If you're thinking about buying or selling a home, one of the first things you'll need to have down is your partner in crime: your real estate agent. There are a lot of real estate professionals out there today. Chances are you may already know one from within your own social circle or have received referrals from neighbors, friends, and family members. For those of you starting from scratch, online tools are also available and can provide extensive background to help you find your perfect match. For example, Trulia's Find an Agent Directory to help you find highly-recommended agents who know your target neighborhood and has a special skill set (e.g., relocation specialists, speaks a foreign language, etc.).
No matter how you decide to search for your agent, you'll need to know what to ask them before you began your journey together. You are going to be spending a lot of time with your agent so his or her style had better be compatible with yours. Do you need someone easygoing or someone aggressive? Personally, I am a self-proclaimed overachiever and I like working with someone similar, as long as that agent has an easygoing personality and a great sense of humor. But you say, "I may not like him, but he is a real bulldog and will fight for a deal." You know what? If you don't like this agent, then chances are no one else will either.
Here are 10 questions that you ask your real estate agent or broker before you hire them to help you with your home search:
- What percentage of your clients are buyers (vs. sellers)?
- In which neighborhoods do you primarily work?
- Will I be working with you directly or handed off to anyone else other than you? In other words, will you handle all aspects of my transaction or will you delegate some tasks to a sales associate or administrative assistant? A knowledgeable assistant can be invaluable, but you want to make sure you can connect with your agent regularly.
- Do you work full-time or part-time as a real estate agent?
- How many homes have you closed in my neighborhood?
- How many other buyers are you representing now? How many sellers? Hint: the busiest agents often are the most efficient.
- Is your license in good standing? You should check an agent's certification yourself with your state's Department of Real Estate. Many states provide this information online. For example, in California residents may check at http://www2.dre.ca.gov/PublicASP/pplinfo.asp.
- How many years of education and experience do you have? Experience and continuing education typically make for better agents. (And it doesn't hurt to ask if they own their own home. A new Trulia Trends study shows that 85 percent of brokers and agents are homeowners.)
- Are you also a broker and/or a Realtor or an agent?
- Can you provide me with the names and phone numbers of past clients who have agreed to be references? Insights from past customers can help you learn more about an agent and give you a greater comfort level.
If the agents check off this list then you're on the right track. But one word of caution is this: Do not pick someone so close to you that you can't have a serious "straight talk" business conversation. You need someone with whom you are not uncomfortable disagreeing. And keep in mind that this person will at some point become quite intimate with your entire financial picture.
So choose the most qualified person for the job that you think you'll work well with. The ideal person for you is an experienced professional who knows your market, acts in an ethical manner, answers all of your questions, addresses your concerns and, most important, will listen to you and be your teammate throughout the entire process.
Picking a real estate pro is a very key decision in the home-buying or selling process and I want to see you do it right. There are so many great real estate professionals out there willing to work hard for you, so consider the advice above as you make your selection.