So, you know you want to buy or sell a home, but you don’t know who you want to work with.
Picking out a real estate agent can be overwhelming. You want to find someone who you like, but who will get you what you want. How do you find them?
You'll want to start by asking around. Call friends who live in the area and get some names of realtors they’ve worked with. Then go online and check out some reviews. Check their business websites. Read their bios. You can get a lot of information from someone's online presence--from what they say, & from what is said between the lines (maybe they specialize in vacant land, equestrian properties, etc).
Once you’ve got a decent list, now you start the interview process. Make sure the first time you meet is at their office. You don’t want to try to interview them AND look at a new house at the same time. Why? Because who you choose as your agent is more than just access to houses. They are going to be your advocate in arguably the biggest transaction of your life--which means guiding you through the process (which can sometimes involve hurdles & heartache). So don't let your excitement to see that new house take over! Start with the interview so that you know you're working with someone you are comfortable with and have full confidence in. Here's some good questions to ask:
1. Are you a full time agent?
You don’t want to find your dream home but have to wait until your agent gets off work at their other job before they can show you. Time is of the essence!
2. Do you do work on both sides of the deal (dual agency)?
An agent that represents both the buyer AND seller in a transaction is called a dual agent. For my business, I choose not to participate in dual agency because I feel it is a conflict of interest. The best way I can explain it is this: if my job is to get my seller the most amount of money in the least amount of time, & get my buyer the best value for the best house...how can I represent BOTH parties 100%? The truth is, I cannot. At the end of the day, when my seller gets their proceeds deposited, & my buyer gets their keys...I don't want either of them to have any question in their mind about WHO got the better end of my representation. Do a lot of agents work on both sides successfully? Absolutely--I just choose not to. THAT is why it is a great question to ask on the front side BEFORE you are in the position of writing an offer. You will need to know who is representing your best interest!
3. Where is your area of expertise?
You want to make sure your agent knows the area better than you do. If they normally work in Skagit County, but you want to live in Oak Harbor, this might not be the right agent for you. You want an agent that knows the market & is knowledgeable in local issues.
4. Who is in your support team?
Are you hiring an agent with a team? Do they have a transaction coordinator? If so, make sure you know who your point of contact will be so that there isn't any confusion. What local vendors, lenders, &/or contractors do they work with? Will the agent help you set up repairs if necessary? This will be important (whether you're a buyer or seller) when you get to the critical inspection phase! Having a connected Realtor that can coordinate with quality contractors can be worth its weight in gold.
5. What is your primary mode of communication? (text/email/phone/in person)
You might be in a situation where you will go through this entire process while deployed or from a different duty station--while not ideal, it's totally workable! With technology we can help you buy & or sell from wherever you are. However, the difference between a smooth transaction & one riddled with stress is the level of communication. Make sure that your expectation of how much & how you like to be communicated with is clearly stated from the beginning.
6. what are the fees involved?
Sellers: it is important you know the cost and value of what is involved in your transaction.
Buyers: it doesn’t cost you ANYTHING to work with quality representation (even if the seller is choosing to represent themselves in a FSBO). The seller pays for commission--so why not choose to work with the best?
8. What is your system for getting me information or documents if I'm out of town?
With online programs for signing contracts gaining momentum in frequency & increasing our industry's efficiency, the old pen and paper contracts are quickly becoming obsolete. You'll want to see if your agent is proficient in programs like Authentisign or Docu-sign. Are they able to take videos for you if you're unable to see the home in person? These details are CRITICAL in a market that hinges on getting your offer in first & fast! *This might be also be a good time to ask them if they have a YouTube channel.
9. What is your marketing plan or strategy?
Sellers: you will want to know how that agent will advertise your home. Are they active on social media? Do they utilize print ads in magazines? Are they firm believers in open houses? What websites will your listing be on? How will YOUR house stand out from the rest?
Buyers: you will want to know how that agent will be searching homes for you and how they will get the details to you. How available they'll be to show homes to you? How do they like to present offers? How many homes will I likely see before I find a home I want to buy? What percentage do you win in a multiple offer situation?
10. how many transactions did you close last year?
While this answer isn't the MOST important on the list, it still gives you a good indication of (1) how much business they are doing (which helps demonstrate if they DO what they SAY they're going to do...which is what everything boils down to)...
BONUS QUESTION: What questions do you have for me?
Anyone can ask you about the number of bedrooms and if you want a fenced yard, but an agent that takes the time to get to know YOU, your goals and priorities...they're a keeper!