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How to Find the Real Estate Agent That’s Right For You—Doing Diligence

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When you’re buying or selling a house, you’ll likely reach out for a real estate agent. But how to choose? There are Realtors and just plain real estate agents, part-time and full-time agents, family friends who are in the business, maybe even neighbors down the street. How do you find the right real estate agent for you?

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In finding the real estate agent that’s right for you, I continue to be surprised by how many people believe that all real estate agents are pretty much the same.  Agents often are seen more as typical salespeople, rather than as professional service providers.  Agents can vary quite a bit from one another in terms of their experience, training, evaluation skills, marketing expertise, negotiation strengths, hand-holding abilities, problem-solving wisdom, office systems and checklists, etc.

Even in the current strong “seller’s market” it is not unusual for people to be less than satisfied with the quality or level of service they receive from the agent they first decide to work with.  One out of every five homes listed for sale in the Palisades in this market has not sold!

Do Your Due Diligence

Nearly all agents will make big promises, so how can a homeowner or home seeker decide which potential agent will serve them best? Due diligence will pay off just as it does when careful consideration is given to other important decisions.  If as much thought went into deciding who to use as a real estate agent as goes into deciding one’s attorney, accountant, or surgeon, people would likely be far more satisfied with the results of their decision.

Don’t Just Give Your Listing to a Friend

I have always highly recommended that one should treat the process exactly the same as would be done in an employment interview, and by looking past their sales pitch to their actual sales record and marketing system. Rather than just “giving the listing” to a friend, fellow club member, relative, or the agent who may have been involved in the previous transaction many years ago, seek to hire the best-qualified one for the job!

Ask Your Agent, “How Will You Sell My House?”

Before committing to a listing agreement, it might be useful to ask for a few seller references for similarly priced properties in the same general area.  Find out if those sellers had a positive experience with that agent, and if they would use them again. 

Ask what pre-marketing considerations and actions the agent commits to providing, and see if they know the absorption rate and its significance in your specific neighborhood and price range.  Consider the probable benefits to you of working with an agent who has a full-time assistant or possibly a full team support system.

Do a Sales Performance Background Check

You might consider asking for some details about each agent’s actual performance. How many sales have they personally completed in the last year? What is their sales success ratio (the percentage of their own listings that they actually have sold)? What is their average sale price to list price ratio, and how does that compare with the average in that market area for the last year?

Zig Where Others Zag

It might be helpful for you to know what their marketing plan is and their commitment is in print advertising.  Although more than 90% of the homes sold in our area now are first seen online before personal viewings are requested, many of the online looking is prompted by people noticing a photo or description of a home in a newspaper or magazine.  Many agents do not provide such supplemental marketing and thus may not reach the attention of some of the most qualified or potentially best prospective buyers.

Of course, it is essential to at least take a look at the personal websites of any agents you are considering hiring.  See if it is easy to use, clear in its presentation, and provides useful content and information both for buyers and sellers.  Ask if they have any special online systems to attract quality buyers to their listings.

If You Buy and Sell At the Same Time

If you are thinking about buying a new home or an investment property, or both selling and buying a home at the same time, make sure the agent you are considering has sufficient expertise and ability to represent you effectively in both buying and selling.  Many agents are highly skilled at selling properties but have not developed the same level of proficiency in representing buyers.  Also, be sure to ask what strategies they can suggest if you will be selling and buying concurrently.

Find the Right Real Estate Agent For Your Home’s Needs

One final suggestion: be very cautious before deciding to work with the listing agent of a property you would like to purchase!  Many buyers believe that there may be some advantage to them in working with the listing agent because they think it will help succeed in making the purchase in case of multiple offers.  This tendency typically becomes more apparent in markets that are short of inventory as compared with the numbers of buyers seeking homes there, and frustration with their failure to succeed leads them to try anything that might work. 

One huge drawback they rarely consider is that the listing agent already has a fiduciary duty to get the highest price and best terms for the seller – and particularly in California, there are ethical considerations that pertain to those acting as dual agents.

Michael Edlen has provided complimentary counseling to more than 3,000 people regarding their real estate desires.

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