How to find a good real estate agent

How to find a good real estate agent

 

Whether you are just starting the process, or are ready to jump into the market, you will need to decide on how you want to sell and/or buy.  At Selling Later, we believe that the real estate industry is no longer a one size fits all product. You should select a service that works best for you, and that also ensures sure you are getting a fair and legal deal.  

Say you decide to use an agent, would you know how to find a good one?

In this article, we will discuss what questions you should ask, what you should be looking for, and common consumer traps that you need to avoid. 

Regardless of whether you are buying or selling, there is one giant consumer trap that you need to be aware of before you contact an agent. That trap is the world of Referral Platforms (read about them here). These platforms are the ones that say they will "connect you with the best agent for free!"   Others will say that they can help you "find the best way for you to sell your home!"  Some of these platforms are obvious, and others are more hidden by having you "contact an agent."   These platforms make billions of dollars off of your information and are all over the internet.    

These referral platforms are not transparent in how they profit from your information and create the following issues:
 
  1. These platforms only refer you to agents that pay to be promoted or agree to give a piece of their earned commission back to the referral company.  Are you getting the best agent in town, or are you getting an agent that is not that great but paid a lot of money for your information?
  2. For home sellers: if your listing agent is already giving 30% of their earned commission back to a referral company, it does not leave much for you to negotiate in regards to the commission.
  3. For home buyers: if your agent is already giving back 30% of their earned commission, this leaves less commission for you to negotiate a buyer's rebate. 
While you can use the internet to search reviews (use with a grain of salt), always contact an agent directly through their personal website or social media pages.   Not only does this help prevent referral companies from dipping into the commission paid by consumers, but it also protects your information from being sold to additional third parties who want to sell you something.  


Tips & Questions To Ask A Listing Agent

 
  • The first and most important thing to do is to ask your friends, family or co-workers for personal recomendations. If you do not have anyone to ask (that's ok), then check out online reviews (take them with a grain of salt). You can also check out social media pages by searching "(your city) real estate agent." This is a great way to see the agent's personality without them knowing you are looking.
  • ​Meet with at least three agents so that you get a feel for who would be the best match. Ask them about their history of selling in your area and also ask for examples of how they marketed and sold a home recently.
  • ​They will most likely give you a different suggestion in regards to what price you should list your home. Ask them specifically how they decided on that number and ask to see comparable home sales in your area.
  • Be sure to ask if they are a full time or part-time agent. You will need to consider how much time and flexibility you have as well as what your agent has available.
  • Ask if your agent works alone or with a team. The really popular agents usually shuffle off certain tasks to team members because of their high business volume. If that is the case, ask to meet with the team to ensure you are comfortable with them.
  • Ask them how they will be marketing your home. If they do not have a marketing plan, then you need to find someone else.
  • It is crucial that you feel comfortable with the agent as a person. You will want to find an agent where your personalities mesh well and that you feel comfortable being honest and transparent with them. 
  • You should ask your agent as to what the protocol is if someone from the same office represents the home buyer. Technically, in that scenario, agents are not supposed to give you negotiation advice. Some still do, but you need to know that for sure before signing on. 
  • Some agents can be financially incentivized for selling your home to someone represented by an agent from their same office.  You have every right to transparency and should ask them about this when you receive offers on your home. 
  • Do not be afraid to talk about commission rates. A good agent will be upfront with you about their commissions and will also work with you on finding a percentage rate that you both can agree upon. 
  • If you are giving the agent leads from Selling Later, you can use those inquiries as a negotiation tool to lower the commission. If an agent is willing to give a company 30% of their commission to referral companies for leads, why can't they give that to their client instead?  We like to call this a Reverse Referral and will talk more about this next week.  
  • The length of your contract is also negotiable. Set your timeline to just a few months to ensure you are happy with the agent. You can always extend after those 30 days.
  • In the era of COVID-19, ask them how they will protect your home during the real estate process. While you set the tone for how to protect your home, it is up to your agent to enforce your rules when you are not there.
  • Commissions and contract timelines all need to be discussed before you sign. Do not sign anything with anyone until you are in agreement on those things and are also sure that they are the right agent for you.
 


Tips & Questions To Ask A Buyer Agent

 
  • The first and most important thing to do is to ask your friends, family or co-workers for personal recommendations. If you do not have anyone to ask, then check out online reviews (again, take them with a grain of salt). You can also check out social media pages by searching "(your city) real estate agent." This is a great way to see their personality without them knowing you are looking.
  • ​Meet with at least three agents so that you get a feel for who would be the best match. Ask them their history with buying in the area you are looking to purchase within. 
  • If you live in a hot market, ask the agent on how they get their insider info on homes that have yet to hit the market. Their answer should not be "we have a list within our office."  Instead, they should have connections and outside the box thinking as to how they find homes that are coming up.
    • Remember that For Sale By Owner homes are sometimes overlooked by agents because they do not always offer a commission to the agent.   Ask what would happen in this scenario so that you are prepared if by chance that happens.  
  • You should ask your agent as to what the protocol is if the home seller is represented by someone from the same office as your agent. Technically, in that scenario, agents are not supposed to give you negotiation advice. Some still do, but you need to know that for sure before signing on. You can also ask them what their protocol is for that scenario.
  • If you want to negotiate a buyer's rebate, this must happen before you sign an agreement with an agent. You can read more about buyer rebates here.
  • Ask if your agent works alone or with a team. The really popular agents usually shuffle off certain tasks to team members because of their high business volume. If that is the case, ask to meet with the team to ensure you are comfortable with them. 
  • You can negotiate the terms of your contract. Start with a 30 day contract term. If you like the agent, you can always extend for additional months. If you do not like the agent, it gives you an easy out by not renewing so that you can find a better agent.
  • Be sure to ask if they are a full time or part-time agent. You will need to consider how much time and flexibility you have as well as what your agent has available. When buying, you will be touring a good amount of homes, so timing and flexibility are essential to this process.
  • When touring homes, the agent should point out the good and the bad of each home. Be wary of agents that never have anything constructive to say about the homes that you tour.

On a final note, you will notice that there are two terms when it comes to buying and selling real estate.  There are "agents" and then there are "Realtors."    Both of these titles are the same job.  An agent is someone that has a license to help you buy or sell real estate.   A Realtor is an agent that belongs to the National Association of Realtors and is supposed to adhere to higher ethical standards and a code of ethics. 

Have a question about the real estate process?  
Send us an email with your question to have it answered by unbiased leaders in the real estate industry.