Finding a Knowledgable Realtor

Asked by Jenn, Newington, CT Tue Dec 30, 2008

What are the top things that I should be looking for when interviewing a realtor? I have had a lot of referrals from friends and even my mortgage consultant but I don't just want to sign up with the first one that I meet. I know that I want to look at foreclosures in the area in addition to regular listings. How much experience should a realtor have? How do I know one would be better than another?

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David Chamberlain’s answer
David Chambe…, , Saint Petersburg, FL
Tue Dec 30, 2008
I am not allowed to post a link to my blog according to Dunes so I will have to copy and paste it:

Before you shop for an agent make sure you get pre-approved for a loan. That way if you have any credit issues you can fix them while you are looking for a home. Also why waste your time searching for a home when you don’t know how much a lender will lend you. Web Reference:

Unlike the sellers side I don’t see the need to interview a number of agents, I would suggest putting a few to work and see what happens. This way you can judge them based on actual work performed as opposed to what they say they will do.

I would ask for referrals from friends and family along with scouting for them on the internet, visiting offices and open houses. Once you find a few that you have a connection with, ask them to set you up on some type of automated internet search that updates automatically based on your criteria(size, location, price etc). I use what’s called a client gateway Example; it appears as a personalized website. You can save, comment or exclude properties. It is a great tool to communicate with clients but not all realtors associations provide such a tool, some just give agents sheets of properties.

In either case over the first couple of days communicate about the properties. See what type of responses you get and how fast, the agent should start narrowing down what you want even in the first couple of days. Ask a lot of questions about the neighborhoods even if you know the answers to the questions to get a feel for their knowledge of the area. The agent should check their e-mail a few times a day. They should answer their phone or respond promptly. At some point inquire about lowball offer on one of the properties, this serves a couple of points, if they immediately find a way out of doing a lowball offer get rid of them. If they try to calculate what the value is then says lets go lower it to give us some room, you might want to keep them. Each response will vary but the goal is to try to find out if the agent is willing to negotiate and how far they are willing to go. I hear a lot of agents say they don’t want to insult the seller, if the agent tells you this get rid of them.

Qualities you should find in a good agent during this process: Honesty, quick responses, availability, knowledge of market and good communication skills. They should not pressure you into buying a home, it is your job to pick a home. There job is to help you find your house, then help you get it at a good price at the right terms.

A few days of this should help you choose an agent. Once you have chosen an agent stick with them and let the other agents know that you have chosen to work with another agent exclusively and why you chose them.

The following link is not self promotion it is educational
1 vote
J R, , New York, NY
Tue Dec 30, 2008
I would never sign up a buyer until we both knew we wanted to be committed to each other. Would you get engaged to someone on the first date? Interview some realtors, find one you like and go out looking with them a couple of times. If you want to work with them, then sign up, if not move on.
1 vote
Phil, , Guilford, CT
Thu Jan 8, 2009
I would have someone run an MLS query for sold foreclosures in the area and Buyer Agents who pop-up for several properties. Be aware tho, top agents pick and choose their buyers, so be ready, able and willing to buy if you want to get a top agents time.
0 votes
Jeanne Allard, Agent, South Windsor, CT
Fri Jan 2, 2009
I think Bill From Florida misread your question. His recommendations are great if you're in the market for an agent to sell your home but you refer to yourself as a potential buyer. The questions you would have for a buyer 's agent are different.

I go back to looking my earlier suggestion that you look for a REALTOR with the ABR designation which tells you that agent has taken steps to become an agent who specializes in working with buyers. Ask for personal recommendations his/her past clients (a good agent will have many) then meet face-to-face so you can see if this is a person you feel comfortable with. You'll know if it feels like a good fit after the initial meeting then going out to see homes a few times.

A good agent will know after only a couple of meetings what appeals to you, what is important to you, can recommend additional service providers such as home inspectors, attorneys, handymen, etc.

