Admit it, picking a real estate agent makes you nervous. Why wouldn't it? Your home is going to be one of your largest investments throughout your lifetime, and you want to find a quality Realtor who will make the most of your money for you. With all of the hype, marketing, friend referrals, client reviews, Internet searches, etc., it can be a daunting task to sift through the massive amounts of available information to find the agent that fits your needs. Where do you even begin? Here are 5 tips for picking the perfect Realtor:
1. Verify the license.
Each state licenses and disciplines real estate agents via a specific board. In Texas, that board is the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC). You can easily determine if a prospective agent or Realtor is licensed through their Licensee Info Search, which tells you the agent's license number, status, and expiration date. You can also find information about an agent's brokerage firm and their real estate education. Visit TREC's website at http://www.trec.state.tx.us/ for more information!
2. The right questions make a difference.
It's a smart move when buying or selling a home to interview multiple realtors to find the perfect fit. Conduct these interviews as a good employer would a potential hire - asking each candidate a preset list of questions, taking notes and scoring their responses, and asking follow-up questions based on the answers they gave you. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Are you a full-time Realtor?
This matters. A real estate agent who also works a full or part-time job elsewhere may not have the time to devote to selling your home or helping you purchase a new one.
- Have you ever had any client complaints, or been subjected to disciplinary action from TREC?
Of course you can find disciplinary actions through TREC, and clients who complain will sometimes post negative reviews online. However, you learn something about the integrity of a person when they tell you upfront if they've had any issues with past clients complaining.
- How often do you communicate with your clients?
Make sure your Realtor will keep in touch as often as you are comfortable with.
- Can you tell me about the current market conditions in the area?
What houses are selling? Who is buying? What price range is moving the fastest? These are all questions your Realtor should be able to tell you in great detail if they're familiar with their area.
- Why are you different from your competitors?
A good Realtor should be able to tell you why they are good at their job, why clients love working with them, and why they are the best choice for their specific area. If they can't tell you why you should work with them, then why would you?
3. Learn about other houses in the area.
A good Realtor will know his or her market. If you're looking to sell your home, or purchase in an unfamiliar neighborhood, ask your prospective Realtor. They should be able to tell you, off the top of their head, what other homes are available in that neighborhood, and what homes in that neighborhood recently sold for. This doesn't mean you're particularly interested in any of the other homes - you may not be at all. However, asking about other homes lets you know how well your prospective Realtor knows their market.
4. Discuss expectations for communication
In the digital age it's important to have a Realtor who communicates effectively. A few hours between phone calls can mean the difference between an accepted and rejected offer. Finding a Realtor who can communicate via text, e-mail, social media, phone, fax, or whatever your preferred medium can make the difference between owning the house of your dreams and driving past it on your way to work.
5. Realtor vs Real Estate Agent - know the difference
It may benefit you to choose an agent that is a licensed Realtor versus a real estate agent. At the very least, it's helpful to know the difference. Real estate agents are simply that - they are licensed in their state to sell real estate. While there's nothing wrong with just being a real estate agent, agents who go on to become Realtors get their title from their membership in the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In order to be a member of this prestigious organization, a Realtor must abide by a rigid code of ethics that the NAR strictly enforces. Realtors also have access to Multiple Listing Services (MLS), which provides them access to more listings than a standard real estate agent.
As a general rule, interviewing at least three different Realtors from three different firms will give you a qualified selection and help you narrow down the literally thousands of options for Realtors and real estate agents in the Austin area. Be sure to read my upcoming posts on Experienced Agents are Always Better - True or False? and Which Came First - The Realtor or the House?
Stefani Parkhurst, Realtor, ABR, RENE