Buying or Selling a home is likely the biggest transaction of your life and you want to do it well, but where do you begin? For a growing number of people, buying or selling a home is something they think they would like to do on their own, unmediated by a real estate agent or REALTOR®. But in the end most people will enlist the services, expertise and time of a professional real estate broker or agent to get the job done. In this industry, a job done well by a real estate broker means money in your pocket, whether you are the Buyer or the Seller. Note that if you are the Buyer, you most likely will not have to pay any commission to your real estate agent; your agent is generally paid by money that comes from the Seller. The home owner pays a sales fee or commission to the Seller’s agent, which is then split between the Buyer’s and Seller’s agents. For this reason, it seems to be an obvious advantage to enlist the services of a real estate professional when you are in the market to purchase a home or property.
To be clear, a real estate agent is someone who holds a license to facilitate the real estate transaction, but a real estate broker generally is a manager within a real estate firm and employs the agent(s). A broker generally possesses additional training, especially around real estate law, and although some brokers still practice and sell homes, others strictly manage an office of real estate agents. REALTOR® is the title for an agent who holds membership in an organization such as the National Association of Realtors or the Canadian Real Estate Association and as such, ascribes to the REALTOR® Code of Ethics.
Ultimately, what is important in your search for a real estate agent is to find one that is the right one for you. Doing a bit of research will strengthen your choice, as well as the trust that you will eventually have to place in your real estate broker’s hands. A great way to do this is go out and “ interview” them, in fact without them realizing you are. There are always many open houses, attend them and observe how they interact with you and with others, do they care, are they attentive, are they listening to you and your needs and supportive and helpful. Or are they just trying to sell you the house they happen to be in at the time and just looking for the next lead. Sometimes, searching for someone who has listings in the neighborhood in which you want to buy or sell can help.
This will ensure that he or she is familiar with housing values in that area, as well as schools and shopping, other issues of concern (e.g. crime rates), a sense of that community’s culture and additional information that may help in your decision. If you are selling a home, an agent that manages listings in your neighborhood may already have a collection of active clients looking to buy there, which could work in your favor. When selling a home, you may even want to call an agent for a showing of another listing, so that you can experience them as a mock buyer before enlisting their service.
Interview more than one agent so that you will know what value they will add to your process. Don’t hesitate to ask for references. Are they web savvy? What’s their marketing plan? What’s their negotiating plan? How will they help you keep money in your pocket? A real estate agent may have a solid marketing plan and wide technical knowledge, but also needs to be a strong communicator. Evaluate their communication methods by not only talking with them but also reviewing their marketing material, webpage, Facebook, LinkedIn and more.. They will need to be timely (both with you and with others’ calls of interest), effective at conveying information, and skilled at helping you learn about the next steps (inspections, financing, etc.). Know that a real estate agent is not only obligated to tell you everything they know, they earn a commission for doing their job and you can request them to break down the steps and what they are doing. Be clear that this is your expectation- especially if you are a first-time home buyer or seller. Are they active every day in their work as a real estate agent, with callbacks and availability for showings? Are they full time agents or part-time who may be busy doing something else. It will be important for you to know the fees that your broker demands if you are selling. Do they receive a commission or are they some version of a fee structure? Generally all commission is negotiable, but good agents are well worth the fees they request for they can save you thousands when they do their job correctly, both on the sale if you are selling a home, but also in negotiating the best price when buying.
An agent with several years of experience has both experience, and a mindset that understands market fluctuations; they likely have witnessed a down market and will be able to effectively walk with you through that, if that is what is required. He or she will have expertise on adjusting how they do things depending on if it’s a Buyers’ or Sellers’ market at the time and should be able to share with you the data of what is trending, why and where things may be going next. However, remember, if they truly had a “crystal ball” and could see into the future, they would most likely be retired from winning lottery tickets.
In your search for a real estate agent, you will need to find someone who can effectively convert calls of interest into showings and, ultimately, into sales. Most people are keen to hire an agent because he or she specializes in giving their time and skills to the process of home/property sales and the complexities that can be involved within. The real value of having a real estate agent is in getting a transaction closed, and in the fact that you can rest easy knowing that all financial and legal bases are covered. The high number of things that can be attributed to a home today is far greater than ever before. Real estate agents are aware of issues like Radon gas, marijuana grow ops, caveats on title, land easements, building compliance issues, building issues to be aware of and so much more. If you cannot comfortably confirm that you are an expert in any of the few items listed above, it’s highly recommended that you call on an expert. The process will be so much more enjoyable. Happy house hunting/selling!!