The Washington Post had a great article in this weekend’s Real Estate section called “Buying a Home? Here are a few tips.” In addition to addressing financial items like checking your credit score and getting a pre-qualification letter from a reputable lender (not just any lender—a reputable lender), the author had a section on selecting “one full-time, experienced Realtor with whom you get along.”
Read that again because every word is important: One. Full-Time. Experienced. Realtor. With whom you get along.
That sentence packs a lot of punch.
The author did a great job of explaining each criteria, but I want to add a few of my own suggestions because choosing the right Realtor can help mitigate all of the other risks in the process—that’s what makes it arguably the most important step in your process. While I could go on for days about choosing a Realtor, I’ll limit my advice to 3 tips:
Experienced: You’ll have to define your own level of “experience” required. Is it years in the business? Transactions completed? Transactions the team completed? I would argue that one of the best gauges is the number and quality of transactions completed in the past 12 months that are similar in price and location to where you think you will be looking/selling. I’m NOT saying to hire the “neighborhood expert” that every agent seems to label themselves regardless of whether they actually live OR work there. And agents with extremely high numbers of transactions tend to have junior associates to whom they will hand you off, so be sure you’re looking at the experience of the agent who will actually be looking at homes with you and working on your contract.
Getting Along: I would take this a step further and say you have to trust them. If you don’t trust your agent, get another agent. Ask for a reference who has bought or sold within the past six months. Then ask that reference, “Have you given this agent’s name to anyone else? If no, why not? If yes, can I speak to that person?”
Finally I’ll add another tip about “getting along.” You also need to be confident in their ability to explain things to you quickly and simply. In short, they must be able to educate you about the process and the decision points. Buying a house can be scary. There are dozens of pages of legalese, and decisions often need to be made quickly. How organized is this person? Do they take the time to answer your questions? Do they return calls, texts, or emails promptly? What hours and days are they available to you? No one can be expected to work 24/7, but contract negotiations often happen outside of normal business hours, and it’s important that deadlines are met. It’s stressful enough to make big decisions on a deadline, you don’t want to make them in a vacuum.