Last week I read an article on MSN.Com about 7 signs that it is time to dump your agent. It was a good article, and I actually agreed with many of the points that were made, but my focus is rather than getting to that point, I wanted to talk about 7 things to consider when looking for a Real Estate Agent.
Is the agent licensed? This seems like a no-brainer, but seriously, there are people out looking to scam unsuspecting people. Here in our State, it is against the law to sell Real Estate on behalf of someone other than yourself without a license, unless you are an Attorney or they have been granted power of Attorney over a specific property. The agent should provide you with a copy of their license. Their license (at least by law in Utah), should be kept in a file at the brokerage where they work. In Utah, they should also have a business card sized copy that they should carry with them.
Huge red flags should go up if an agent refuses to show you a copy of their license when you ask about it. Some states, like California, require that an agent include their state license number on all of their advertising. This may or may not satisfy your question about their license. If you are in Utah and have questions, you can look up whether someone is licensed on the Division of Real Estate web site.
The Agent doesn’t give you their full attention. This is just plain good customer service, you as a potentially new client should be that agent’s priority for the time they are meeting with you, especially if it is a scheduled appointment. If you are working with an Agent who employs several assistants, I believe that agent should be at the first scheduled meeting along with the assistant that you will be working with. I just believe that as an agent, clients are the lifeblood of any business and if you’re scheduling an appointment with that agent, they should make time to meet with you.
I find it extremely rude during a scheduled appointment if someone answers their cell phone in non emergency situations. The same goes when someone is returning texts. If they glance at their phone and continue talking, I have no problem with that. Part of getting the agents full attention, is the agent getting to know your needs. Are they asking what you’re looking for? Are they making sure that you have been pre-qualified? Does the agent know whether you have to sell your home to buy a new home? If you’re selling, are you leaving town? Do they go into detail about what you need and want in a new home? Does the agent know what part of the city that you wish to live in, what school district you are desirous to live in?
These are basic questions that your prospective agent should know the answer to. I believe that the agent should also find out how you like to communicate. There are so many people that love just a text when a new listing comes in, or an update on their listing, they don’t want the phone call, just a quick message.
What Type of Experience does the Agent have? I capitalized type because this is one of my pet peeves. There are agents (not for much longer), who are stuck in 1985. They have a multitude of experience, but don’t know how to market homes on the internet. One good hint is if the agent keeps referring to putting your new listing in the “listing book”, or referring to that book to find a listing for you.
Things move way too quickly to hire an agent who isn’t minimally competent with the computer and internet! Many agents will hire an assistant who is very computer savvy and that is fine with me. These agents at least know that they need to hire someone to take care of a client’s needs when they can’t do it themselves.
Your Agent treats you like you are buying a used car. By this I mean that they are applying pressure from the moment that you are first introduced to sign up with them. By sign up I mean they want you to sign a Buyer Broker Agreement or Listing Agreement. These are contracts that say you will pay them for their services. Don’t get me wrong, these are important contracts and need to be signed, but I believe that they should be signed only after you have established a rapport and want to hire the agent based on the meeting, not just for shaking the agent’s hand.
I believe my job, should you hire me to represent you, is that of educator and counselor. Yes, I have to fill out a lot of paperwork, but what I mean is; it is up to me to do the research on a property so that you, as the client, can make the proper decision about the property. Yes, I am going to want to have the paperwork signed before I research homes for you to buy. I am going to do as much research as I can prior to listing your home; this is how I prove my value to you as the client.
In Real Estate, time is of the essence, but you will know when an agent is being pushy, and when they are making sure that deadlines are being met! The agent may prod you and let you know that a property is exactly what you’re looking for; this really is part of their job to counsel and educate you. A good agent will also let you know that a property may not last long on the market because of the price and condition; again, a good agent can do so without being pushy.
Real Estate, like many other businesses, is a relationship business. A good agent has established a rapport so that you as the client know that they are representing you and your efforts to buy or sell real estate.
Who does the Agent represent? This is a two part question, really does the agent have your best interests present always, or are they already cashing the commission check? The other part of this is; does your agent keep your information confidential? It is unethical for an agent to disclose any information about you that damages your bargaining position. They can’ disclose ANYTHING that damages your bargaining position. Yes it is that important! The agent is your representative!
Does the Agent Fully Disclose the Fees that they are going to charge you? By this I mean that there are no surprises coming. Many people have no idea how much it costs an agent to market a property that they list, I have read reports indicating that it is as much as $1500. That seems high to me, but it does cost Realtors to market property. Some agents charge part of that up front, that is okay as long as they have everything in writing and you agree to that.
If you were to hire me, or us, as Darcy and I are a team, our business model is such that those marketing fees come out of our commission. We look at it as a cost of doing business and prefer not to charge the client for marketing costs.
Another thing to know is whether the agent is charging and fees besides the agreed upon commission? This all has to be in writing and should be done from the outset of the listing agreement.
Is the Agent ethical? This is why the meeting is so important, if the agent wants you to do something that is unethical, illegal or if they lie to you. Fire them on the spot!! There are just too many great agents in the World to be stuck with someone who isn’t willing to be honest. That is all that I am going to say about this subject!