How do I find a trustworthy agent to deal with?

Asked by Joe, Billings, MT (soon to be Bellevue, WA) Wed May 14, 2008

My wife and I are moving 800 miles to the Seattle area and will be starting our home search here shortly and want to know how we can find a respectable/quality agent to work with.

My job will be located in downtown Bellevue so we are thinking of something on the eastside somewhere but really anything that would be a decent commute would be acceptable. Our budget maxes out at about $450k and we would really like to be able to have something with a decent yard attached.

Thanks for any insight you can give us and we are very excited for our return to the Pacific NW!
Joe

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27
Ardell Della…, Agent, Kirkland, WA
Sat Jun 7, 2008
Try asking some very tough questions like where do you think the market is heading. Do you think prices will be up or down by this time next year. Ask the tough questions and see if you get believable answers.
1 vote
Gretchen Sch…, , Seattle, WA
Fri May 23, 2008
It is great that you get to live with friends for a while to get a feel for the area. Since you have some time to get acquainted with the NW before you really need to start thinking about a purchase, I'd recommend exploring a different neighborhood each week or weekend. Try http://www.nwsource.com/neighborhoods/seattle for some ideas. Once you decide the areas in which you'd most like to buy, interview at least 3 agent who specialize in those areas. Real estate is VERY local. An eastside agent won't know Seattle, and a Seattle agent won't know Monroe. You don't want to work with someone not familiar with the nuances of a neighborhood. Of course, referals from people you know are the best place to start. But what if you don't know anyone who has used an agent lately? You can go to open houses in your prefered area and chat with the agents. When you find someone you feel comfortable with, do all the things discussed already. Check out their web site, blog, Trulia profile, company website profile, etc. If they still look ok, meet them for a coffee. Of course, all agents are vultures and will jump on the opportunity to meet a genuine buyer. If you don't know what to ask when you meet, here are some good questions from Elizabeth Weintraub on About.com http://homebuying.about.com/od/realestateagents/tp/Agentinte… . If you still feel comfortable with the agent and they appear competent, ask for permission to email/call past buyers. Ask how their experience with Joe/Jane Agent went. Ask what they liked most about their buying experience and what they wish went differently. Be very choosy! You will be spending a lot of time with this person and relying on them to advocate, protect and guide you with the purchase of your biggest asset. There are a lot of great agents out there (and some duds) - pick one who fits with your personality.
1 vote
Brad West, Agent,
Thu May 22, 2008
Joe, I confess I love Montana and am responding as I lived in BILLINGS as well and loved it! Many memories, all good, but as I see you are returning to the NW you already know it is such an amazing place to live.

My fellow agents gave a lot of ideas for finding an agent and I would add getting a referral from an experienced real estate attorney, real estate CPA or a very experienced lender. These professionals are not likely to refer you to a ‘dud” but true seasoned professionals as their reputation is also on the line. But what evidence do you look for when you find an agent to interview?

My answer is pretty simple to describe a good agent, hence some ideas.
1. Genuine product knowledge. I believe a good agent doesn't search the "net" for listings to sell you but knows the neighborhood that fits your lifestyle and needs, THEN goes out to find it for you. Knowledge includes future trends, investment longevity and a home that provides a solid base for a lifetime of real estate ownership. Ask an agent at an open house about other neighborhoods in town at your price point or bring some up... it won’t take long to know if they really know the area.
2. 10+ years experience. It’s easy to get a license and “degrees”, been there-done that. I am a long term thinker and I like to explore ideas to consider in regards to real estate. I believe it's healthy to discuss tax, investment, financing/debt strategies to build your goals. (A big goal for my clients is to get debt free home at some point-lets make a plan) An experienced agent should least recognize a balance of other financial opportunities that could greatly benefit the buyer. It’s important to know what sells or holds value better in different markets and when an agent is established he/she can more easily act in a manner that may not be in his best interest (a sale today vs. a better home for buyer tomorrow). This is not like a stock purchase where it’s easy to diversify with different stocks. Most agents have a list of do’s and don’ts for a good purchase. Ask them-if they have a long good list there might be some wisdom there.
3. A great agent will put on your shoes or “cowboy boots” as the case may be and throw out the ego part of sales. It’s not about me. Actually I tend to look at the negative things first on a house then I share my mistakes and impart ideas often with clients so hopefully they don’t make the same mistakes, I or others have made. Many times I see where strategies of NOT buying at the max. is actually to the benefit of the buyer and when structured properly pays bigger dividends, so finding the most for the top dollar is not always the best benefit from a great agent.

