Tips for Hiring a Realtor
You’ve decided to buy or sell a house. Maybe you need a bigger home, or a smaller one. Maybe it’s your first home. Maybe you’re being relocated. Whatever the reason, selling or buying a home is a big decision and hiring a good real estate agent will make the process go more smoothly.
Realtor vs. Real Estate Agent
Let’s start with some basics. What is the difference between a Realtor and a real estate agent? Anyone who passes the requirements to obtain a real estate license can call themselves real estate agent. All Realtors are real estate agents, but only members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) can call themselves Realtors. NAR is the national governing body of Realtors and sets certain standards for how their members must behave with customers, other professionals, and the general public. Realtors are usually also members of a state or local board of Realtors modeled after NAR. Real estate agents who are not Realtors do not belong to the governing organizations and often cannot access their local multiple listing service (MLS), putting them – and you – at a great disadvantage for marketing your home or finding you a home.
Designations and Certifications
Many Realtors have an alphabet soup after their name – GRI, ABS, CIPS, SRE, etc. These are designations and certifications that imply a greater knowledge of different areas of real estate sales. While these professionals generally are experts in those areas, this alphabet soup doesn’t guarantee a good Realtor. Think about it this way: you might be MOS-certified in Microsoft Excel, but if you haven’t used Excel recently, chances are you have forgotten some of what you knew. You will still be more proficient than many other average users but not necessarily more proficient than someone who may not be certified but uses Excel’s advanced features daily. Likewise, you probably passed a calculus class in college, but chances are, if you haven’t used calculus since then, you don’t know as much as you did when you took that class in college.
Now that those basics are out of the way, how do you make sure you hire the right Realtor for you? There are several things you can do to make sure you hire a professional.
Interview Several Realtors
Yes, several. I know your sister’s husband’s cousin’s daughter is a Realtor. She may be perfect! And she may not. Interview her, and others. Would you interview only one candidate for a job opening at your office? Probably not.
This interview, called a buyers consultation or listing consultation by Realtors, lets you see if your personalities mesh, if this person is professional, what steps they will take to provide you with a great buying or selling experience, and gives you the time to ask questions important to you.
Get Their Marketing/Negotiating Plan
Simply put, what will he do for you? What does the marketing plan look like for listings? If you’re buying, what will he do to find you the perfect? Buying or selling a house involves a lot more work than using the MLS and showing homes. For instance, I currently work with a customer who wants to live in a specific neighborhood; however, there are no homes for sale in that neighborhood. I have called all the homeowners to see if any would like to sell. I have knocked on doors. I have sent letters to those I have not been able to reach or who live out of town. A Realtor must be willing to do all of these things and more to find you a home and get your home sold. How are listings advertised? There are numerous ways to market a property for the fastest sale at the highest price.
Another aspect of marketing is negotiations. Your Realtor will be selling you to the other Realtor and seller when negotiating terms of a contract. How will your Realtor represent you so that you come out with the winning offer? This is particularly important in a sellers’ market when sellers often have multiple offers. A good offer is not always about the money. Sellers may also consider time to close, repairs requested, type of financing, and a number of other points in the contract. All of these are negotiable.
Check License Information and Reviews
You can find license information through your state’s licensing board. This information will include any complaints file against the licensee. Many states now have websites where you can search for any license that the state issues.
You can also check ratings and reviews on Facebook, Zillow, or Trulia. Facebook, in particular, has become a popular place to share information. Many people do not think about rating and reviewing Realtors like we review restaurants. These reviews, however, are just as important as those we give to other businesses. Top professionals will solicit these, as well as testimonials, to show prospects their worth.
Don't Ignore Newbies
We all want to work with someone who has experience. Most people new to real estate will not advertise that they are new to the business, but if you find a newbie on your interview list, don’t automatically discount her. A new Realtor often has more time for you, and those who work in larger brokerages have the benefit of others’ experiences and knowledge in their office. If you interview a newbie, find out about her office support system and who will be available to her for guidance and to answer questions.