Featuring Guest Author: Ally Gelhaar, Loan Officer Residential Real Estate Buying a home is one…
Finding a Good Real Estate Agent
For most people, buying a home is a lengthy journey full of new and unfamiliar rules and procedures. This unfamiliarity is one of the key reasons why most people benefit from hiring a qualified real estate agent. Buyers and sellers both need someone with inside knowledge and connections to guide them through the process, and those who forgo working with a real estate agent tend to end up unintentionally cutting important corners that come back to haunt them. However, not all real estate agents are created equal, so how can you spot the cream of the crop?
When choosing your agent, make sure that you are choosing your best option as opposed to your most convenient one. Many people know someone who is involved in the real estate industry, but be sure to judge a friend or family member in the same way that you would any other real estate agent.
For example, make sure that real estate is their primary focus, because freelance or part-time real estate agents run the risk of not having a firm enough grasp on the market to provide adequate advice. The tale of a borrower choosing a family member or friend as an agent only to be blindsided by their family or friend’s unpreparedness is, unfortunately, a common one.
In California, agents must be licensed under the Department of Real Estate in order to sell real estate. The DRE has a search function that you can use to verify an agent’s license, see how long they have been licensed for, and find any disciplinary actions or complaints that they might have on their record. Disciplinary actions include selling real estate without a license and other violations.
When you are researching the real estate agent’s DRE number, it’s important to look at how long they’ve been licensed as a real estate agent. As a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to work with real estate agents or real estate teams who have been in the industry for five years or more. If an agent has less experience but they work with a highly-regarded team, it can make up for their lack of experience.
3. Positive Client Experience
When you apply for a new job, it’s not uncommon to be asked to provide some work and personal references to confirm your skills. When you are choosing a real estate agent, you should act like a boss selecting a new employee and do the same. Ask agents for a list of clients whom they’ve sold homes to in the past year as well as their contact information. Talk to these past clients to find out what their overall experience with the agent was like and find out details of their home purchase like what the asking price versus sales price was for their home.
Online reviews are a good resource for this, but those reviews can potentially be fake or from a biased source such as a relative of the agent. Directly talking to an agent’s past clients is a more reliable way to find out whether the real estate agent will be able to satisfy your needs.
4. Current Listings Catch Your Eye
Most agents will either use the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to post their listings or they will have them up on their own website. See how similar their listings are to the home that you want to buy in terms of location and price range to give you an idea of whether or not they are a good choice for you individually.
Don’t forget to make sure they have an adequate amount of active or past listings. If the agent has a very sparse number of active or past listings, it should prompt you to do some more research about their history as an expert agent. Recent sales are all available for viewing online.
5. Certifications, Awards, and Recognitions
Some agents have additional specialties that might be better suited to your needs. See if your agent is a Certified Residential Specialist, Accredited Buyer’s Representative, or (if applicable to your situation) a Seniors Real Estate Specialist, as all of these credentials require additional work that demonstrates a more in-depth understanding of selling real estate and can be extraordinarily beneficial to you, especially if you are in a unique situation as a home buyer.
Peer-given awards are also signs of a good agent. Recognitions such as the Distinguished Service Award, Good Neighbor Award, Realtor of the Year, and Top Ranked Agent are all ringing endorsements that demonstrate the agent’s value to their community and clients. However, make sure that your agent verifies any awards that they’ve received with information about the award and who gave it to them since there is the chance that the award that the agent is talking about is self-appointed.
6. Interview Questions are Answered Appropriately
When you are shopping for agents, you will need to come prepared with the appropriate questions to determine whether or not they are right for your situation. Here are a few helpful questions to add to your list.
What is your average number of clients?
This gauges what kind of workload that the real estate agent has. You don’t want an agent with too much on their plate to give you their time or one that has too little business to give you an honest deal.
What is your buyer/seller ratio?
