Picking Your Realtor, Advice for the Buyer

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TV shows and movies have given us such funny images of Realtors. I recall the dysfunctional Realtor played by Annette Bening in American Beauty, frantically washing dishes and repeating to herself a positive mantra about how she was going to sell the house. You have probably seen TV shows of women Realtors who wear stiletto’s and gold jewelry, graciously pointing out features that are patently obvious as they swish open doors: “And this, is the bathroom.” (Drum roll.)
There are the fresh out of college guys who sit on their desks and discuss their moves with clients behind closed doors. It is as if the process is a football game, full of manipulation in order to get to the goal of closing the deal. Well, those images give us a good laugh, but it is really not like that at all.

Today most Buyers get the majority of the information they need about a listing or pricing by a click on the internet to one of many sources for free real property information. When a Realtor gets a phone call from a Buyer, for example, in many cases that Buyer already knows what he wants to see and has learned a lot of facts about it online. Online is where most people look for property, but where do they look for Realtors, and how do they pick one? Here are a few places that in my opinion are not the best place to look:
1. The listing agent of the property you want to see. Why might this not be a good idea? Think about it: the listing agent gets paid a commission from the Sellers and has been hired to have the Seller’s best interests at heart. As a Buyer, you may want someone to represent your best interests, especially if you are a first-time Buyer.
2. A phone call to a real estate office. It’s Russian Roulette. How do you know what you will get? The new agent that has only lived in town six months? Someone who talks too fast or drives too slowly? It is a potluck pick for a pretty important position.
3. The guy down at the local tavern that hands out advice on everything under the sun. OK, yes he may have had good or bad experiences with certain Realtors in town, but since you and he are very un-alike, it is only borderline useful.

My suggestion on how to choose a Realtor? Ask yourself what is important to you and call a few Realtors who have good websites on-line. Ask to meet at least three of them, separately, in their offices for a short interview. Sit face to face with them to see how you communicate with each other. There is a Realtor for everyone, and this is an avenue to find just the right one for you.

If I was interviewing a Realtor to be my Buyer’s Agent I would ask how often they would get in touch with me about new listings. I would want to know if they basically communicated by phone or email. I would look at the things in their office and ask about them – family pictures, travel mementos, etc. I would ask them to tell me about their most memorable recent sale. I would ask them what they thought was the most important thing for me to know about the local market at this time. The answers to these questions would give me a good idea if I had found a person who communicated clearly to me. I would know about their values. I would know whether or not they were a whiner or someone with a good sense of humor. I would get a sense of the process they go through for a sale and see if they were detail-oriented.

I would not get into details of talking about certain listings at the first interview. The time spent on specifics should be saved for the person you select to represent you after the interview process. It is unfair to the Realtors to go looking at property with more than one of them. After the meeting, if you get a follow-up phone call (or especially if you don’t) that will be another big hint about your compatibility with the Realtor, as well as their organizational skills.

I know, interviewing a Realtor sounds like a crazy thing. But think of all the time you put into finding a house. You need a person who can “read” your needs clearly. You want someone who is “on the same page.” In today’s market, any Realtor would be happy to give you a few minutes to discuss things. If they won’t do that, you certainly wouldn’t want to use them anyway.

Next: Advice for the Seller

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