spend. In the mortgage business, our commission increases with the loan amount but what good would it do us to put you in a home you can’t afford just to earn a bigger pay cheque? You certainly won’t be back and we couldn’t sleep at night. Your Realtor should feel the same way.
Realtors can be a vital part of your homebuying experience and there are some really fantastic real estate professionals out there that work hard each day to provide their clients with professional, honest, valuable service – make sure you take the time to find these people – you’ll be glad you did.
Need a Realtor referral? Contact one of our licensed mortgage brokers for a list of real estate professionals that we know will take good care of you!