Three Tips for Choosing Your Next Real Estate Agent

Most buyers and sellers don’t fully consider the risks of choosing the wrong real estate agent – until it’s too late. After all, buying and selling real estate is a well-understood “commodity” activity most of us take part in relatively regularly. It’s also one of the riskiest. Even typical transactions can hit your pocketbook with expensive legal fees and unexpected costs due to error, mishandling and poor planning. Really bad transactions can cause the loss of your home and/or long-term, costly litigation. It happens every single day.

Yet, when choosing an agent, the process is usually a remarkably casual, often haphazard affair for most of us. Someone you know at work also sells some real estate part-time. Your cousin sells houses on the side. You do a home search on Google or Zillow and click on the first agent that comes up next to a home you like.  

Sadly, with these scenarios, you’re getting about the same result you’d expect entering a game of darts and deciding to blindfold yourself for the contest. Maybe you hit the board. Maybe not. Certainly, your chances are poor of scoring a bullseye.

To avoid these pitfalls, here are 3 easy-to-follow tips:

1 – Never use a part-time real estate agent

The majority of real estate professionals out there are not full-time. They’re “weekend warriors” earning money on the side. Why is this bad, you may ask?

It comes down to risk and experience.

Real estate laws, rules and regulations, policies and procedures change almost daily at the federal, state and local levels. To say nothing of home markets themselves.

Full-time Realtors, or “professional” Realtors as they’re called, buy and sell homes daily. Thus they’re forced to continuously stay on top of ever-changing legal and deal landscapes to get their transactions done in the most efficient, low-risk and lucrative manner possible.

Their livelihoods depend on making their clients happy  – and keeping themselves out of legal and financial hot water.

Simply put, you’re greatly increasing your risk levels by hiring a part-time agent. They’re also more likely to get you a poor deal as well.

Ask the agent you are considering if they are a professional, full-time real estate agent or broker.

2 – Make sure your real estate professional is tech-savvy

Technology has completely transformed our lives as consumers over the last 20 years. We’re able to research and compare on our own, hear what others have to say to help our decisions and then get what we want at a great price – in most cases, overnight.

Real estate isn’t quite there yet, but it’s coming. The next 10 years will see huge changes in how we buy homes, but it will still be some time before we have an Amazon or Ebay for real estate.

Right now, the real estate industry is dominated largely by Baby Boomers and the upper end of Generation X. That means there’s a growing technology and communications gap between real estate professional and their customers. This can cause major issues in the consumer-seller world that increasingly uses technology to make things faster and more convenient.

What are a few things to look out for that could foreshadow a slow, inefficient or difficult client-agent relationship?

  • Agents who aren’t tech savvy usually prefer phone calls and email to chat and text for even the simplest communications – if it’s a time-waster for you, it is for others too.
  • If the agent you’re considering doesn’t use electronic documents and e-signature (e.g. Docusign), things will be slow and you could lose money or a home. Ask them what tools they use upfront.
  • Agents who aren’t comfortable filming video walk-thrus of homes or doing web conferences can keep you from having an efficient transaction.
  • If your agent’s website is broken, buggy on your mobile phone, or looks like it was built in the 1990s, it’s a sign good digital home marketing isn’t a big part of their business.
  • If your agent doesn’t use social media or does it poorly, it could signal a lack of understanding and therefore connection to today’s market.

A great first step at determining whether the agent you’re considering is tech-savvy? Send an email or fill out a form on their website from your phone and see how long it takes them to contact you and how they reach out.

3 – Hire a busy real estate agent

It may sound crazy, but if your agent is extremely easy to get ahold of, spends lots of time with you talking and doesn’t ever seem to be in a hurry, you need a new one.

The best real estate agents are very busy people who know how to attract business, organize themselves, and work very efficiently. The busiest agents are also always the most successful. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, you want an agent that is in-demand.

Besides the above, how can you tell you have a successful agent?

Ask them how many listings they have and how much property they’ve sold in the last 12 months. If they have fewer than half a dozen homes and have sold fewer than 6-10 homes in the last year, there’s a good chance you’re not hiring someone who gives you the best possible chance of a successful transaction.

Of course, there are lots of other factors to consider when choosing a Realtor. If you’re overall goals are a smooth, valuable transaction that costs you as little as possible – and is as low risk as possible – then you can’t go wrong emphasizing these three rules for choosing the right agent to help you and your family.

Photo via Flickr

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