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By Tara-Nicholle Nelson | Broker in San Francisco, CA

6 Unexpected Advantages of Having the Right Agent

I once worked with a buyer who had to fly to the other end of the world within a couple of days after we placed her offer. Needless to say, she was agitated and anxious about the prospect of being so far away during inspections and contingency removals, especially since I’d earlier stressed how important it was for her to be present.

Rolling with the punches and poor timing, we sat down just before she left and talked through the timeline, including which events would take place on every day of her absence - including some harmless glitches that commonly arise along the way.


I never will forget her laughter when the occasional glitch of this sort did, in fact, come up. She would say: “I would have been stressed out by that. But since I knew to expect it, I’m not!”

The list of pleasant surprises in real estate matters is really, really short. Normally, we all want things to tick along precisely according to plan, and almost anything unexpected causes us inconvenience or plain old stress. But there is one relatively common set of real estate surprises that is actually quite delightful: the unexpected perks of working with the right real estate pro.

Most sellers come to their real estate agent relationships expecting help selling their home on a particular time frame, and marketing the place to make that happen.  Buyers are most often seeking an agent’s help finding the right home and negotiating to buy it.

But both buyers and sellers are often pleasantly surprised at the other resources, strategic counsel and expertise their agents ultimately provide.Here are some of the biggest benefits that catch them off-guard:

1.  Insider knowledge.  In a recent survey, home buyers said one of the biggest benefits they got from their agent was an understanding of how the buying process would unfold. When it comes to something as infrequent, complex and high stakes as buying or selling a home, having an insider advisor who is dedicated to your success can alleviate your anxieties and otherwise put you in a power position, when it comes to making smart decisions and moves.

2.  Lifestyle design advice.  I recently spoke with Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Workweek, The Four Hour Body and his brand-new book, The Four Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything and Living the Good Life. I asked Tim flat out what would be in his dream kitchen, if he were in the market for a home and he answered without hesitation: a six-burner Viking range.

And that was it. No Carrera marble. No European soft-close drawers. To a world class cook, what really matters is the stove. In fact, he explained, he was briefed on the importance of the range, and only the range, to a great chef’s kitchen by chef extraordinaire Alice Waters.


The right agent can and often does precisely what Alice Waters did for Tim Ferriss: they can course correct you around what home features, transaction terms and even timing nuances will help further the lifestyle you are trying to create - and which won’t - based on their past experiences working with buyers and sellers in similar situations.

You might think that you are desperate to live in a particular neighborhood, but your agent can help you understand the realities of the commute in a way you didn’t before. You might want to wait to list your home until the summertime, but your agent can point out the wisdom of getting started prepping the place during your holiday vacation time so that you’ll be poised to take advantage of pent-up cold weather demand at the first thaw. Of course, for your agent to be able to do this, you have to give them as much information as possible about the lifestyle you aim to create.

3.  Save you from yourself.  As we discussed last week, there are many instances in which even the smartest buyers and sellers are their own worst enemies, committing unintentional acts of self-sabotage like overpricing, lowballing, overspending and the like.  If you equip your agent with a deep understanding of the overall life picture, financial picture and then home picture you’re trying to create with your buy or sale (or both), they can help point out when you’re about to take an action that will be inconsistent with or counterproductive to what you say is important to you.

Ultimately, it’ll be your decision whether to take a given red flag-waving step or not, but your agent can be a very valuable coach to gently point out when you might be getting in your own way.

4.  Stop you from buying the wrong house.  A surprisingly high number of home buyers report that their agent actually talked them out of buying the wrong house for them. Whether because the inspection results come back and are deeply worrisome, the sellers simply want more money than you can healthily afford or experience has taught them that a buyer with your priorities will not be happy with a house like that, the majority of agents would rather sell you the *right* home for your family next month than sell you the wrong one right now.

5.  Devise an pre-buying or -selling action plan. What a tangled web we weave, when first we fail to properly plan and prep to buy or sell our home. Okay, so it doesn’t have quite the ring as the original saying, but you get the gist nonetheless. Agents love nothing more than to get a call way in advance of when you think you’ll be ready to make your move. Calling them in advance allows them to sit down with you in an unhurried, unpressured environment to map out an action plan that sets you (and them) up for successfully achieving whatever your real estate goal is.