An even buyer/seller ratio is preferred because it shows that the agent is well-versed in both sides of selling real estate. A buyer-heavy or seller-heavy ratio can be a sign of a limited understanding of the other side, which can end up costing you in the negotiation process. Plus, if you decide to sell your home in the future, you can feel comfortable using the same agent because they have experience with selling.
What area do you cover?
You want your agent to be an expert in local real estate, but not so much that they’ve limited themselves to selling in a single neighborhood. Finding an agent with local and diverse listings can be very useful when looking for recommendations based on your needs.
Do you work solo or as part of a team?
Agents either work by themselves or as part of a team. Teams will be able to offer specialized expertise along the way but can be stretched across more listings and end up being less available than an individual agent. An individual agent will stay with you for the whole process, which means that they have clear accountability. Neither of these scenarios are necessarily better than the other, but it is good to know what to expect when you hire an agent.
Who are your recommended vendors?
If an agent is prepared with a selection of vendors such as lenders, title insurance agents, and others that they recommend, it shows demonstrable experience in the field and an eye for expediting the home buying process in the best possible manner.
Do you have any questions for me?
This is a good way to explore a potential real estate agent’s intentions. A good agent will take this as an opportunity to get to know you so that they can shape the services that they provide around your specific needs. If the agent is anxious to push your purchase through without getting to know the details surrounding your needs and financial situation, it’s likely that they are more interested in padding their wallet than finding you a dream home that you can afford.
These questions are a great way to figure out what you can expect from a real estate agent and whether or not you should hire them.
7. The P.E.A.C.H. Model
There is a lot of variety between real estate agents and what might be good for one person might be a bad choice for another. Some offer different types of deals, some excel in negotiation, others might have valuable connections, but we’ve noticed a handful of traits consistently found in great real estate agents. These traits add up to the P.E.A.C.H. acronym and each term should describe your agent.
Problem-solver. Many people who are buying a home are not considered easy or generic cases, which means that they require additional service from their agent. You will want a real estate agent who can help you find and address your individual needs and problems appropriately.
Experienced. While there are newer real estate agents who can provide as good of a service as someone with years of experience, it is difficult to assess their quality, consistency, and reliability off of a smaller sample size. When you choose an experienced agent, you have proof of their value as an agent.
Attentiveness. The ability to find issues in the fine print and spot factors that can affect the outcome of your home buying experience is crucial. An attentive agent will also have a better understanding of the market, local listings, and time-sensitive issues that need resolving. An agent’s attentiveness can be determined by the initial response time to your questions and how they communicate. Promptness shows that they are attentive.
Connected. Being connected means having a finger on the pulse of local markets as well as having a network of vendors and associates to assist and cooperate with them along the process. Ask if the agent is connected to any local real estate organizations or associations. Other factors such as how long they have lived and worked in the area typically mean that they have more connections.
Honest. The benefits of an honest agent are obvious, but how can you verify that the agent is trustworthy? One way is to see if the agent is a Realtor®. A Realtor® is a real estate agent who belongs to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), which means that they are held to the NAR Code of Ethics. The 17 articles of ethical standards are in place to protect buyers, other real estate agents, and the general public, which means that Realtors® are held to a higher standard than a regular real estate agent might be.
Begin Your Search for a Realtor
Before you select your agent, it’s also a great idea to get pre-qualified and pre-approved by a lender so that you have more verifiable clout as a client. Give us a call if you’re interested in getting pre-approved or if you are looking for further guidance in selecting an agent. We have referrals for highly-regarded agents throughout Southern California and many other states across the nation.
Financing details are for educational purposes only. Rates, program terms, fees, and conditions referenced are subject to change without notice. Not all products are available in all states for all amounts. All mortgage applications are subject to underwriting guidelines and approval. This is not an offer of credit or a commitment to lend. Residential Wholesale Mortgage, Inc. dba RWM Home Loans is an equal housing lender licensed by the CA Department of Real Estate #01174642 and CA Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act. NMLS# 79445