You'll be asked to sign a buyer representation agreement so keep in mind you can have that agreement worded for just a particular property you wish to see, for a weekend, for a month, etc. It can be flexible so if you find the agent isn't someone you wish to stay with you can move on to someone else. Once you are confident this is a person you want to work with, you can extend the agreement for a longer period of time. The agreement is intended to protect your interests. It is not intended to trap you into having to work with someone you are unhappy with.
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0 votes
Bill Eckler, Agent, Venice, FL
Wed Dec 31, 2008

Our recommendation about finding a good realtor is to interview several, using the same battery of questions with each. An important awareness to have is there are many people out there, regardless of the profession, that are skilled at "talking the talk" but do not have the ability to "walk the walk" or get things done.

Your interviews should focus on questions that get to the bottom of their productivity level.

1. What were you gross sales for 2008?

2. What is your advertising budget? the companies?

3. Request a copy of their personal marketing plan. the companies.

4. Explain in detail their internet presence.

5. How are they attracting buyers?

6. How are they attracting foreign buyers?

7. What is their experience with "short sales" and "foreclosures?"

8. Why should we use you instead of another agent?

9. Is this a person I could work closely with?

Jenn, it's a great time to consider purchasing a home. The right agent has the ability to make the experience so much more rewarding. You are right in being thorough.

Good luck,
The Eckler Team
Michael Saunders & Company
0 votes
David Chambe…, , Saint Petersburg, FL
Wed Dec 31, 2008
Jeanne is correct and I am wrong, I am sorry for misinforming you. I am in Florida and our laws are designed so that we owe all parties certain duties and you can be a buyers agent but that is not the case most of the time. We are transaction brokers most of the time. It also seems Jeanne left out that you can work with an agent in a limited capacity without entering into an agency agreement and shopping for agents at an open house could still be valid.…
0 votes
Jeanne Allard, Agent, South Windsor, CT
Tue Dec 30, 2008
This is in response to David Chamberlain's answer to your question on finding a knowledgable REALTOR. David is not from Connecticut and has misinformed you.

In his your response he recommended:

"Unlike the sellers side I don’t see the need to interview a number of agents, I would suggest putting a few to work and see what happens. This way you can judge them based on actual work performed as opposed to what they say they will do."

Since you live in Connecticut where we have buyer agency laws, buyers hire REALTORs to represent them by signing an agency agreement (contract) the way a seller sign listing agreements. There's no such thing as "putting a few to work" for you.

You should not discuss anything about your financial situation until you have a signed Buyer Agency agreement with the agent you choose to work with. By not having that agreement in place, anything tell an agent (such as how much you're willing to pay for a home) can be shared with the seller of the home you eventually wish to purchase.

Connecticut REALTORs who work with buyers enter into Buyer Agency agreements with their clients and therefore represent the Buyer's best interest...not the Seller's...which was the case before buyer agency laws went into effect to protect buyers.

So, interview several agents. Find one who is very experienced, a specialist in the market area in which you are looking, is someone you feel 100% comfortable with, and who works as a full time REALTOR. As I recommended earlier, find an agent with the ABR designation and you can be assured the person is highly trained in properly representing buyers.
0 votes
Voices Member, , Benton County, OR
Tue Dec 30, 2008
Jenn, I like the answer by J R. You need to become informed about the market area you are looking at and then as J R said interview some agents, look around and make a wise informed decision as to who is going to work the best with you to attain your goals. It's your financial committment, your future and your decision.

You do not want to waste your time with a bad agent and a good agent does not want to waste their time with a bad buyer or seller.

Just my 1.1 cents worth, Dunes
0 votes
Jeanne Allard, Agent, South Windsor, CT
Tue Dec 30, 2008
Hi, Jenn. For openers ask how long the Realtor has been in the business? An experienced agent (someone with more than 10 years experience) has worked through a variety of market conditions. Today's market is quite challenging so you want to work with someone who can best represent you. Look for an agent with the ABR (Accredited Buyer Representative) designation showing that he/she specializes in working with buyers and has undergone additional training in buyer representation.

