How to pick the best real estate agent to work with?
You might be either a buyer or seller and you are ready to hire a real estate agent to sell or buy your home. There are so many agents out there and it can be overwhelming to decide who you want to hire. To make matters worse, it could be even more confusing once you contact them as you will hear their compelling sales pitch developed over many years throughout their career as to why you should hire them. So how should one select a real estate agent to work with? There should be different things to look for in listing agents and buyer’s agents although when it comes down to it, the most important thing is their commitment to you.
I don’t want to provide a biased opinion in providing this information because I am a real estate agent myself but even I recognize great real estate agents when I see one or work with as a cooperating agent on a deal. Knowing everything I know as a realtor today, if I had to hire an agent for myself for some reason (even though I do my own deals), below is what I would be looking for in someone I want to work with.
Real estate is all about communication. Communication needs to happen to clients, agent on the other side, escrow agents, lenders, inspectors, appraisers and more. Good communication equals to your knowledge of the matter and how you convey such information. As often as you should communicate as an agent, how you communicate matters greatly, especially to the other side on a deal. You may credit friendly communication as your sole reason for hiring an agent for yourself but you don’t know how the agent communicates to the other agent. When there is an issue and there is a lawsuit involved in the future out of your real estate transaction, you will need to produce all written communication responsive to the issue to the court. You don’t want your agent to be a sloppy communicator. Before you decide to hire someone, make sure you also test their “written communication” as well as oral communication.
Being a good communicator requires a crisp understanding of situations at all stages of the transaction. That means your agent must act and communicate with a firm understanding of duties and responsibilities under the contract as well as deadlines and consequences. Communication needs to happen in a way that clearly conveys, informs, inquires, and discloses various information that could affect your client either positively or negatively. Such communication also needs to consider unknown aspects of a deal yet to unfold so that premature commitment should be avoided
Timing is very important in real estate not because there are deadlines for due diligence, the market does not wait for you. New homes pop up that need seen by your client; buyers have questions that need answered ASAP or they are forced to consider other options; and you need to obtain facts as quickly as possible. Everyone’s time is a precious commodity but the momentum of the housing market requires quick communication. For that reason, being responsive goes a long way in best helping your client.
I’ve seen some agents that are too busy to communicate quickly enough. In certain cases, their lack of communication resulted in a disservice to their clients. It was heart breaking to see as an agent on the other side of the deal. Some real estate teams get so big and busy with too many deals that they lack focus and communication to existing clients. As new sales get the biggest priority in their time and communication, sometimes existing clients get a disservice. If you are hiring a team, make sure that they have the time to communicate to you as often as possible. Also, there are many teams out there where you talk to the main realtor before the hire and you never get to talk to or see him or her ever again throughout the transaction. This type of service may not be the best fit in some cases.
Ability to think for best strategies in every twist and turn
Making the best real estate deal requires a lot of focus and thinking on behalf of your clients. Although some deals go through very smoothly where everyone has agreed on terms and proceed as amicably as possible, other deals require a lot of work. Real estate transactions have lots of twists and turns throughout that are unexpected. From getting an offer accepted, inspection, disclosure, appraisal, and lending, things can always go south. Because you cannot predict the outcome and facts to be discovered that become an issue, the transaction needs to proceed with caution preparing for the unknown from the beginning. Your agent needs to consider everything at every stage of the transaction and also from the beginning. If your real estate agent has an attitude of “Oh I will deal with it when we cross the bridge,” you may have already lost your best chance in the deal.
Attention to details
Many real estate agents talk big games but when it comes down to details, they fail horribly. I have seen horribly written offers with missing info, grammar and spelling mistakes in addenda, general English problems in written communication, missing deadlines, and reluctance to dive into inspection item details. These events that occur due to someone’s lack of attention to details can be big problems for their clients. Why are there so many realtors that lack this type of ability? It happens when the professional’s goal and business model is more of being a salesperson rather than a consultant. It is true that realtors need sales because we don’t get paid without a deal. What’s more important is that they actually focus on their existing deals. Some of them hire out transactional coordinators to deal with existing transactions because they are too busy making new sales. Unfortunately, you as a client have not interviewed their transaction coordinator before hiring that agent nor have agreed to having someone else perhaps less trustworthy to deal with your transaction. So why not hire someone from the beginning who is actually competent to exclusively work with you and protect you?
Working with a realtor with a strong market knowledge is very helpful. Without the local market knowledge, your agent simply cannot help you understand things like how quickly can I sell my home or is this a good neighborhood to buy? Every real estate agent needs to have a good general understanding of different areas in their city and what the market looks like. One should keep up with housing market statistics every month from the MLS and keep a close look how quickly homes are selling in certain areas. I understand one cannot know the entire metro area street by street. There are too many residential streets in the city of Portland alone and things can be very different from one street to the other. With a studious mind, you can study these facts relatively well and quickly with the amount of technology and information we have available. I have sold homes in areas where I had to study the immediate surroundings. I also cannot keep up with every sold house in a mile radius of a target house to understand the actual value of the house. That means I look up RMLS and study and analyze before I can confidently tell my client the true value of a home they are selling or buying. This part is actually always studied and analyzed by every realtor but without a good general market knowledge, it is difficult if not impossible to know whether the particular neighborhood has a future.
