You’re looking for a real estate agent, but have you thought about how you will find one? This is one of my pet peeves, not just because I am a Realtor, but because I have learned that the vast majority of buyers simply call the agent from a sign or advertisement and hire the first agent they talk to. I’m not kidding, and the National Associaton of Realtors learned this in a nationwide study. I believe the statistic is that 85% of buyers work with the first agent they talk to.
Keys to Researching Your Real Estate Agent
I honestly don’t think most buyers realize how important it is to research and select a Realtor who is professional, has integrity, and has the experience to do the best job for them. I am a Realtor, and I’m sure someone will complain that I’m biased. Look, I’m writing this article for a national audience, so this is not all about me. Sure I could use business right now in this recession. Who couldn’t? But I’m also writing about a very real issue that is important from a buyer’s perspective.
I think buyers (85% of them) assume the following when they talk to that first real estate agent:
1. When talking to the real estate agent who answered the phone, or the listing agent, most buyers correctly assume this agent can give them the basic information they need, but most buyers go on to hire that agent without any further due diligence. There is a big difference in the experience level and the professionalism from agent to agent. Certainly, most people know this or would admit it in a discussion, but apparently they don’t give it much thought when looking for a home. If you do, and if you do your due diligence, I congratulate you, because you are way ahead of the crowd on this.
2. That all agents are equally qualified and knowledgeable. Having stated the assumption like that, nearly everyone will recognize the folly of assuming all agents are equal, but these assumptions are made every day by buyers, because assumptions are things we don’t think about. We just assume them to be true. First, this is not a wise assumption for any buyer to make. That should be obvious. Second, from a personal perspective, here’s an honest frustration I have. I’ve spent my whole adult life learning and working hard to be the best Realtor I can be, and I’ve spent a small fortune and 30 years doing that. There are many good agents who have done the same. Yet I hear all the time about buyers who call an agent from a sign or advertisement, and buy a house through that agent, although the agent has very little education and professional experience.
As a real estate attorney, I saw so many disasters caused by poor drafting of real estate documents, and I’ve seen poor negotiating and numerous mistakes made by agents over the years, and these mistakes were the result of lack of knowledge and lack of experience. I know this may sound self-serving, but it’s true, and guess who got the short end of the stick? The buyers! I don’t know if you can identify with me, but can you imagine how I feel when “Mary Agent,” who has been a wife and mother, raised four children, has been a regular volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club, has no college degree, has never taken a business or real estate course (other than the online crash course to get licensed), has never been in sales or marketing of any kind, has never negotiated anything (except at garage sales), just got her real estate license two months ago and sells a house for $700,000+ to total strangers from California?
Doesn’t the thought of hiring an inexperienced agent for such an important assignment scare you? I mean, isn’t it at least worth thinking about? Wouldn’t you be motivated to do some due diligence on your next Realtor to protect yourself? Again, 85% of buyers would answer that question, “No, we never even think about it.” Well, that’s why I’ve written this article. So you will be aware of how important it is for YOU.
Real Estate Agent Research
So, how do you do your due diligence on a real estate agent? I’m so glad you asked!
Here are three excellent ways to find out more about the next agent you are thinking about hiring.
First, type his or her name in a Google search with or without quotes. If the agent’s name doesn’t come up at all, it either means he or she doesn’t have any Internet presence or he or she is so new in the business, they don’t have anything out there yet, or both. In this day and age, an agent who isn’t using the Internet in powerful ways is 10 to 20 years outdated. Is that what you want? If they’re not using the Internet effectively, do you really think they can professionally collect information for you (most of which is on the Internet) and do a professional job for you?
Second, if this agent’s name does show up in the results of a Google search, you can learn about their professional education and experience. If this isn’t easily discoverable on the Internet, that’s a bad indication, too. Either this agent doesn’t know how to do that, or there isn’t any kind of substance on the subject of real estate to post. That would not be good either. If there is a Resume posted or a profile of professional education and experience, make sure it is weighted heavily in your favor, in other words, in solid real estate experience related to helping you buy and negotiate a good deal on a house. There are legal documents, drafting, contingencies, financing issues, and a lot more. You’re getting ready to hire a professional who will be intimately involved in helping you make a major investment. Don’t fool around here. Be serious and qualify this person. After all, it’s your money and your investment. You have the right to select the best, but it’s your job to find that person.
Third, assuming the agent’s name shows up in a Google search, you can also learn something about the person. Apart from their professional image, what else are they involved in, or what other interests do they have? The Internet is a powerful resource for finding out a lot about a person. You used to have to hire an investigator to find these things out, but now the Internet is a wonderful and free source of information, which can be both positive or damaging.
Fourth, check out their business website or blog. Do they have one? If not, I suggest moving on. A real estate agent without an Internet presence today is like an Amish man sitting at Chicago O’Hara. He’s not getting on an airplane, so he won’t be going anywhere soon, unless you give him a horse and carriage. (Yes, I long for the days of old when things were simpler and life was slower.)
Fifth, if they have a website or blog, is it content-rich, or is it just a static brochure? Are they providing good content that helps you make wise decisions in your search for a home, and is there a reason to come back to their site? By the way, when I ask if they have their own site, I don’t mean a corporate franchise website that looks the same for all their agents, and is not very navigable or useful anyway. AND, here’s a bonus for you. If they have their own site, check out the little resume or the little profile they drafted on themselves. It may say something like, “I managed a little antique shop in Santa Barbara for 14 years before moving to ________ six years ago.
I love dogs, the outdoors, and walks on the beach. My husband is retired from the Coast Guard, and we have 5 children and 12 grandchildren. Let me help you with all your real estate needs.” EGHAD! Look, I don’t doubt she is a wonderful person, but that how is that going to help you buy a home? Need I say more on this?
Sixth, don’t be fooled by the size of the building they work in, or how big the company name is. You will be hiring a “person,” an “individual” who either has the experience to do a fantastic job for you, or not. What you are looking for is the best “buyer’s agent” you can hire.
Seventh, if you are buying, use a buyer’s agent. Do not get caught in the conflict of interest where the listing agent who has promised the seller the highest possible price also promises you the lowest possible price. This is another reason to do your due diligence. Acting as a dual agent requires a very high level of honesty and experience in order to not compromise either client.
Find Your Real Estate Agent
Doing your online research for your next real estate agent will help you qualify and hire the best real estate agent in your area.
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- Buying Real Estate Now Before It’s Too Late