A Realistic Guide To Finding A Real Estate Agent
Find A Realtor Who Wants To Be Found
In my years as a Realtor, I've read lots of articles regarding the best way to find a real estate agent. Lots and lots of articles. Most of them contain nicely numbered lists of steps one might take in the search for the perfect agent. I would argue that those lengthy lists are largely a waste of time and I would encourage anyone who finds themselves in need of a good agent to remember to KEEP IT SIMPLE.
I have sat with any number of potential clients who have prepared a list of questions for me, compiled from various sources..."What is your average list-price-to-sales-price-ratio?", "How will you represent me?, "May I see your listing agreement/buyers agreement?"...and as I respond, they almost always get that sort of blank, polite "I'm-not-sure-what-your-answer-means-but-that-website-said-I-should-ask" look. You don't have to do this to yourself. If you aren't very familiar with the real estate business over all or real estate agents in general, the answers aren't really going to tell you much about the person you are hiring. In addition, laws, proceedures and protocols vary from state to state so that question that makes perfect sense in New Jersey might be senseless in Oklahoma. I always tell clients to remember that this is their transaction and that my job is to find out what they want or need and then to help them get it. Period. So ask questions that make sense to you, engage the agent in a conversation about real estate (local and in general) and see where the responses take you.
Now, about finding agents to have that chat with. My favorite three ways to find an agent: 1) Referrals from people you trust. 2) Open houses. 3) Sign calls
I like these three methods because they put you in contact with individuals who are actually out there working at selling real estate.
Referrals are pretty self-explanitary.
For open houses and sign calls you need to visit the area in which you plan to buy or sell if at all possible.
When you attend an open house, wait for the agent to engage you. If she's doing her job, she will greet you, maybe give you a little information about the property, and then try to gather some information about you. The second part is actually the more important. If she asks you questions, answer them and then come up with a few of your own. You might ask specific questions about the particular property or neighborhood, general questions about the market or something more random like "where's a good place to eat around here?" Remember this gives you your first idea of how she works. Go with your gut.
If the agent for the most part ignores you during the open house, move on.
Sign calls are much the same. Drive through the area (at a reasonable hour) and get the direct numbers for a few of the agents who have homes listed there and call them--right then while you're parked in front of the house. If she doesn't answer right away be sure to leave a message then pay attention to the amount of time it takes her to return your call. There will be times that an agent can't return your call immediately, for instance, I personally never take or make calls when I am actually showing properties, but I always try to get back with the caller within the hour. When you do speak with the agent ask about the property and see what kind of response you get. The agent should answer your questions directly but once again should be gathering information about you. If she simply gives you the price of the home upon request and then parts with a vague "give me a call back if you want to see the inside" don't call back.
You may just click with the first agent that you talk to or it may take a couple of tries but done this way, the process of finding an agent is relatively stress-free.