And that, in turn, can help you prevent the overwhelm, procrastination and eventual last minute scrambling and freak-outs that arise when your ducks are not all in a row.

Things an agent can help you plan out, significantly in advance of your target move-in or move-out date, include, among many others:
  • Referrals to mortgage brokers, financial planners, contractors, stagers and relationship counselors (just kidding on that last one!).
  • Setting up action steps you need to take and helping you understand when you need to take them to meet your target time frames.
  • Getting clear on the relative costs (and financial prep it will take) to buy in any of several neighborhoods, cities and even property types that you are considering.

6.  Illuminate options you weren’t aware were even possible. There’s no shame in not knowing everything there is to know about real estate - even very active real estate consumers will only buy or sell 5, maybe 10 homes in a lifetime. But your agent does this all day, every day, for their entire career. So off the top of their head, they might be able surface options in terms of
  • properties
  • neighborhoods
  • pricing plans
  • contract terms
  • marketing tools
  • negotiation strategies
  • and even post-closing protections and service providers
that you would never have known existed, if not for them.

The theme here is this: don’t limit your agent and the help they can provide you by what you *think* their job is, or what you think they do or don’t know.  Make sure that when you’re getting referrals or meeting agents online and in person early on in your agent selection process, you pay attention to their references and marketing plans, but also to how well your personalities mesh.

Ideally, you’ll find and work with an agent in whom you can confide everything from your big picture life vision to your truly confidential financial details.

Bottom line: The more you feel comfortable sharing with your agent, the more likely you are to be pleasantly surprised with the ways they can help you.

Buyers, Sellers and Owners:  Were you pleasantly surprised by advice or strategies your agent gave you? How so?

All: You should follow Trulia and Tara on Facebook!     

Comments

By Joe Patel,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 09:19
Very nice information for buyers & seller.s in this hectic real estate market
By Jariah R. Walker,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 09:30
As usual, this is all great stuff Tara!
By Deborah Rodgers,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 09:36
Good points! I enjoyed your article.
Deborah Rodgers
Bradley Real Estate
San Rafael, Ca. 94901
By Allen Gradin,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 09:42
Always be prepared. Let your clients know just what they can expect from you as the Agent of consistancy. Share some Real Estate experiences you have gone thru Become a Friend and build their confidence.
By Audrey Viola,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 09:43
Actually , a customer just asked me if she should work an agent in her state or find one in the state and area in which she was looking to purchase property . I basically told her all the above , but you say it much better here .
By Aaron Sims,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 09:45
Great article!
By Joanne Bernardini,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 09:54
As usual great advice Tara!
By Geraldine "Gigi",  Thu Nov 22 2012, 11:07
Tara, This was an excellent article that you wrote.
By Martha Matthews Vasquez,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 11:47
Well done!
By Diane Rosetto GRI, ABR,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 12:17
Thanks Tara..well said!
By Megan Paul,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 12:56
Tara,
Love the post, but you weren't kidding when you said relationship counseling! If we work with buyers on a regular basis, and show a certain number of houses to a couple, at some point we become part of the relationship. If the pre-buying plan is put into action (and there isn't a word I don't agree with) we know a lot about this couple. Sometimes a point is reached where we hit a saturation stage of viewing homes; the buyers get exhausted and tempers can flare. When buyers work with a strong, knowledgeable Broker, she will know when to step out of the arena for a bit, let the couple take in everything they have seen, then step back in to help them with the goal and objective-- deciding which home works for both of them. That is why I love working with buyers. There is a different energy to "finding a home" vs "selling the house." Thanks for the thought you put into this.
By Mary Horesco,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 15:07
Great article, Tara.
Most buyers and sellers don't really understand what we do.
I recently met with a prospective seller, and used the analogy of an iceberg: the tip is all they see, but I described the other major hidden portion of responsibilities and issues we handle for sellers.
Marketing is just the beginning, most of the work happens after the accepted offer.
I cited actual examples, such as meeting the appraiser with comps to support the sales price, inspections, title company, special conditions, timelines and legal liabilities, not to mention keeping 4-6 parties involved in communication, and most of all, preventing pitfalls one learns from experience and education.
Selling real estate is a legal transaction governed by laws, and our clients need to be informed as to what the process is really all about.