Also, does he/she work at it full time? An agent trying to juggle doing real estate along with a second job cannot possibly give you the attention you are entitled to.

An agent can look wonderful on paper or have a fancy website, etc but until you sit down and meet with the person you won't know what your comfort level is with that agent. You'll be spending a lot of time with the person you decide to hire so you need to be 100% comfortable.

Asking for recommendation from past clients is always a good idea.

I hope this was helpful.

Jeanne Allard
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
0 votes
Jessica Bega…, Agent, Avon, CT
Tue Dec 30, 2008

You don't have to sign up with the first agent you meet. I have many buyers who interview me (and I them) before coming to a mutual agreement to work together. At that meeting I typically go through the buying process, steps you need to take and how I work with my clients - then we look at houses together.

You can also just begin to interact with agents over the phone, via e-mail or get a feel for their style by going to their web site or blog.

If they are responsive, helpful and informed, then ask to meet with them in person. You can tell a lot about an agent by how they handle prospective clients.

Some of things you might want to ask - will you show me listings for sale by other brokerages, that are for sale by owner or foreclosure listings, too? How responsive are you to phone calls and emails and how available are you to show properties? You can also ask for references from past clients. How many buyer clients do you work with - and if you are a first time buyer, do they have experience with first time buyers as well? What areas are you familiar with?

As far as the years in business question goes - just because an agent has been around for 20 years doesn't mean anything. I have a little less than 5 years and have specialized in working with home buyers so I think my under five years of experience with buyers is better than someone who has primarily worked with listings for 20.

Good luck!
0 votes
Amanda Albert, Agent, Woodbridge, CT
Tue Dec 30, 2008
Hi Jenn,
The first thing that you should ask is if the person is actually a Realtor registered with the
GHAR and the National Association of Realtors. Also, make sure that you are working with a full time vs a part time Realtor.
Referrals are the best in my opinion because these are folks who have been so happy with the Realtor's service that they are pleased to send them your way.
Then of course, how you feel with the person. Chemistry is important. Do you feel you can trust that person to do the best job for you....

Hope this helps....
When you are ready to talk to someone, I hope you will give me a call. Thanks

Amanda 860-916-2744
0 votes
David Moody, , Dayton, OH
Tue Dec 30, 2008

The most important thing to consider in a Realtor is your own comfort level. You're going to be spending some time with this person who will be overseeing the most significant purchase you are going to make. Second, I don't think time in the business is as important as the agent's verve for the job. I have heard so many agents boast about being an agent for 20 years. This means very little to me. To put some perspective to it, I've been married for 11 years and I still stink at it. On the other hand, I've been in the real estate business for six years and I am very proud of my accomplishments.

You can ask a set list of questions to the agents you are interview, keep in mind that the agent who gives you the answers you're looking for has prepared. This may be a sign that the agent is putting more efforts into getting your business rather than doing the job.

One of the biggest problems we agents have is listening to you. Most are just waiting to talk. Let a couple agents do some searches for you after you have told them what you want. See what they come up with.

An agent should be a representative of your best interest. Make them give you a consultation. They should be able to step you through the process from home viewings to closing, go over all the contracts, forms and contingencies.

Above all, the agent works for you. Make sure you are comfortable with this.
0 votes
Terry Westbr…, Agent, Grand Rapids, MI
Tue Dec 30, 2008
It is about the connection meeting with the Realtor will tell you a lot. Tell them what you want and ask them if you are being realistic about your wants and needs. A few questions to ask, How many home in the area you are interested in have they been involved with in the last year, how many foreclosures or short sales have they managed, are they full time in the business, any recommendations from past clients. Check their web site out and see if any of these answers can be found there. Good luck.
0 votes
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