It doesn’t matter which real estate agent you hire! Believe it or not, that’s what most people think. The National Association of Realtors did a survey years ago in which 85% of respondents admitted that they hired the first Realtor® they talked to. No interview, no due diligence, and no questions asked. Does that surprise you? It surprised me, and I’ve been a Realtor® and real estate attorney going back 40 years.

real estate agent

Photo by Ian Keefe

Selecting a Real Estate Agent

Do people not realize the importance of hiring a true professional, someone who is knowledgeable about real estate, contracts, negotiating, and who is also honest and trustworthy? Apparently not, or they would actually ask questions and work a little to find a highly qualified real estate agent the first time.

Does it really matter who you hire, whether you are buying or selling a home? I will answer this question with 40 years of real estate experience, 20 years as a real estate attorney, and believe it or not, I’ll do it in just a few minutes. This should be fun, especially because I often tell people I’m trained as an attorney, which means it takes me 100 words to say what a normal man could say in three to five words.

Let’s get started. I will lay out seven reasons it absolutely matters who you hire as your real estate agent.

Number 1: It’s your money.

If you’re buying, you’re about to spend a major portion of what has taken you a lifetime to earn. If you plan to buy a $400,000 home, realize you had to earn about $600,000 before taxes to save that much. If you’re selling, you need to maximize what you will keep at the closing table. Do you really want to give an inexperienced agent power over so much of your hard earned money? I didn’t think so.

Number 2: Honesty, integrity, and loyalty are owed to you!

This is obvious I know, but what may not be so obvious is how you discern honesty, integrity, and loyalty in a person like your real estate agent. While it takes life experience to develop these skills, lets at least start with the idea that you’ve got to be thinking about the importance of these attributes when you email or talk with an agent. The trap for the unwary catches most people when they are completely unaware of an issue and do no research or investigation at all. Beware. Discern. Ask questions.

Number 3: Negotiating price and terms on a home is not like a garage sale.

Real estate professionals don’t suddenly become experts when they pass their test and get their license. It takes at least 10 years to become an expert in any profession, and real estate is no different. Just because a person was good negotiating at garage sales does not translate to being a good real estate negotiator. These are different worlds. What you need is an agent who has a track record of great experience negotiating over a long period of years. Anything less only compromises your bargaining position.

Number 4: Legal contracts are not for kindergarteners.

I sometimes feel bad for real estate agents, because when they draft a real estate contract to purchase a home, they are legally held to the same standard as an attorney, but agents do not have the education or training of attorneys to draft unambiguous language in contracts, addendums, nor do they have the experience of litigation to practice preventive law to protect clients. You won’t always be able to hire a real estate agent who also has the experience of an attorney, but at least you can pay attention to the importance of your agent having sufficient experience to do a great job for you on the legal contracts.

Number 5. Professionalism is not possessed by all agents.

Here’s where I might say something that at first blush sounds stupid. Pay attention to your first impression of your real estate agent, because first impressions usually are good indications on the subject of professionalism and courtesy. The impression you get is probably the impression others involved in your transaction will also get. Your agent will be the first impression others in the community indirectly get of you.

Number 6: Unambiguous and articulate is not common.

One of the single biggest problems in real estate transactions around the country are ambiguities in communications and in contracts. This is precisely why lawyers make so much money. People get into trouble when they have an ambiguity in a contract that leads to a dispute that leads to litigation. The use of precise language and avoiding ambiguities is far more important than most people realize, but now you know.

Number 7: Timeliness, promptness, attention to detail are critical.

If you’ve ever made a phone call and not received a return call from your real estate agent at all, you know the importance of this last item. The importance of timeliness, promptness, and attention to detail cannot be understated, and that may be the most obvious thing I’ve said in this whole article. 

Your Ideal Real Estate Agent

Conclusion: Here’s the key. Be aware of these traps for the unwary, and you’ll avoid them. Not only will you avoid hiring a real estate agent who is not capable of doing a great job for you, you will be represented by a true professional who does a great job for you on price and terms, and who helps the transaction go as smoothly as possible. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

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