Dan, Home Buyer in

How do I find a good buyer agent in Seattle?

Asked by Dan, Sun Jun 15, 2008

I'm relocating to Seattle and am looking at buying my first place around north Seattle (Ravenna / Wallingford / Fremont / Greenlake).
Given that the buyer's agent is payed a portion of the purchase price, how do I know if s/he obtained the best price for me? And how do I know whether the advice to buy is justified in my situation, or the NAR usual motto "It's a good time to buy, real estate will go up tomorrow"?
Bottom line, how do I find someone who has my best interest in mind?
No offense, just wondering

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Bryan R. Lov…, , Lynnwood, WA
Sun Jun 15, 2008

What a hard question to answer. I would think every agent who responds would hope that you would contact them and give them an opportunity. So assuming you already know that each agent would like the contact lets move on.

There are several things to consider. Here is a list of several of the key things to look for in an agent...

1 - Do they understand the real estate market. How do you know if they are? I am not sure how you can feel that one out. Interview an agent, if it seems difficult to believe or you feel they are running around the answer, interview another.

2 - Do they understand how to protect your interests when writing a contract? This is very critical, while we all should know how to fill forms out there are times someone will have missed or not filled out the correct forms.

3 - Do you think they are someone who would fess up to a mistake if they made one, or try to cover it up?

4 - Do they back their word with a WRITTEN guarantee as to the work they will perform?

5 - Are they a full time career professional or a part time agent. Full time agents may have more clients but they also have the time and EXPERIANCE to process your purchase with as little problems as possible.

6 - Did they really take the time to understand your wants and needs.

7 - Be aware also, time in the business does NOT necessarily make an agent a good agent. I have been in the business for over 5 years and have ran into PLENTY of "seasoned" agents who improperly fill out the forms or lack in communication.

8 - If you are concerned after interviewing, go with your gut, ask someone else.

9 - Do they contact you constantly, email you new listings, let you know when something new is up that fits your needs?

10 - Did they know how much home you can afford? This is critical, if I don’t know you can buy a home, I may just be getting your hopes up for something that you couldn't close on.

11 - If you know anyone who lives up here, asking them for a referral could be a pretty good way.

These are just some things to keep in mind. There really is a lot that a buyers agent has to do. Please feel free to let us know if you have any other questions.

I hope this has helped out in some way.

Best Wishes,
Bryan Lovell
1 vote
Peter Nilsson, Home Seller, 98034
Tue Jul 29, 2008
Dan, I was in your position in 1995. The company that transfered me to the Seattle area also paid for the relocation service including a buyers agent. I rented for the first almost one year and during that time researched the different neighborhoods with an agent that only represent buyers. I used her again to buy another property in 1998. Her name is Sandy Russo. She is still doing relocation services. I found her patient, listening to my needs and honest. I'm still getting her advice on real estate.

A related observation, my colleagues and friends in the area are in general very pleased with their buyer agents. So you may ask around for references.

You can also look at independent reviews, like Seattle Magazine's yearly ratings (the last results are from 2007), Yelp or Angieslist. On Angieslist the agent, with the highest rating and award nomination (based on JUST 5 responses), is John Madrid, and judging from his web site it looks like he is focused on the areas you are looking in.

As usual I'm very impressed with the responses in this community. Good luck.
0 votes
Charlie All…, Agent, Seattle, WA
Tue Jul 8, 2008
Dan, I just read through all the answers and was surprised that no one asked where are you moving from. It makes a difference if you are coming from an expensive market where the sticker shock in Seattle
could be a big deal or from a Texas where you will have a big challenge moving in to this market. What type of company are you going to work for here and will they help you in the relocation process.
0 votes
Ardell Della…, Agent, Kirkland, WA
Mon Jul 7, 2008

I post the stats for King County every Sunday night on RainCityGuide.com and the prices are slowly going down, and just starting to go down. You may want to do some research on your own and not put your future entirely into someone else's hands. Buying for the short term is not advisable at present and renting before you buy, unless you have already lived here before, is highly recommended.

