photo courtesy of TheTruthAbout...Not terribly long ago I came across this question on Trulia Voices.
It's a great question really...how does one truly choose the best agent?Â It's a question I have faced myself when buying and selling a home before I became an agent.Â There's no simple answer and no answer will ever be right for everyone, but I'd like to provide a bit of insight (as a consumer and an agent).Where do I start?
My first suggestion (and one that most agents would agree with) is to speak with your family and friends.Â Has anyone bought or sold a home recently?Â Do they rave about their agent?Â If so, you might be able to end your search already.Â A referral is always a good source for any product or service.Â As agents, we strive to make our clients happy and one of the biggest gifts we can receive for a job well done is the referral.Â Armed with your referral, you should speak to the agent in person before joining forces with them.Â There's more to selecting an agent than just the word of a good friend.
When you speak to any agent (referred or not), you want to look for several things.Â Personally, I think the most important factor to be mindful of is comfort.Â The fact is, you'll be spending some time with this person and if you're stuck in a car for an 8 hour day with an agent you're not comfortable with, you're going to have a miserable experience.Â We don't want that now, do we?
Of course, you'll want an agent who knows what they're doing.Â How can you tell?Â There's a lot of ideas that get floated around on this issue.Â Look at their experience.Â Check their education (many states allow you to look an agent's education - here in Texas you can check it at The Texas Real Estate Commission's website
).Â Ask how many homes they've sold this year.Â Pick a company first, then select an agent from that company.Â Google their name.
All of these are valid positions, but I think there's a much simpler way to go about it...Ask questions.
You're interviewing the agent.Â You know you're comfortable with them, but now your concern is the actual transaction.Â Will they be able to help you navigate the ins and outs of buying or selling a home?Â There is only one way to truly find out - asking educated questions.Â If you're an investor, ask about the cash flow potential of a property.Â If you're a first time home buyer, ask about benefits of buying a home as someone who hasn't owned one.Â If you're buying a ranch, ask about agricultural aspects of the property.Â If you're buying a new office building, ask about lease rates and current zoning.Â There are many questions you can ask - the best bet is to ask them.
By asking the questions relating to your particular purchase, an agent will show you all of the things mentioned previously.Â For instance, I am not a commercial agent, so if you asked me about the current zoning of your new office building, I wouldn't be qualified to answer.Â Â A good agent should be willing to tell you that as well.Â "I don't know" is not a bad phrase.Â "I don't know and I don't care to find out, but will still precede with your transaction" is a very bad phrase.Experience is not always a condition of quality.
I'm a relatively newer agent.Â I don't mind being called "new" in this business.Â Some agents try to avoid that fact, because they fear it is a stigma.Â There is nothing wrong with being a little green if you have a great support system.Â For me, I have a great broker and a close friend who is an excellent agent.Â My support lines don't end there, but those two combined can answer almost any question I throw at them.Â And asking them questions is something I do regularly.Â Real estate licensing is great for the basics, but there are so many ins and outs to real estate that even the most experienced agents I have ever met said they learn something new on every contract they've done.
In my time as an agent, I have met some experienced agents who did bad work and some who did amazing work.Â I've seen some who care and some who don't.Â We're all different in the way we run and handle our business, so there is no way of calculating who's the perfect agent by their years in the business.Â I have seen new agents who won't last a month and some who I think might some day be the top producers of their areas.Â It really is about the individual.Individuals or the company they keep?
Agents are independent contractors, we work for ourselves, but work under a broker.Â Many of these brokers go by familiar names - Century 21, Coldwell Banker, Exit Realty, RE/MAX - you get the idea.Â There are also plenty of local non-franchised brokerages (Bob's Realty, Jenny Home Finder Company, etc.).Â Does it matter what company you choose?Â Although many working for some of these companies would give you reasons why their company is the one to choose, I would have to disagree.Â Each company is run by a broker who has their own opinions on business and probably has trained their agents based on those opinions.Â In many towns there may be multiple offices of any given company, some of which are run by different brokers.Â I work for Exit Realty North-San Antonio - we are not the same broker as Exit IH10 or Exit Slater.Â So although we share the Exit name (franchise name), we do not share the same broker.
The broker is an important part of any real estate transaction as although you may be "working with" an agent, you are actually working with the broker.Â The agent acts on behalf of the broker when you sign a listing agreement or a buyer's representation agreement.Â Does your agent have a broker they can turn to if they need help or have a tough question?
In addition to having different companies under the same franchise name working through different brokers, each agent is free to make choices on how to run their business.Â Many agents in my office aren't as into the tech-side of things as I am.Â I love technology, so I use it heavily in my business plan.Â Some agents would prefer to do print advertising.Â Its a very individualized world when it comes to real estate.Â This is a good thing, because there's an agent out there that matches your needs.You need to interview and be interviewed.
Much like you're interviewing the agent, they should be interviewing you as well.Â They should be asking questions about your needs, goals, dreams, and desires.Â If they care to ask and listen to you closely; you're on your way to a good match.Â An agent should want you to succeed and find the home you're looking for or sell at the price you want, but they should not be afraid to tell you the reality of the situation either.Â A good agent will be your friend, your advisor, and someone ready to guide you through the transaction.
Ask the questions and you might just find yourself with an agent for life.