Mary Horesco
Downing-Frye Realty, Inc.
Naples, FL
By Ann Zemaitis, Rutenberg Realty,  Thu Nov 22 2012, 15:48
Just this week my clients were "sold" on a house. It had character, it had high end renovations, and the price was well below their pre-approval limit. I told them, not knowing the neighborhood well enough they needed to research and pointed them to Trulia's Crime tab on the page when you search the address. Well, Bed-Stuy may be coming up, but with 5 murders within a block within a couple of months it was totally wrong for them because they told me they needed a place to feel "safe" with their 5 yr. old daughter. I have no problem with up and coming neighborhoods. When I moved to Tribeca in 1988 I had my apt. burglarized, I had my car stolen on the block, AND there was a triple murder in a parking lot half a block away. Now look at it. But, I didn't have children then. Wouldn't say I would do it again if I had. Yes, "saving people from themselves," may lose me a sale, but it earns me things like "you're amazing; a real gem; my husband doesn't trust anyone and he trusts you," and other comments. It pays to do what's ethical instead of what makes the most money.
By Mark Acantilado,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 00:45
Definitely correct. Though some people do not want to rely and trust real estate agents, it is because they do not exactly know how to determine of know whether an agent is trustworthy or not. But for those whom choose to trust agents, it is a good sign that would help them as well in growing their businesses and future investments in real estate.

