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The Cynics Guide to Choosing a Real Estate Agent
Finding the “right” real estate agent can be a daunting task. There are many realtors out there happy to take your business. It is important to find one that works for you and not for him / herself. While it is common to find a realtor with fantastic references I am shocked to hear so many stories of people who felt that they were “burned” by their realtor or that they didn’t receive the assistance that the amount of money they paid warranted.
A real estate agent is just another word for salesperson. I know this sounds skeptical and a bit jaded but it is true.  One can never guarantee the impartiality of a realtor as their commission is often based on the selling price of a house. In such a situation, it is easy to believe that the agent may not have your best interest at heart. This is why many realtors have been offering the option of agreeing to a fee upfront. A fee not based on the price of a property. This is a positive sign of goodwill that the realtor wants to help you find the property you desire for the best price possible.
The best way to find a good realtor is to ask your friends that you trust who they used and would they recommend them. If there is a shining candidate realtor that you heard about look up their information on the Internet and with the better business bureau. Once you are comfortable with this information contact their office with a set of questions that you believe are relevant to your situation and ask him / her for multiple references.
Often you are moving to a new city and don’t have the luxury of contacts or friends in the new area. In order to get the ball rolling in finding a good realtor you should use the Internet. There are many sites that will help you find a realtor such as www.homegain.com and www.realtor.com. Once you have found someone in your area look them up with the Better Business Bureau and contact their office with a set of questions that you believe are relevant to your situation and ask him / her for multiple references just as you would if your friends had suggested the realtor. Since you were lacking an original reference from a trusted sources you need to do your own due diligence in this situation.
When using the internet it is important not to simply take the first realtor you find searching with Google. It is a common misconception that since they are in the top position in the search engine that they must be the best realtor. In reality it can be quite the opposite. The realtor who is on the top usually has the most optimized website. This can mean that they spend all day optimizing their website as opposed to hitting the pavement working as a realtor.
It is recommended that you choose a successful real estate agent. The better agents have success selling homes in the neighborhood you are looking in. Often you'll find the same 2 or 3 agents closing deals the majority of the deals in a single neighborhood. Usually, successful agents have many houses listed while part timers and unsuccessful agents may have few, if any properties listed.
Questions to ask a prospective real estate agent:
  • If they are part time or full time (you should want a full time agent to assure you get the most attention... if they only work part time, your house is only marketed part time).
  • What sort of an online presence do they have? Many consumers use the Internet to locate homes so it is best to have an Internet savvy real estate agent.
  • If they will take a lower commission. If you're selling a $300,000 home, every percent point less that you can negotiate down on their commission saves you $3,000. Not bad for a few minutes worth of work.
  • Both buyers and sellers should both ask the potential agent for a printout of all the recent selling prices and the original listing prices of homes in their area. This sheet should also show what the owners originally paid, how much they sold for, and full details on the homes. Selling price is useful, but knowing what they listed for and how much the sellers dropped in price is a great gauge of the real estate market in your area. It is also important to know how long the property was on the market for.
  • For sellers, ask the agent how they plan to market and sell your house. You want them to blitz the market and get your house into the premium listings, the free listings, and all the online web sites.
  • Will they accept a contract for 90 days or less. Many agents will force you into exclusive contracts for 6 months to a year or more. But what if you begin to feel that your agent is not working for you? Explain to the agent that they shouldn’t need more than 60-90 days if they are at their jobs.
Posted by Tom Chambers on January 12, 2007
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