A great agent knows today’s decisions can shape tomorrows future so when I do a presentation or a class to owners, business people or first time buyer’s, I’m heavy on values, safety and ideas. A great agent should start with a client long before they even look at houses & if I don’t provide ideas and viable options and explain them clearly with a balance of other factors in life (marriage, kids, jobs, &…) its time for me to go live on a farm in Montana. :)

By the way. Don’t worry about the price range. It is attainable, even if you want those gold plated longhorns above the fireplace mantle.
1 vote
Richard Sene…, Agent, Bellevue, WA
Wed May 21, 2008
Hi Joe...I think the best way to find an agent is to ask the locals! Someone who works primarily in the area you are looking in will be your best bet. If you will be here awhile before house hunting...definitely drive the area(s) you are interested in and call a few agents based on the for sale signs you come across, then interview them. Also, ask friends and family members for referrals. What a great time to be enteriing the Seattle/Eastside market! Best of luck to you! ~ Rich & Brandy
1 vote
Linda Carroll…, , Lacey, WA
Sun May 18, 2008
I might be repeating an earlier answer, but here goes!

If you have collegues who have already moved to the area, ask them who did a good job for their move. If you have friends in the area, ask them the same question. Also ask them to ask others--neighbors, colleagues, etc.

It might get confusing--you might get more negative answers than positive! But sift through it and stay focused on your goals.

When you find some candidates, and when you are here and ready to start looking in person, call one and ask him or her to show you a home. do this with 3 to 5 agents, until one feels right to you.

A quick helper: A great agent will give you a Blue pamphlet entitled "The Law of Real Estate Agency" the first time you meet. This is required by WA State law, to protect consumers--and it is amazing how many agents never provide it or even talk about it. if the agent doesn't do that go to the next one.

A great agent will also make an appointment to meet with you and 1) listen to your goals and 2) inform you about the Purchase process, so you know what is coming up, and so you can make informed decisions.

Best wishes! Linda
1 vote
Gina Baumann, , Woodinville, WA
Wed May 14, 2008
Hi Joe,

The best way to find a good agent is to interview a few until you find one that you feel comfortable with and that understands the market. You want to make sure they are listening to your criteria and able to give you feedback on what you're looking for versus reality in your next home, and how to negotiate for your well being. Wondering where to find the agents to interview? Go to Sunday open houses, look on Trulia, or call a few local offices in the area. You need to feel like the agents most important aspect is helping you find the best home possible. You should feel like you can rely on them anytime a question comes up or concerns begin to appear.

The Pacific Northwest welcomes you back!

Take Care

Gina Baumann
1 vote
Jean Bradford, Agent, Silverdale, WA
Wed May 14, 2008
Hi, Joe,

Jackie's advice was great! You can check the "Home Pages" of some of the agents, and check out their background and "Designations" before you call them. If you look for a "CRS" (Certified Residential Specialist) you know you'll have an agent who has been in the business at least 5 years, and has passed all the educational requirements, experience, and training to receive that designation.

This is better than just being referred to someone in the Seattle area by a referral company. Just because a company has a list of agents in your target area doesn't mean you'll be happy with anyone that is assigned to you. My area is 5 miles across the Puget Sound, so this is an "arm's length" opinion.