Unless you have a compelling reason to buy as soon as or before you hit town, better to try for a short term rental so you don't feel so pressured to buy a place before you arrive.
0 votes
Roger Kinnam…, , Seattle, WA
Mon Jul 7, 2008
Hi Dan.
You have been givng some good advice on this page. Be sure to read over it. I am sure you can find an agent who lives in North Seattle. All agents are different, interview a few to make sue you both can work together as a team. Rememer the agent is working for you and should listen to your needs and follow through according to your time scheduel. A goal of a good a full service agent is to provide you with real information about the market, so you can make a positive decision. When you are an informed client, you'll make the best decisions for the most important purchase or sale in your life time .. The job of a professional agent job is to aid you through the entire process, to negotiate to save you money and make sure you are successful. Every Client is Special.
0 votes
Matthew Miner, Agent, Seattle, WA
Sat Jul 5, 2008
Hi Dan,

All agents have a fiduciary relationship with our clients, which do not allow us to put any other agenda ahead of theirs. I think you should interview a few realtors and choose the one you’re most comfortable with. Someone you could be friends with. I think that is a very important attribute for people to look for. If you’re comfortable around your realtor you will be able to speak candidly with them and have a full open and honest relationship with them. They will end up understanding you better and what it is you need to be happy. Second look for some one who can listen well and understand what they heard. There is a big difference between hearing and listening. And lastly when you’re interviewing your realtors you will be able to tell if they are cheesy sales people or if they work more as an advisor or consultant. You want them to come across humble, approachable, and honest. Come up with questions for them. See how they handle those questions. Do they jump to answer it without much thought or do they think about it, do they ask more questions before they give you an answer, etc. Let them now you are interviewing several agents and that you will not be making a decision today. Take a day and think about which agent you liked and felt the most comfortable with. Then Hire them. Can be time consuming but hopefully you will never have to do it again.
0 votes
Bill Cecil, , Seattle, WA
Mon Jun 23, 2008
All of the information you have been provided is of value and I suggest you follow-up on the suggestions. But in the final analysis, experience and training the most important elements. Look for an agent who has been worked in the area you are interested in for years (+10 for me) and an agent who is an Associate Broker (the highest level of training offered in Washington State).

Bill Cecil,
Associate Broker
0 votes
Rob Graham, Agent, Seattle, WA
Sun Jun 22, 2008

Real estate agents are amazingly easy to research. We all have web sites with profiles on them and many of us have blogs where you can get a feel for our personality. Most of all you want someone who works in the area and has experience in the local market. Seattle is a very neighborhood specific town. Depending on your work, hobies and interests, some neighborhoods will no doubt work better for you.

Personality is also a big factor. You are going to be spending a lot of time with this person, so find someone who you can stand to be around.

One more hint. If you see an agent with the ABR designation after their name (like mine, he said modestly) they are an Accredited Buyers Representative. It is additional training they have gone through to specialize in representing buyers.

Hope it helps.
0 votes
Karen Mcknig…, Agent, Kirkland, WA
Thu Jun 19, 2008
I have a feeling looking through the list of agents who answered your question is a good place to start. In my opiinion, you will find the better agents by finding agents who work by referral. The only way an agent receives referrral business is by doing an excellent job for his clients.

Another criteria is designations. The CRS designation is considered the highest designation attainable in residential sales. If you hire an agetn with a CRS designation, you are hiring an agent who has invested time and money furthering his education. Only 4% of the Realtors have achieved this designation.

Also, be sure to hire a Realtor. Not all real estate agents are Realtors. Agents who are Realtors subscribe to a code of ethics and contribute financially to support the designations that increase the professionalism in our industry.

When you meet with an agent for a Buyer Consultation, you will know by their presentation whether or not they have your best interests as their priority. Pay attention to the quality of information and statistics they give you about the current market and how knowledgeable they are.