Thanks | http://www.agentcampus.com/
By Barb Mihalik,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 03:35
Loved the comment about the 6 burner Viking stove for a chef. That is so true. Knowing the top 5 must have's that are really important to a buyer's lifestyle should be the determining factors when house hunting. Great post!
By James P. Furlong,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 05:39
Great article
By Taryn Eldredge,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 08:16
Good insight! Thanks for a well-written article.
By Wife,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 09:58
The only time we heard from our selling agent was to check & see if we wanted to lower our price. So glad our house is off the market. We even had an incident while we were away on vacation & not only did a showing agent leave the alarm off in our house, they left our sliding glass door WIDE open....two days later, neighbors called the police. Selling agent was more concerned about the police calling him than the possibility of animals, robbery, etc. I had to call the manager of the showing agency who, naturally, denied that it was his agency (even though they were the only ones that showed the house during that time frame). So over realtors and their lack of consideration toward sellers.
By Sbohnenkamp,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 10:32
Sorry ... I'd rather do it alone. Been stuck with too many incompetent agents over all my moves.
By Joan Coleman,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 10:53
Very timely for me. I have a client who could really use this advice (although I think I've said it more times than I care to count),
By Jeff,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 11:16
I wish my agent would read this.. We knew nothing until it happens and then asked why and was told thats the way it always goes. We are ready to close and now we need to get a re-occupancy permit? 7 working days wait for one. Did not know we needed it and had to shell out more money. I have learned more reading here then told from my agent. I though buying a home would be fun.... I was so wrong.
By Juan Jose Gonzalez,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 11:44
We agree with all your points in your article. Great information Tara.
By Juan Jose Gonzalez,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 11:45
We agree with all your points in your article. Great information Tara.
By Howard,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 12:48
Tara this information is straight to the point and very helpful for all parties involved. Great job!
By Judith Ackerson,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 12:53
I had to sell my Annapolis, Maryland home quickly to support an ongoing family health crisis in another state. Lisa White of Championship Realty really stepped up to help out, including fielding several false closings when the buyers couldn't get past multiple last-minute issues with their loan. She even went by my vacant house and returned a misdirected package that had been delivered there. On the other end, Chad Clark of Prudential-Blanton in Athens, Georgia gave us first-class attention even though we were seeking a lower-cost neighborhood with an insignificant commission. I hate to hear horror stories from those who have experienced poor service from their realtors. These two made a chaotic period in my life so much easier through their professionalism.
By Kimberly,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 13:33
I remember when purchasing my first home that I felt like I was reacting to everything in a hurried manner rather than having been prepared ahead of time with an agenda of what to expect. I LOVED my realtor but my one suggestion to him at the time was to have something prepared that he can give to clients that has a sort of a time frame of what to expect so that all the calls telling the client they need to get another piece of information TODAY don't make the process more stressful. I recall daily asking, "Okay, is there ANYTHING ELSE I need to have prepared or ready to go?" and I would be told, "No, that's it for now." so I wanted to scream when I'd get another call the following day asking me for something else. A piece of paper with all the main points like, Inspections, Loan Documents, Disclosures, Closing Paperwork, etc. would have made all the difference in the stress levels.
By Annita Ellison,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 13:35
I ALREADEY LEFT A COMMENT. IT'S RIGHT ABOVE THIS ONE
By Annita Ellison,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 13:37
YOU KNOW WHAT';L/aDV=-FORGET IT. I'M TIRED OF LEAVING COMMENTS!!!!!
By leedc1,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 13:46
I could agrue the exact other side of each point. 1. Insider information. If the deal is really that good any realtor worth thier salt has financial investors they will reach out to as well as perhaps taking some equity. 2. Life style advice. First of all, this point is a merly advertising of a guru's book. The rest of points of 2,3, 4, 5 and 6 area myths. All any realtor does is show whats on the multilist regardless of any parameters that a mere client would set. Price, location, layout, use, are of no real meaning to a realtor. How had told a realtor a budget, say 200K and were shown houses less than 175K.. More typically, 220. Remember folks, realtors work for themselves. And more real estate deals are not made becuase of them than are! (now I feel better)
By ronald_jiang,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 13:48
do you know how much a buyer's agent will charge?
By Jjtranzamm,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 13:57
Where can I find an agent who will do this for me? The half dozen or so agents I have had, just want to show you 3 houses and say pick one. I have trouble getting an agent to meet me to show me a house I found. Memphis Real Estate agents are the pits. Surely, there is still a good one out there.
By Mom,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 14:57
We saw a house in Grand Junction, Co and wanted to bid on it but it sold out from under us. We were working with the listing agent. On our way home to Ga, we found the house was on the market again...the former sale had fallen through but hard to believe, agent never even contacted us. We finally contacted him and the house is now ours. But if not for our initiative, who knows? We had bad luck out there with agents, just couldn't understand it. I sold real estate at one time and would have been all over clients like us...we knew the neighborhood we wanted, we were pre-qualified, serious buyers. But getting someone to call us back was next to impossible.
By Jo Anne Lorensen,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 16:59
An agent once told me that realtors work under the "Three P's of Real Estate":
(1) PROCURE the listing
(2) PUT a sign in the yard
(3) PRAY that someone else sells the house.
Amen, buddy, is this ever true! Real estate agents have earned very bad reputations and they need to wake up and do something about it. Tara needs to write an honest article about that.
By greentae25,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 19:08
Wish wewould have know this before.Our agent seems as if she is working for the seller. She never wants to answer our questions. Her suggestion is always to offer more, even when she can never give us any comps. I wish i would have never started this deal with her. Can I change agents if she was the one that put our offer in?
By Househunter123,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 22:15
If an agent likes this exists - they are rare! I have been buying and selling real estate for over 40 years and I have never met one real estate agent who cared about anything other than a commission. We even had one agent who after he lost the listing came back and attempted to extort - YES EXTORT - money from us because we ended up renting the property. We listed the rental, we showed the rental and we wrote the lease and yet the IDIOT felt entitled to a commission because he had a listing! You can well imagine what we told him he could do to himself.

Actually more and more young people are doing what we started to do over the last 15 or so years - we do our own due diligence without a realtor. If realtors actually did something to earn a commission we would gladly compensate them for a service, but so many are LAZY and worthless; they sell hype or promises - definitely not a service. We even had a realtor argue about an offer because it was too low - when it got accepted he was shocked. Moreover, I can honestly say that even the low offer turned out to be too much. So much for the experts who have usually failed at other occupations and have no educational background to offer a client. The internet has really changed what property owners can do without paying a commission.
By Househunter123,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 22:28
Oh, I went back and I read several of these. I just LOVE oh I mean really LOVE it when a real estate agent SHOWS a property without prequalifying the buyers. After firing - oh yes - we fired those SOBs when we discovered that they were showing the house to anyone who could walk and talk at the same time, but have actual money to do the deal - NO WAY.