Welcome to the great northwest,

Jean Bradford
Associate Broker, ABR, GRI, CRS, CRB
John L. Scott Real Estate
Silverdale, WA 98383
1-800-482-4398
1 vote
barbara mcma…, Agent, Everett, WA
Tue Jun 10, 2008
Since you are returning to the NW, you likely have friends or relatives that have purchased or sold homes recently. Additionally, you can go through a relocation company like John L. Scott. They have a staff of competent professionals that will be screened to match your needs. A relocation agent can offer more services and potentially has discounts available with moving companies, etc. They can also assist you if you don't like the person that is chosen, for any reason, they will immediately intervene and find you someone else. This can be very helpful in working from afar.

Barbara McMahon
Associate Broker
John L. Scott
425 218 0707
0 votes
Karen Jackson, , Renton, WA
Sun Jun 8, 2008
Hi Joe

We have already met. You have to decide exactly what qualities you are looking for in an agent. You can ask for references.- I would be happy to provide you with some. I would imagine you would want someone who is dedicated and loyal to you in helping you find the right home, someone who is looking out for your best interest and who will explain the process and educate you on the pro's and con's involved along the way. I would be happy to answer any other questions you may have.
0 votes
Vera Brodsky, Agent, Bellevue, WA
Fri May 23, 2008
Joe
To answer you first question go with referrals. If you don’t have anyone in Seattle to ask, interview the agents. I am sure you will be here for work prior to your permanent move. Set up appointments to meet at the realtor's office and just get a feel for how they work. You should be able to trust and be comfortable with the agent who will help you make one of the biggest decisions.

In regards to the value of the future property, would you consider a townhome with a yard? You might be able to get a newer home for that price. If you are willing to go fo something a little older, you might snatch a great deal in this market.

Let me now if I can be of any help!

Vera Brodsky
Remax Eastside Brokers
206 412 7792
http://www.verabrodsky.com
Web Reference:  http://www.verabrodsky.com
0 votes
Myke, Home Buyer, 89449
Fri May 23, 2008
I think one of the best ways to find a trustworthy agent is to know the answers to your questions before you ask. Do your homework, do research on the area - learn as much as you can before you reach out to agents. Ask them questions - and if thier answers don't jive with your research - and they can't give you a reason why that makes sense, that should be a red flag.

Educating yourself is always the best way to protect yourself from being taken advantage of, in any situation where you're relying on a professional for advice or guidance.
0 votes
Patrick Beri…, Agent, Seattle, WA
Fri May 23, 2008
If you have any friends here, ask them for a recommendation. If not, Donita has great advice--Check out the agent profiles here and talk to a few of them.

SECRET HINT: When you're calling these agents---See if they answer the call or at least return it within a few hours. If they don't answer or don't return your calls at this point, how much fun will it be when you need them later and they don't get back to you?
0 votes
Donita Dicki…, Agent, Issaquah, WA
Thu May 22, 2008
Joe - There are reputable agents throughout the Pacific Northwest. Take a look at the agents websites and their testimonials. That's a great place to start. Good luck with your search. - Donita
0 votes
Rob Graham, Agent, Seattle, WA
Tue May 20, 2008
Joe,
It is actually a little easier to find a good agent then most other professionals. We all have profiles, blogs web sites etc. Yes we all try to sound as good as we possibly can, but you will get a general feel for people. Then call a hand full of them. Ask them how long they have been in the business. How comfortable are they shopping in a given area. Just start a general conversationand see where it goes. You will know in your guy who you click with and who you don't. Best of luck to you.
0 votes
Mark Despain, Agent, Seattle, WA
Thu May 15, 2008
Joe, if you can wait, I think waiting till fall sounds like a good plan. After September I think there are going to be lots more anxious sellers going into the off season. But Ardell is correct - for the market and price that you are going to be searching it may still be pretty competitive even then.

I hope we hear back from you again.
Web Reference:  http://www.homehounds.com
0 votes
Joe, Home Buyer, Billings, MT (soon to be Bellevue, WA)
Thu May 15, 2008
Thanks for all of the helpful answers - I believe that I have at least a good starting point but feel free to continue to answer as I am open to all suggestions.