If you're interested in market statistics, you can find them on my web site: http://www.mcknightrealty.com. Good luck in your search for an agent.
0 votes
Tammy Hatch, Agent, Seattle, WA
Wed Jun 18, 2008
The best advice I can tell you is interview the agents and find the one you feel comfortable working with. You can ask it they have any references of clients that have used them in the last 90 days. Ask friends you know if they have an agent they can recommend. There are so many different agents as there are buyers you need to find your right fit! For the most part buyers agents are not out to sell you the most expensive home, but to find you the best home at the best price.
0 votes
Gerhard Ade, Agent, Bellevue, WA
Tue Jun 17, 2008
Dan -
(1) interview agents and then meet the ones you like best (two to three) in person; (2) ask for the agent's referrals and call them; (3) ask the agent what information he/she will give you about homes on the market (sales and listing history, commission offered to agent bringing the buyer, comparable recent sales, etc.) (4) ask yourself: will I want to spend time with this agent (chemistry)?
Best regards and success with your agent and home search, Gerhard
Web Reference:  http://www.gnade.com/
0 votes
Samuel Hilbe…, , Woodinville, WA
Mon Jun 16, 2008
Dan -

Wow...I think the key from everyone's responses are to look for referrals! As agents, this is often how we build our business...through happy clients. Successful agents receive the majority of their business through referrals and can minimize actual prospecting. Each of us agents can tell you we have our best interests in mind...but really, how can you know unless you talk to someone that has been represented by us who saw that we mean what we say.

As has also been mentioned, interview a few different agents. You should be able to find a few viable candidates...often it comes down also to a personality match...someone you feel comfortable with and confident in.

One last thing to keep in mind is where and what you are purchasing...if you are looking into townhomes or condos find an agent who tends to focus on this type of housing. If it is a million dollar home...find an agent who knows how to better handle high end properties. Different agents have different strong and weak points.

Most importantly, during your interview with your agent...don't be afraid to ask the tough questions. Have them justify their answers and give you truly good reasons why you should use them. This may make them squirm but a good agent knows exactly why you should choose them.

Good luck!
Web Reference:  http://www.agentsamuel.com
0 votes
Steve McDona…, Agent, Seattle, WA
Mon Jun 16, 2008
I appreciate your critical thought process and your situation since you will be moving here from out of town. My guess is that you will have a job upon arrival. You may even have a friend or two living in the area alreay. Why not start by asking them if they HAVE USED a realtor they would recommend? Ideally you're also going to want someone who knows the neighborhoods you target. If you're lucky you'll have several recommendations to consider. At that point, you can consider interviewing a handful to determine who clicks with you. That's when you'll want to ask questions to determine an agent's level of experience and professtional attitude. As agents, we are guided by the Law of Real Estate Agency which "compels" us to act in the best interest of our client. But beyond that you want someone who is a strong negotiator. The current Buyer's Market and it's surplus inventory means you should be able to make a deal that would involve a great sale price and possibly some closing costs. Agents are obligated to present any and all offers that you want to make. That doesn't mean they'll be accepted but at least the willingness to pitch it is a good sign. Keep in mind that you have selected some of the more pricier real estate areas in Seattle. So you're ability to land a good price is going to be relative to the neighborhood. Also, I should warn you that you most likely will work with the first agent you meet so keep an open mind until you've completed your screening process. Chances are you'll find several well qualified candidates and it's going to be a gut feeling that sways you one way or another. Good luck!
0 votes
Heather Cook, , Seattle, WA
Mon Jun 16, 2008
The previous answers all contain good advice. As an agent, I often look for someone who has earned the CRS (Certified Residential Specialist - see web site attached) designation. This requires quite a bit of extra training and experience in real estate and my experience with these agents has been good. (Yes, I do have a CRS myself.) However, there's no substitute for meeting with 2 or 3 agents, discussing your situation and seeing how comfortable you feel with them and whether you think your style and theirs are a good fit. I sometimes refuse or refer clients with whom I do not have a good rapport; it's just not good for either party.

