Choosing the right real estate agent is quite possibly one of the most important choices you will ever make in your life. With over one million real estate agents in the USA, it can be safely assumed that a fair percentage of these will not always act in your best interest. This article will try to highlight some of the most important questions that need to be addressed when making this very important decision.
Who is hiring whom? Don't forget that you are doing a great favor to the agent by hiring him or her. Take it as if you were hiring for a job: Get comfortable with the idea that you are the boss. When interviewing, ask the agents the same set of questions, so that you don't end up comparing apples and oranges.
Pick a realtor, not a house! When people decide to buy a house, they usually go and look for a house first. When they find what they like, they contact the broker. The statistics say that in most cases people don't buy the first property they like, but they would usually stay with the broker they contacted. That's not what you want to do. You want to know who you have hired.
Choose a company first! Most real estate agents do not work independently, but are employed by a real estate company. Before you pick a realtor, you should learn more about the local companies you can choose from. You could contact the companies and ask them about their code of practice, but in the end references from satisfied friends would be the best possible way to avoid the many complications that can arise. When you're done choosing the company, ask them to recommend a few of their best agents to you.
Questions, questions, questions! When you finally have somebody to interview, have a list of questions ready. Some ideas of what you should ask are:
- How long have you been a realtor? (People come and go in this business. You want somebody who has been in it for years.)
- Do you work full time or part time? (I can't really see how you could get the attention you need from somebody having two jobs.)
- What about the weekends? (If you have some special time requirements, you better discuss them before hand.)
- What property price range do you specialize in? (You want somebody who has experience in your kind of property.)
- How often will I hear from you? (At least once a week should not be a problem.)
- How will you market my property? (Ask for samples of flyers, newspaper classifieds, let them show you their online presentations.)
- What is your commission? How will you earn your commission? (1% of 150,000 is 1,500 - every percentage matters.)
- Can I get references from previous customers? (When you get names and phone numbers, do call them.)
What about your feelings? The above questions should help you decide which agent is the best for your needs of those you have interviewed. What also matters is how you feel in their presence. Don't forget you might have to cooperate with the agent for weeks or months to come, so if you don't feel comfortable around them, don't hire them. It's not worth it.
Here are a few words about marketing. Before you make your final decision, compare the marketing materials you were given as samples. Are they tacky? Are the descriptions creative? Be careful if you see any of the following clichés: Better than new, This one's a steal, Won't last at this price, Too good to be true. You don't need an agent that's full of clichés.
Obviously these few points cannot exhaust all the problems one is dealing with when hiring a realtor, but I found these the most important after spending over 20 years in Toronto real estate. As I said at the beginning, choosing the right realtor is very important, since a house is usually the single biggest investment by a family. Let me stress the three most important factors when hiring a realtor:
- Get as many references as you can.
- Ask plenty of questions.
- Feelings matter - you have to feel comfortable around the one you have picked.