A couple of things that I should probably clear up is that we are looking for something within the next six months and will be living with some friends of ours out there until we find a place and have as much time as needed as we will be living in a MIL apartment and saving more and more money each month that goes by so if we end up waiting until the fall, that is fine.

Thanks again for all of the info and keep it coming - all help is welcomed!
Joe
0 votes
Ardell Della…, Agent, Kirkland, WA
Thu May 15, 2008
Joe,

Most agents are good and trustworthy someplace. Few, if any, are good and trustworthy everywhere. Unfortunately our mls system here does not record the Buyer Agent at time of sale, only the Listing Agent and the two companies involved. Finding an agent who lists a lot of property in the area you choose to live, is not necessarily as good as finding the agent who assisted the most buyers (vs. sellers) in that same area. Unfortunately that data point is hidden from even the ms members.

Your parameters, up to $450,000 for a single family home with a yard within a reasonable commute to Downtown Bellevue, are not the easiest. I have clients willing to spend up to a million or more in that same area, and we are still waiting for a really good house for them in 3 instances.

I would suggest you take a short term rental and purchase after you arrive, if you can handle that. You don't want to be pressured to buy anything lying around. You want to take your time and make sure you aren't buying the house no one wanted, just because your circumstances forced you to buy within a short timeframe.

Looking on the internet, vs. being able to drive by the properties that pop up to examine the negatives, is not ideal in your price range. If you were buying for $850,000, I'd be saying something else. But with a MAX of $450,000, the best properties will be condos or townhomes or a significant commute. The best single family homes in that price range move quickly. Even really nice townhomes want to be over $400,000 and often just over $450,000, and the monthly condo fees will eat into and reduce your max price.

If you look too far south, where the home in that price range are more plentiful, you are entering into an area that could be hardest hit in a market weakening by too few buyers vs. too many sellers.

Sorry to be a downer, but buying today takes a lot of patience and a lot of smarts. Selling does as well. If your overall goal is to be happy and get acclimated until you discover the best area in your price range for you, I would strongly consider renting for at least 3 months before buying.
0 votes
Caren Foy, Agent, New Castle, PA
Thu May 15, 2008
Hi Joe,

As a real estate professional, I would suggest that you do your homework online first. Look for an agent that has a proven track record and can provide testimonials or references. Make sure that they carry the Realtor designation, which means that they are required to adhere to a strict code of conduct and ethics. Before making a decision, it is best to interview a couple of agents. Since it sounds like you are moving back near a familiar area, ask for recommendations from people you know or people in the community, Many times a referral from someone you know or trust if the best source for a quality professional. If you don't know someone to make a recommendation, another idea would be to visit a large local real estate office and ask them to refer you to someone in the area that you are moving. Many times they know the best people to work with. Best of luck on your home search.
0 votes
Dan Roberts, , 98625
Thu May 15, 2008
Dear Joe, A word to the wise! I noticed that all answers to your question came from "Real Estate Professionals" so do take them with a lot of salt. Here in WA, everybody is a professional until right up to signing that contract, than, it's BYE. You won't get such detailed support, they will come up with a way for you to spend your 450K though. My suggestion is to go over all the brokerages listings in Bellevue that way you won't be in total unkown territory. Bellvue is an ugly, crowded, traffic infested city. Your commute may gain miles but you can save alot of a grief so don't say only Bellevue. You will get only Bellevue! Please believe me! I came 3000 miles and was welcomed to WA by housing cons, local government unopposed to making a fast hustle, and absolutely nowhere to turn for help! The problems caused deliberately by WA state cost me 10 years later!
0 votes
Tim Tilbury, Agent, Seattle, WA
Wed May 14, 2008
Hello Joe

These responses are amazing, but I'll chime in with a small bit!

I would begin by going to your local real estate office, perhaps they have an affiliation with a Brokerage near your destination. This way you may have a relationship with someone you can actually meet and then act as a point person for your Brokerage/Realtor search closer to your destination. You can also ask for a copy of Washington's 'Law of Real Estate Agency' pamplet (which is a requirement prior to signing any document) and also the 'REALTOR Code of Ethics'.