Also, here's another suggestion if you cannot stay in the house during a showing damn well tape it or record it on tape so that you can find out what is going on when you are not there. Don't tell them - just do it. You will be amazed how some buyers are looking for meds or stealing from sellers - not to mention the local snoops or tire kickers. Force your realtors to actually prequalify their buyers instead of wasting everyone's time!

Except for a few realtors, it looks like the rest of us have all met the same realtors. I am waiting for the rest of this country to wake up and save themselves a commission. If these damn realtors knew so much about financing - why are so many people facing foreclosures and short sales? Or why were there so many liar loans? Why so many banking problems with mortgages? These and other issues can all be traced back to realtors. We did cash deals so I do not need someone to do my financing, but that did not afford us any better service. We actually had to do more because the realtors were lazy.
By Craig C Budreau,  Fri Nov 23 2012, 23:02
Been in the moving biz for more than 30 years , witnessed / participated in 1,000s of relocation's , wrote a book about how to avoid a bad moving experience and have this advice : Finding a competent moving company without advice from a competent real estate agent is folly. Not to spoil my book but it is quite simple ~ Find the best to get the best ...Now if someone could figure if the best moving company could point to the best real estate agent's or visa versa..... that is the question.
By Tdanaj,  Sat Nov 24 2012, 04:38
The Article should be "6 Things you SHOULD EXPECT if you have the Right Agent". I have known to many friends and family members who had agents who have broken many if not all of these "expectations". The sad thing is the agents spend all of their time looking for listings and buyers. They are not experts in negotiation and their only interest is to close the deal so they can get the commission. I say this from experience, we have bought and sold 9 homes (personal residences) over our life time and not one of the agents demonstrated any of these skills. We have also use more than 9 agents in the buying process because of the poor quality of the agents we started with. We end up using the "best of the worst". The reason I was compelled to respond, the person who helped my sister only showed her 7 houses and then allowed them to move into a house that was backed up to the freeway and on a busy street with columns and she HATES columns. Just one example of an agent that only know the commission side of the job.
By Kevin And Jeannie Mallion,  Sat Nov 24 2012, 06:55
Our realtor has been doing her job for over 26yrs. and she loves it. Experience & passion is a good thing to look for when choosing a broker. As first time home buyers, we were fortunate to find one who pulls no punches; she tells us the downsides she sees in the house, and she knows us well enough to say whether or not we'd be happy there. In retrospect, she's been "right on" every time. However, I have only one complaint: we didn't know that we can state in the contract our own stipulations, such as, when a bad appraisal (a non-refundable fee that Ohio buyers are required to pay) comes in, and the seller refuses to sell the home at its appraised value, the seller is to reimburse the potential buyer for the appraisal fee.
By Robin Pierce,  Sat Nov 24 2012, 09:29
Really terrific and well written article. Thank you!
By Max,  Sat Nov 24 2012, 10:17
The benefits you listed are true and I'll add one – an agent is your eyes and ears when you buy properties remotely. I got terrific videos of homes and superb commentary from one agent and ended up buying 11 houses through her even though their agency charged $400 per closing as a buyers broker.
There are a couple drawbacks to using one particular agent – (1) they specialize in one locale and are biased if you want to consider multiple areas (for example, 3 proximal cities all with great schools), and (2) their objective is to get you to buy, after all. Watch for persuasive comments. My agent did sell me one house in a premium area that was overpriced and became my lowest ROI property.
By Ann Cohen,  Sat Nov 24 2012, 12:20
As an agent, I provide my clients with information so they can make sound decisions. We also discuss negotiation strategies before making an offer so they are as prepared as possible to make decisions, still based on facts, as efficiently as possible. Good agents are master coaches.
By Candace Taylor,  Sat Nov 24 2012, 14:40
I am a Real Estate Broker who has never (ever) listed or sold a house that I wouldn't consider living in myself. Every single one of my buyer's were pre-qualified because I sat in on most lender meetings with the buyers and asked my own set of questions. The goal is to help make the right fit for the long haul. Commissions should always be secondary. That being said, I have worked with terrible agents. The problem is that the bar is set too low to obtain a real estate or broker's license. However, I've had many buyers and sellers ruin transactions by taking "advice" from their relatives or a sleazy agent trying to steal the client. I now "coach" my client's as to what to expect!
By Fateh Entabi,  Sat Nov 24 2012, 14:52
A good real estate agent is certainly a great asset. However, it certainly cost you that 6% I would always try to sell my house on my own if I can.
By Robinb49,  Sun Nov 25 2012, 06:46
Out 1st realtor called us "stupid" and "idiots" for pricing the house as we wanted to, which sold. She had been in the business 26 years. Our next one handled selling and buying. Our house sold in a week. She not only forgot to write in an allowance of a few days for us to pack and transfer to the next house (buyers graciously kicked us out noon that day,) but she demanded an extra $5,000 cash for finding the new house, stating a bidding war. We got the $ in time. Later, she came over in a new suv and stated "look what you bought me." I hope we never go thru that again!
By Carol Toronto,  Sun Nov 25 2012, 10:06
Tara always has the best advice! Well done once again.
By Kimberly Barton,  Sun Nov 25 2012, 13:49
Annita Ellison, It sounds like you are a little frustrated. Your question probably went without a reply because you are posting a question in the comments section of an article instead of the advice section where it would have received a reply.