Experience matters. Although new agents are quite eager, they lack the experience to have a swath of knowledge that can help different transactions. Every transaction is different and sometimes just when you thought you have seen it all, something new comes up that requires you to study and consult with different experts. With experience, you will at least know who to talk to when different things come up as you will have developed a great network of professionals you can talk to in different areas. New agents that rely on their principal broker for advice may not provide the best and timely solutions when a transaction requires it.
Reading & Writing ability
Yes, this is very important. As a real estate agent, you are helping your client sign real estate agreements and addenda. It’s disturbing that some agents have never really read these contracts that they are pushing onto their clients. They know where to put signatures and initials on the contract but can they explain in details what everything means and advice their clients of their duties and responsibilities? You need to first develop a good reading skill so you don’t misunderstand what these legal documents actually say and provide bad advice to your clients.
Additionally, writing skill is also important. I have touched on this above briefly but when you are writing emails and additional terms in real estate addenda, you really should write clearly without spelling and grammar errors. When responding to emails that ask for multiple questions, don’t answer it with just one “yes” or “no” leaving the other person confused which question you just responded yes or no to. Don’t write such compound sentences that after reading your emails, your client is even more confused. These skills don’t come without practice and some training. In Oregon, to become a real estate agent, you must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma. I have gone to school for 19 years including law school and I can read and write at a great level. After I graduated from high school at the age of 18, my reading and writing skills were pretty terrible and I probably couldn’t have been a competent realtor back then with that level of training.
A lot of real estate agents only understand what constitutes a good interior such as trendy baseboards, paint colors, tiles and basks splashes but when it comes to important construction knowledge, many like to only defer to inspectors and not like to have much knowledge in this area. While it’s true that realtors are not supposed to advice outside the area of our expertise, after all, we are in the business of selling houses. Houses are land, structures with a livable space. We definitely should have some construction knowledge to help our clients. Having a good understanding of general construction knowledge can really help clients understand what type of structure that they are purchasing. You need a second eye to look through the house to see if there are any structural issues and other construction issues that could be a money pit for your clients down the road. Why even bother with an offer and pay inspection to find out the house has a structural issue when the agent is experienced enough to be able to spot these obvious construction issues. Being a realtor is not all about being excited about the trendy kitchen and bathrooms.
Keen understanding of leverage and negotiation
Some people are naturally smart in business and negotiation. I think all real estate agents should possess this skill to best help their clients. Whether you are a seller or buyer, you want the best deal. Buying a great home for a good price is a buyer’s ultimate goal in real estate. Selling their home for the most money quickly is any seller’s number one goal. Being a good negotiator as a real estate agent requires a crisp understanding of what you are offering, buying and your other options. You cannot be emotionally attached and be able to convey these cold heart facts to your clients who are often clouded in their emotion so they understand whether they are making a good deal.
Negotiation comes in various stages in real estate. First, it happens during the offer / acceptance stage where price and terms are negotiated for a purchase. Prices are very important but good terms are also important. Different people go through different circumstances so that’s why understanding what the other side wants and needs can help with great negotiation. Second, inspection is another big negotiation item. Inspection negotiation is done with facts found by the buyer during the inspection period that is typically the first 10 business days after the offer acceptance. This is the major hurdle in a real estate transaction. So many deals fall through during this inspection stage because of either irreconcilable conditions of the property or failed negotiation. Negotiation fails because parties understand there are better options than to go through with this deal. Therefore, sometimes failing to reach a negotiation is better than forcing the negotiation against your client’s best interest. It all comes down to fact finding and understanding your legal options as well as market options.
Appraisal is another negotiation stage where if the lender appraises the value of a home less than the agreed sales price, the agreement can be terminated and the buyer receives the earnest money back. Therefore, when this happens, buyer has the leverage to negotiate with the seller to bring the price down.
Marketing ability is important when a seller hires a real estate agent to list his or her home on the market for sale. What is a good marketing in real estate? It doesn’t take thousands of dollars to properly market a home to sell. Normally, it’s a combination of great professional photography, some staging, pricing, description, and making sure the listing receives a lot of views on MLS fed websites such as Zillow and Redfin. There is more. It’s important for the agent to understand the best light of the home to present to the public. Open houses also help and other social media marketing is also a plus these days. There are walk through videos, drone shots, and Matterport 3-D interactive home tour these days that can also create interest for buyers. Importantly, your listing agent must offer at least the standard buyer’s agent fees through the MLS and communicate quickly when there is a question by a buyer’s agent. As I said above, time is of the essence and responding quickly to buyers is a key to success.
It’s not very difficult to find a good real estate agent because there are online reviews but it’s difficult to find a real estate agent that will be the best fit for you. Other than finding someone that just feels right, there are many substantive considerations as discussed above. Overall, you need someone who is committed, available, competent, and a great communicator.