Just a thought- best of luck with your move.
0 votes
Mary Sunde, Agent, Bellevue, WA
Wed May 14, 2008
Joe
You have some great answers from many agents. I agree that interviewing a few agents just like a
seller would is a good idea. You might want to add to your list of questions if the agent is experienced
in relocating buyers as they have specialized needs that a buyer famililiar with the area does not.
You might also want to ask the agent(s) that you are interviewing if they do dual agency or if they
just represent the buyer when working with clients looking to purchase a home. A agent that
meets professional criteria as well as an agent that you can communicate with easily and who
puts your needs first, in my opinion, is a great match. You can visit my website at: homestobuyseattle.com for area information.
Mary
0 votes
Mark Despain, Agent, Seattle, WA
Wed May 14, 2008
Welcome back, Joe. There are some great suggestions here. I would only reiterate to interview at least 3 agents before you decide (even if you get lucky and find someone you like right away). Checking an agents credentials can be difficult for a layperson. But most agents will supply you with several letters of recommendation from past clients; call or email these past clients to get a feel for their personality type and how satisfied they were. Also, do look at their websites and compare content randomly to other agents that you find on the internet.

Best of luck
Web Reference:  http://www.homehounds.com
0 votes
Keith Zeiler, , Issaquah, WA
Wed May 14, 2008
This is a great questions because in every industry there or unfortunately untrustworthy people. But I have to say the majority of the realtors I have worked with on the east side have been great. One thing I would make sure you find out is if they are a realtor. There are lots of agents that are not realtors and just agents and there is a difference. Realtors are held to a higher standard.
Also interview agents, all agents are independent contractors and we all do things different. Have the agents send you references and read them.
Check out their website.
I hope this helps you have gotten some great answers on the thread.
Web Reference:  http://www.tk2homes.com
0 votes
Daniel Jeung, , Woodinville, WA
Wed May 14, 2008
ONE good way would be to speak with your HR manager at the company that you're considering. They may have some insight to share with you. If you're interviewing with potential co-workers, ask them for suggestions as well. Sometimes the best agent is the one that is referred to you not by a relocation company, but from a trusted friend or co-worker. If that's not a possibility, then I'd try the suggestions listed below. BY and large, most agents are trustworthy and good at their job. The best agent for you is one who will listen to your concerns and with whom you have a good rapport.

Welcome to the area!

-Daniel
0 votes
Robert Luecke, , Laguna Beach, CA
Wed May 14, 2008
This is a good place to start. Look at the home pages of the Realtors on Trulia.
Web Reference:  http://www.shopprop.com
0 votes
Chuck Sparks, Agent, Bellevue, WA
Wed May 14, 2008
Joe,

There are plenty of good agents out there but what I believe works best for people, like yourself, that are relocating is to talk with a few and get a sense for how well they communicate with you one to one. In the end the agent that is a good listener and willing to give you the time you need to find the right home fit is the one for you. My office is located in the heart of Bellevue and I am a member of Microsoft's preferred agent list for company relocations. Call or email me and I would love to see if I can meet your needs and expectations.

Chuck Sparks
Keller Williams Rlty Bellevue
505 106th Ave NE Ste 210
Bellevue, WA 98004
Primary: 206-719-5061 Secondary: 425-454-0911
chucksparks@kw.com
http://csparksforhomes.com
0 votes
Karen Jackson, , Renton, WA
Wed May 14, 2008
Hi Joe.

My suggestion would be to interview a few agents so you can get a feel for their personality and experience. Buying a home is one of the biggest decisions of your life - you need to make sure you can trust the agent you are working with. I work out of the John L. Scott Renton office which is right next to Bellevue. I would be happy to talk with you on the phone and answer any questions you may have. You can look at my website and search for homes or I can provide you a daily or weekly list of homes currently for sale. My phone number is 206-714-1384 or email kjackson@johnlscott.com Feel free to call or email with any questions.
0 votes
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