Good luck with your first purchase. Yes, a real estate purchase is a big financial investment, but it can be a fun and exciting process, too!
Web Reference:  http://www.crs.com
0 votes
Karen Jackson, , Renton, WA
Mon Jun 16, 2008
Hi Dan

I suggest you interview a couple agents and ask questions. Each agent should be able to show you statistics on the market of history and what is happening today so you can see the trend. In addition once you find that perfect home - as your agent I would show you comparables to that home to make sure you are not overpaying. Please give me a call or email - I would love to interview for the job.
0 votes
Robert Luecke, , Laguna Beach, CA
Sun Jun 15, 2008
Search the Realtor.com website and hit the search engines. You should be able to find some comments on companies and agents.
Web Reference:  http://www.shopprop.com
0 votes
Mark Despain, Agent, Seattle, WA
Sun Jun 15, 2008
I agree with most of the previous comments. Ask acquaintances for referrals, ask agents for references and follow up with those references, and interview at least three agents before making a decision. If you don't get at least three referrals from your acquaintances there are plenty of agents to contact here that work in North Seattle.

Yes it's a good time to buy if you plan to own the house for at least 3 to 5 years. Particularly in the neighborhoods you mentioned. No one will know for sure when the market has hit bottom and no one knows where interest rates will be when it does. The only people that should be buying are people that want to own their home and are not trying to time an investment in the real estate market.

Happy Hunting and welcome to the beautiful Northwest.
Web Reference:  http://www.HomeHounds.com
0 votes
Linus Toy, , Mercer Island, WA
Sun Jun 15, 2008
1. Ask someone at the company you are going to work for about recent experiences or referrals.
2. Do you have a Realtor you've worked with and trust where you live today? Ask them to help you find (and qualify for you) a Realtor who would be suitable for the area you want

Interview the people you identify from 1 & 2 and see who meshes well with you.
Even if you have a relocation package from your new job, I strongly suggest interviewing them as well as others.

As for "best price" remember that there is more to your final housing solution than just price. Ask for a buyer's agency agreement that clearly spells out what you can expect from your agent.
0 votes
Karen McMom, Home Buyer, Seattle, WA
Sun Jun 15, 2008
Good advice, Lisa and Stacey. I'm kinda in the same boat as Dan but I'm looking on the East side.
0 votes
Lisa Bosques, , Burien, WA
Sun Jun 15, 2008
The best way for you to find a good buyers agent would be to ask people that you know and trust for a referral. Do you know anyone in this area who has worked with an agent that they like and trust? Can your local place of employment provide a reference to someone in the area in which you are looking?

As Realtors we must keep your best interests in mind at all times. I understand that a few out there do not. Also, in regards to the advice out there to "buy now", it really is a better time to buy now than in the past, simply because there are so many more homes to choose from, thus you are in a better position to negotiate.

I heard a quote on the radio the other day that went something like this - "It's time for people to stop buying homes because they are a good investment, and just start buying homes to live in". Meaning that if your desire is to have a home of your own to start planting roots in, then buy a home and stay in it for several years, and you will reap the rewards of increased equity. Then you won't have to worry about whether or not you are buying at the bottom of the market, because it won't matter. Plus, we Realtors have no crystal ball to predict if and when we are at bottom.

Good luck with everything!
Web Reference:  http://www.98146online.com
0 votes
Stacey Lange, Agent, Kirkland, WA
Sun Jun 15, 2008
As an agent, I know it is difficult with so many agents out there to choose from. My recommendation would be to go with a reputable company and to perform first a phone interview if you are not in the area, ask for references, and trust your gut. We all have agreed to uphold the best interest of our client.....have faith. There are fantastic agents out there who will keep your BEST interests in mind at all times.

Best of luck!
Web Reference:  http://www.key2yourhome.net
0 votes
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