Try logging in and posting your question in the "advice" section in the "questions & answers" area and be sure to enter the city, state, zip for the area of interest. This way, a real estate professional from that area can (hopefully) address your posted question.
By Kimberly Barton,  Sun Nov 25 2012, 14:06
It is truly disheartening to read the comments here from buyers and sellers who have had bad experiences with real estate agents. As with many professions and businesses, there are always those that make you want to scream "how do you stay in business?"

Sadly there are some agents that do not have the client's best interest in mind, fail to do what is expected and/or should be barred from doing business. Those agents are an embarrassment to the profession and certainly challenge the agents who care about their clients and the professional ethics. Those of us who are full-time, experienced & dedicated business professionals have to work doubly hard to earn the trust back. And, sometimes, the damage is just too far gone.
By Vijai,  Sun Nov 25 2012, 20:53
fine.........
By Kim Kubisiak,  Mon Nov 26 2012, 08:27
Thanks Tara. What a great article.
By Natalie Zelt-Leber,  Mon Nov 26 2012, 09:02
Thank you!
By Colby Perry,  Mon Nov 26 2012, 18:05
Great article!
By Vincent Chiaro,  Mon Nov 26 2012, 23:06
Hmmm...might me time for me to fire my agent based on this? :) I've been looking for a home for some time now and her response is always that "it'll go for higher" and she's always encouraging me to bid places up. Then when I see the final sale price, it's at asking or sometimes below.

In other situation, she never seems to talk us out of a house. There is one house, that meets all of our criteria quite well. But when we looked at it, we saw standing water in the basement and the property inspection mentioned it was built above an underground creek. Did she tell us to walk away? No, as usual she said she expected it to go for over asking ($1.6M)...it's now been sitting on the market almost a year.
By Francesca Patrizio,  Tue Nov 27 2012, 15:40
Sellers do take this advice. Many of us are more than just salespeople and truly, truly work for the benefit of our customers!
By Itsnotme1207,  Tue Nov 27 2012, 21:25
i like my agent a lot. she does most if not all of the above. she got us into our home fast and easy. now i'm working with her to get it sold and then i want to buy another with her again. it is kinda slow here though and we've both done everything we can do. just waiting on the right buyer.

