By Angela Epley
Have you ever noticed that many real estate agents promote themselves with a photo? You don’t see that much in other professions, but it underscores one very important aspect: their individuality.
A real estate agent can make a difference during emotional, high-dollar transactions involving homes — but not all agents are the same. Plus, because buying or selling a home can span several weeks (or even months), your agent will start to feel like family. Here are some tips on how to find the right agent.
Buying a home can be a stressful and highly emotional experience. If you’re a military family that moves around a lot, it makes sense to find a real estate agent who’s familiar with the quick timelines and rapid changes inherent in that world. Similarly, if you have an aesthetic or particular lifestyle that you’re going for — urban chic, country comforts or spacious suburbia — make sure your agent can get on the same wavelength and show you spots that are close to the mark. Remember, they’re people too, and it’s easy for them to get caught up in their own preferences, which may not necessarily match your own.
Another caveat: “Use caution if using an agent who is a friend or family member,” says Matthew Angel, advice director of personal finance at USAA. “If the working relationship goes bad, you don’t want to be stuck with a poor experience. Don’t choose an agent that you couldn’t see parting ways with if need be.”
As a seller, you want to get the most for your home, so you might be tempted to pick the agent who chooses the highest sale price and will take the lowest commission. Resist the temptation to fall for this common mistake, because a high sell price is no guarantee of what your home will actually sell for. Many agents know this and will intentionally inflate the asking price and lower their commission to flatter your ego and beat out other agents to get the business. That’s no indication they’ll do a great job and make the process seamless and stress-free.
Instead, agents who quote you a range (for both house price and commission) are worth considering. They’re being realistic from the get-go and are setting the expectation that prices may move a bit in the first month or so of a house being listed.
If a real estate agent is good at marketing their own business, that’s a good sign because marketing is what also sells a home. Someone who’s fastidious and detail-oriented when it comes to following up on communications in a timely manner may also show the same skills in staging and advertising a home with virtual tours, updating website listings and other qualities prized in a real estate agent.
A real estate agent is essentially a temporary worker you’re hiring, so treat this like an interview and dig into each candidate’s background and experience in the field. This is an expected part of the process, so don’t feel shy or like you are taking up their time! Go forth and boldly ask them about:
• Their ratio of buyers to sellers — the agent may have a specialty, which is worth noting (especially if they’re better at one end of the equation than the other).
• The average number of clients they work with at a given time — you want to make sure you’re getting the attention you deserve.
• The areas and neighborhoods they cover — especially if you’re relocating, finding a trustworthy agent who understands what’s important to you in a new home will steer you in the right direction.
• How long they’ve been earning a living as a real estate agent — newbies might be more prone to getting rattled and off-kilter during this highly emotional and stressful journey, whereas pros know when to call someone’s bluff or stand their ground.
For most Americans, their home will not only shelter their family and prized possessions but is also a significant financial asset. It’s a tremendous financial commitment with personal and professional repercussions, so it’s critical to find a real estate agent who’s honest and trustworthy so you and your family feel comfortable disclosing intimate details about your hopes, dreams and fears. Communication is a two-way street, and when it comes to buying or selling a home, you need to make sure the proverbial road ahead is clear.
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