Let’s be honest. Even in the best of circumstances, buying or selling real estate can be aggravating, nerve-wracking, frustrating, vexatious, emotionally tumultuous and tedious.
The proliferation of internet-based real estate companies like Redfin and the ever-increasing number of for sale by owner web sites has made going it alone a viable option. However, doing it yourself means shouldering the burden for negotiating the transaction and navigating a legal web without any assistance.
Finding and working with a solid real estate agent can be helpful in explaining the process and smoothing out some of the sharp edges. Here are seven things to do when looking for the right agent:
1. Get a referral: The best way to find a reputable agent is through a referral. The names of first-rate agents get passed along through friends and associates while less effective and less ethical agents typically do not. Also, try asking a potential agent for a list of clients that you can contact or get in touch with someone who has listed their property for sale with an agent you’re considering.
2. Interview and Check Background: When preparing to list a property for sale, interview at least three agents and grill them with questions about their licensing, experience and education – also ask for a detailed explanation of what services they provide, in addition to their working style and a thorough marketing plan for selling your property. Check with the local real estate board to find out if any complaints or judgments have been filed about the agent.
3. Find a Local Expert: There’s a saying in the industry that, “real estate is local” and knowledge of local real estate nuances, market conditions and trend information should indeed be on the tip of any ace agent’s tongue. It’s even better if a prospective agent can show you facts and figures about what’s for sale in your area, what has recently sold in your area and in what direction prices and demographics are moving.
4. Check the Internet: The Internet has transformed the real estate business and in today’s real estate world successful agents need to be hooked up, wired up and working via the web. This does not mean they need to be tweeting and twittering, but they should have a personal web site with a property search function, e-mail access, and even text messaging capability for time sensitive issues.
5. Get the Run Down: Even if you already know it, ask a prospective agent to describe their entire process of buying or selling from start to finish. They should completely understand and be able to accurately articulate the entire process. Keep in mind, licensed real estate agents cannot, by law, give the sort of information and advice provided by attorneys, bankers and/or appraisers. However they should be able to understand and explain the legal, appraisal and loan processes.
6. Wear a Skeptic’s Hat: Like any sales person who works on commission, there are many real estate agents who will flatter and blow smoke in order to secure your business. Listen carefully to what they say, how they say it and how they present themselves. Do not be afraid to listen to instinct. Just because an agent is the top producer or talks the good talk, does not necessarily make them the right agent for you.
7. Take Note: A committed agent, one who is truly looking out for your best interest, will not be afraid to tell you that in order to sell your house you need to lower the price, weed the garden, paint the bedroom, take the dog with you during showings or make other improvements. Although buying and selling real estate is a business transaction, the buyer/seller and agent by necessity should form an intimate relationship that can at times, get emotional. That said, it’s crucial for both parties to be direct, honest and open with each other in matters that relate to the transaction.
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