http://www.trulia.com/property/3006972280-1802-Twin-Oaks-Dr-Van-Buren-AR-72956
By Trevor Windhorst,  Wed Nov 28 2012, 12:04
Wow, sounds like many have had bad experiences working with real estate agents. Here's some advice from a real estate agent who has been working as a real estate agent for the last 18 years:
1. Ask your potential agent how many years they have been a real estate agent and if they are an agent full time. This will eliminate the part-timers and newbies.
2. Ask your potential agent if they are a Realtor. Not all agents are Realtors and Realtors are supposed to abide by a Code of Ethics. The Realtor Code of Ethics can currently be found online here: http://www.realtor.org/mempolweb.nsf/pages/code. This Code of Ethics, among many other things, states that they should keep your best interests first. If the Code of Ethics is not followed, please report them to their company’s owners/brokers/local Realtor boards! I do not want them out there creating a bad name for other hard working Realtors!
3. Ask potential agents how many homes they have sold in the area(s) you are interested in buying or selling in the last year or so and ask them for proof of this. This will give you a good idea of their knowledge of the area.
4. If you are a seller interviewing agents, don't tell each agent you are interviewing agents. This should give you a pretty good idea of each potential agent’s skills and professionalism. Take notes during your interviewing process. Note agent's dress, quality of marketing materials, written marketing plans and past client references. The best agents are going to be prepared from the beginning. They will have a written game plan, sample marketing materials, knowledge of the local real estate market they are prepared to share with you and will be ready with past client references.
5. Ask potential agents for a minimum of 3 past client references who they have helped purchase or sell a home within the last 3-6 months and what the clients relationship was to the agent (if any). Call the references with a short list of questions and ask the references to rate the agent on a scale of 1 to 10 on each question. Consider questions like these: 1. Rate ‘Joe Agent’ on his promptness in returning your phone calls. 2. Rate ‘Joe Agent’ on keeping you informed of what was happening during your real estate transaction with him. 3. Rate ‘Joe Agent’ on his knowledge of the area. 4. Rate ‘Joe Agent’ on his professionalism in dealing with you, etc.

Thankfully the slowdown in the real estate markets have weeded some of the part-timers and non-professionals out of our industry but there are still many of us out here that are true professionals in our industry and work hard for our buyers and sellers, keeping their best interests at the forefront of our purpose. It is during these tougher times that many of us rely on referrals from past satisfied clients to survive. We would only be harming our own future business by not providing the service and professionalism worthy of the future referral. I think you will find if you follow the above advice that you will end up with a professional Realtor and not just another sales person. I am happy to help if you have further questions: trevorw@windermere.com
By Trevor Windhorst,  Wed Nov 28 2012, 15:37
To the buyers out there working with agents who are suggesting you offer certain prices on property or that you are going to get beat out by higher offers or your offer is too low, consider this:

Most markets have price escalation addendums to the purchase contracts. These allow you to submit the lower offer you want to 'test' the seller with and also set a maximum bid price. It essentially says ‘My offer is ‘x’ but I am willing to beat your highest bona fied offer by ‘y’ up to a maximum selling price of ‘z’. Then, if there are truly other offers on the table, you’ll have a chance if your offer is the highest bid without overpaying for the property. Likewise, you won’t feel bad about loosing the sale to another buyer if they are willing to pay more than your maximum bid price and you can feel good knowing you put your best foot forward.
By Vincent Chiaro,  Wed Nov 28 2012, 20:32
Very helpful, thanks Trevor!
By lindseyhook89,  Thu Nov 29 2012, 08:08
ya thanks trevor very helpful but will someone please help me find a house it needs to be five bedroom and very big please email me
By Mary-lee Henson,  Tue Jan 8 2013, 12:00
Last November my fiancé and I were looking for a home in the Ocean Reef Club. We called a few of the realtors on site and selected Bob Ecuyer as he has actually lived in the community for nearly 40 years. His team were extremely knowledgeable about the club, events and amenities. They found us a exactly what we wanted in a home. What I liked the most was his team’s desire to help us in every way. His site is http://www.swensonrealty.com.
By Erin Groover,  Tue Jan 8 2013, 15:47
This is great, most people have no clue what a buyer's agent can do for them,...myself included back when I purchased my first home. Lesson learned. My own experience is what drives me to help and educate people as much as I can on the process, contract obligations and proper representation. Thanks for a well articulated article.
By Voices Member,  Thu May 16 2013, 15:10
When looking for a good agent, I like to find a personable and honest person. If you can find a person that fits those characteristics- the rest can fill in the blanks.

David | http://www.toughdivorces.com
By Voices Member,  Thu Sep 5 2013, 16:21
There are so many good reasons to have an agent. I can't wait until I can afford one! :)

David | http://www.eyewearplace.com/red_deer.html
By Madison Parker,  Mon Jan 27 2014, 10:08
My newlywed husband and I were looking for a elegant, tropical home in the Ocean Reef Community, to start our new beginning. We looked everywhere but couldn't find the perfect home for us. Then a colleague suggested Bob Ecuyer, we gave him a try, and he found us a breathtaking oceanfront home. Bob was so professional and knowledgeable of the community. You can find him at http://www.swensonrealty.com or call (305) 367-3600.

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