Working With Your Agent
Selecting the right real estate professional to help you buy or sell your home is essential to a smooth transaction. For the best possible experience, you should consider an agent's experience, personality and responsiveness in your overall evaluations.
Here are some tips to help you choose and work with your agent:
- When it comes to choosing a real estate agent, consumers who do their homework can save thousands of dollars and experience a smooth financial and physical transition. So don't slack off - decide what is most important to you, and then find an agent who specializes in that field. Does location matter most? Do you need a townhouse with a garage? A four-bedroom home? A condo? A corner lot? Room for Fido to run free in the yard? No yard? Perhaps cost is your main concern. Or timing.
- Ask friends and family members for referrals.
- If you've found the general area in which you'd like to move, do an informal survey by driving through neighborhoods and viewing yard signs. Seeing the same name pop up time after time may indicate that person is a specialist in the area.
- Pay attention to designations. This is how you will know in what a real estate agent specializes. You may be interested in these designations: ABR (Accredited Buyer Representative), CLHMS (Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist), CRP (Certified Relocation Professional), CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) and SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist). There are dozens of designations agents pursue for continuing education, so find one that fits your needs.
- Once you have your list narrowed down to about three real estate professionals, schedule interviews. Agents may ask to meet at your home if you are selling. If you are buying, expect to meet the agents at their offices.
- If selling, ask the agent how he or she would establish a price. You may request a Comparative Market Analysis, also called a CMA, which shows the actual market value of similar homes in the area.
- If selling, ask the agent how he or she would market your property.
- Ask the agent how often you should expect to hear from him or her. Know how and when you will communicate to avoid unrealistic expectations. Pay attention to the agent's office hours and whether or not you will be invited to access them via a cell phone, pager or e-mail.
- Ask how long the agent has been in real estate. While time is not the most important factor, it may demonstrate the agent's experience.
- Ask about awards and designations.
- Pay attention to the agent's listening skills. Does he or she cut you off before you've finished a sentence? There's nothing worse than looking at houses you have no interest in because the agent has not listened carefully to your needs or having your home on the market too long because the wrong buyers are being targeted.
- Ask the agent what his or her fee structure is. Do they require a percentage of the sales price, do they work for a flat fee, or will they be paid by the seller (if you're the buyer)?
- If you are unsatisfied with the agent's plan or personality, thank the agent for taking the time to meet with you, and repeat the process with another agent. It is time-consuming to meet with multiple agents, but it's worthwhile to find the right one.
Once you've found the right agent to represent you, hold up your end of the relationship. There are simple things you can do to help your agent get you the best deal.
- If you are selling, create an information sheet that lists your home's features and best qualities, especially those that people might otherwise overlook. Give this to your agent, who may be able to use the information when marketing or talking with potential buyers.
- When selling, talk to the agent about upgrading. Your home may need fresh paint or new carpet. (Make sure you choose neutral colors.)
- If selling, keep it clean. Eliminate cobwebs and dust. Keep the bathroom counters and mirrors wiped down. Vacuum and sweep daily during the selling process.
- If buying, be clear about what you want. Make a list of your priorities numbered one through 10 and give it to your agent. You can always revise the list, but give your agent something concrete so he or she can research available listings effectively.
- The agent's real estate office can say a lot about him or her. Is it organized or cluttered? When is it open? Does the office schedule make it easily accessible? Is the office clean?
- Your agent is an authority you hire to help you make the right decisions, but when push comes to shove, you have the final word.
- Hiring an expert will give you the best advantage. This is an enormous advantage for buyers, sellers and investors.
- Buying a home is likely to be the biggest single investment you'll ever make. Invest wisely.
- Remember that home values fluctuate with the economy.