According to recent figures reported by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), there are 86,000 real estate brokerage firms and approximately 2 million active real estate licenses in the United States. With so many options, how can you be certain you’re hiring a good agent? That’s an important question—one that many consumers don’t bother considering, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Buying or selling a home can be an exhausting mix of excitement and anxiety—and having a knowledgeable expert by your side will help you avoid potential pitfalls. Follow these do’s and don’ts to choose the best real estate partner to walk you through the process.
DO Trust Your Instincts
Hiring a real estate professional is a bit like entering into a relationship. You’ll be sharing intimate details of your life with your agent—about your finances, your family, and your hopes and dreams. Plus, you’ll be spending a lot of time with them, either in person or communicating via phone, text, and email. If you don’t “click” from the get-go, you’re not likely to get along well as the process moves along. No matter how impressive an agent’s resume or reputation is, if you don’t like them, move on to someone else.
DO Seek Referrals and Check References
Talk with friends and family members who’ve recently bought or sold a home to see if they’d recommend their agent. If you’re starting from scratch, ask for recent references from agents you’re considering. And actually check them. Find out how agents are perceived by their peers by calling other professionals. Real estate is a relational business, and if your agent isn’t well liked, other agents may be less willing to show their listings—including yours.
DO Ask Questions
If you were hiring someone to manage your business, you’d interview them, right? The same should be true of your search for a real estate agent. Ask questions to determine if they’re a good fit for your situation. Here are a few to get you started:
- How many listings do you currently have? A large docket of listings may indicate a quality agent, but you’ll need to dig a little deeper by asking follow-up questions: How long have they been on the market? In the last year, how many have you listed and sold? How many had price reductions before selling?
- How many homes have you sold near me? Finding someone with neighborhood-level expertise can help you price and market your home appropriately.
- How long have you been in business? You shouldn’t necessarily rule out new agents; after all, people who are fresh in the field may be more energetic and more on top of the latest trends and technology. But with longevity comes experience, and, in general, more seasoned agents will be more successful.
- What’s your marketing strategy? A good agent will employ a mix of traditional and creative marketing tactics: lawn signs and virtual tours, print flyers and e-blasts, open houses and Instagram posts. Your agent’s strategy should include things you can do to make your home more marketable, such as painting, cleaning, rearranging furniture, and removing evidence of pets.
- What are your credentials? Although all real estate agents must pass basic state licensing exams, they don’t all have the same level of training and expertise. Choosing an agent who’s committed to ongoing education in the field is a plus. Learn more about designations and certifications on NAR’s website.
DO Look for an Agent Who Understands Your Unique Situation
There are as many different personalities among agents as there are people. Althought it’s not mandatory, working with an agent who has truly “been there, done that,” can make the process go more smoothly in certain situations. For example, if you are a military member or spouse of a military member, you might want to work with an agent who’s familiar with your particular circumstances, from the PCS orders to the strict timelines and VA loans. If you’re an investor, working with someone who has experience searching for and closing on flippable homes could come in handy.
DON’T Hire a Part-Time Agent
Agents who aren’t fully immersed in the real estate market won’t be as knowledgeable or as available as you need them to be. If someone wants to see your home at 3 pm, but your agent has another job, you may miss a potential buyer. Similarly, if your agent’s focusing on their “regular” job, they may not see your dream home enter the market.
DON’T Hire a Friend or Family Member (Usually)
This is a touchy one, but hiring a friend or family member who “does real estate” can be a gamble. Even if the person you know has an impressive track record, if things don’t go exactly as planned with your home sale, things can get ugly quickly. (Are you sure you want to fire your brother-in-law?) Of course, your instincts should still rule the decision. If your friend has demonstrated success with your type of listing and in your neighborhood, and if you’re completely confident about teaming up with them, then go for it.
DON’T Let Money Be the Deciding Factor
Using the services of a real estate professional is an investment, and you may be tempted to hire the agent promising the highest sales price and charging the lowest commission. But if an agent suggests a much higher sales price than other estimates you’ve received, you should be more wary than excited. Ask for data to support their price; if they can’t provide it, walk away. Similarly, if an agent is offering discount commissions, you’ll want to find out why. Is it because they’re trying to be more competitive and win more clients? Or is it because they’re not as effective as other agents? When it comes to commissions, “you get what you pay for” is a good adage to remember.
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