Author Topic: What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?  (Read 672 times)

MrGville

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What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?
« on: February 09, 2019, 09:27:30 AM »
My wife and I are starting the process of purchasing our first house.  We've had many people tell us how great their real estate agent is and recommend that we use them. 

I have a few questions for MMMers:

1) What criteria did you use to choose your real estate agent?
2) If we have a specific area that we know we want to live, should our main (perhaps only) guideline be an agent who has connections in the neighborhood and can alert us early when a home will be put on the market?
3) Assuming an agent is friendly, punctual, trustworthy, and responsible, can one agent really be that much better than another?

Any advice is greatly appreciated!

mrs sideways

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Re: What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2019, 10:22:54 AM »
I'm a little jaded on the real estate agent model in general. It requires one person to be a jack of all trades and frequently results in them being a master of none. I'm especially salty because we live in San Jose and agents get obscenely huge paychecks for selling single homes, and they still manage to be ignorant of vital pieces of information. (In one case, my new neighbors were surprised when the giant pine tree in their back yard died and had to be removed at a huge expense; if their real estate agent had actually "known the neighborhood" he would have known that every single pine tree in the area is dying from pests and this is an expected expense.)

When we bought, we used Redfin, which makes a lot more sense as a system. It works more like an actual office than a bunch of lone wolf agents. A separate person takes people around for home viewings. The agent is a dedicated negotiator and handles the final part of the transaction. We never met him in person and never needed to; other office people handled the details. The agent doesn't have to do his own marketing or website or anything else.

Now, about your second point, yes, agent dealing, protectionism, and sleazy backroom deals are to be expected, and might figure into your math. (We had one listing agent tell us outright that since we were with Redfin, he'd put an offer from us at the bottom of the pile.) It really does come down to your area, and local forums might be a better place to ask this question than a big international board like this.

Catbert

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Re: What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2019, 10:34:14 AM »
I live in an older neighborhood - older as in before WWII so there are no tract homes.  Also, the neighborhood is much smaller than a zip code (maybe 1000 homes) and even within this relatively small area some streets are more desirable/expensive than others.  If I were buying or selling a house in this neighborhood I would definitely select an agent that specializes in this area and has sold a lot of homes here.  This would be less important imo where tract homes are the target.

CowboyAndIndian

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Re: What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2019, 10:44:55 AM »
You need to be aware that the real estate agent is not working for you and his/her goals are not necessarily the same as yours.

  • The RE agent is paid by the seller, so their loyalty towards the buyer is questionable.
  • The agent gets their commission only if you buy. So, they will not negotiate hard for a lower price
  • Be wary about home inspectors recommended by the agent. A good inspector might throw a wrench in the works by pointing out issues in the house. The inspector recommended by the agent knows that if they find too many problems, they will not get further referrals


Ecky

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Re: What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2019, 11:02:16 AM »
I stopped searching when I found an agent who seemed more interested in my wellbeing than making a sale. She repeatedly talked me out of places, pointing out possible expenses and downsides, e.g. the route to my work doesn't have any alternatives, a traffic jam could be a problem, the roof in this house is serviceable but old, taxes in that area are above average.

frugaldrummer

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Re: What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2019, 08:24:52 AM »
Yes it should be an agent that knows your area. They've seen a lot of these homes (or similar) before and should be better able to steer you towards things you like.

Ask your friends making recommendations what it was they liked about their agent.

FWIW my agent got me a great home inspector, but my agent had also done a lot of rehabbing of homes and was more knowledgeable than most about construction.

Reynolds531

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Re: What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2019, 11:48:14 AM »
You need to be aware that the real estate agent is not working for you and his/her goals are not necessarily the same as yours.

  • The RE agent is paid by the seller, so their loyalty towards the buyer is questionable.
  • The agent gets their commission only if you buy. So, they will not negotiate hard for a lower price
  • Be wary about home inspectors recommended by the agent. A good inspector might throw a wrench in the works by pointing out issues in the house. The inspector recommended by the agent knows that if they find too many problems, they will not get further referrals


THIS

CanuckExpat

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Re: What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2019, 10:46:39 PM »
If it's available in your area, consider Redfin and other models where the buying agent will give you a cut of the commission. Might as well get some money back for it. See also http://www.hungryagents.com/buyers.html
Have used Redfin, good experience. No experience with hungry agents

Jon Bon

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Re: What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?
« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2019, 07:40:18 AM »
Well I have never used an agent and purchased 7 homes or so. In my state it can be done and there is not a ton of benefit to using an agent if you generally know the area.

IMO realtors main area of expertise is managing their clients emotions. They are more politicians than hard nosed negotiators. Really what you should do if find your states standard purchase contract. I am sure there is one and they are very easy to understand and fill out. Everyone uses these due to speed and simplicity.  When you realize this document is really 100% of the work done by your agent it is pretty eye opening.

I know your first time feels super scary and uncomfortable but a lawyer and a contractor would be about 10x more valuable then nearly any real estate agent.  Good luck out there!




Omy

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Re: What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?
« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2019, 08:11:26 AM »
I'm a realtor. When I represent a buyer, I work really hard for them. I do my best to make sure my buyers don't buy a bad house and that they get a great deal. I negotiate hard and I recommend very thorough inspectors who sometimes kill deals - which is a good thing if the house has problems. If I didn't do this, I wouldn't get referrals and my business would die.

When I represent a seller, I work really hard for them. I make sure they understand the market so they can price to get the best possible deal. I help them prepare and stage the house to help them get the best possible price. I spend money on professional photogrophy, broker open houses, and marketing. If I didn't do this, I wouldn't get referrals and my business would die.

I treat my $70k clients the same as my million dollar clients because it's the right thing to do and they all have friends, family, and colleagues to refer me to. I never treat anybody like a dollar sign. I communicate and follow up. My clients send me thank you cards and gifts - and call me for all of their future real estate needs - and refer me to everybody they know.

So find somebody like me, and you won't go wrong. Contact your friends' realtors and ask them questions. Make sure they work where you want to buy and understand the market. Make sure they call you back promptly and can jump to make appts - especially if you're buying in a "seller's" market. Make sure you feel the agent has your back.

frugalfoothills

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Re: What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?
« Reply #10 on: February 12, 2019, 08:48:51 AM »
Like some posters above, I'm pretty disenchanted with realtors (at least in my area) these days. I have no doubt that there are good, passionate, knowledgeable realtors but in my experience (and in watching my friends buy houses over the past 2-3 years) I just don't really see the value that a realtor provides. I'm also not convinced that they're experts in all the areas that they should be... I have lots of acquaintances who have decided to "go into real estate" when their careers got stale and to be perfectly honest... some of them are straight up idiots. I wouldn't want them selling me a t-shirt, much less a house...

My personal experience with homebuying was a huge letdown. I hired my realtor because I knew him from high school but he also came highly recommended by others who had used him. When it actually came to the house hunting process, he basically would just email me links to houses once a week (all of which I could access myself on Zillow and had already viewed). Other than getting the combo for the lockbox to go view the houses he didn't actually provide any value once on-site. He just kind of stood there while I wandered around. I would say the ratio of homes we viewed that I found vs. homes we viewed that he found was about 80/20. I ultimately ended up buying a house that I found myself on Zillow, that was exactly what I was looking for in exactly the area I was looking for, that he did not think to suggest to me. If I hadn't been proactive I never would have gotten my house (there were 3 offers within the first 24 hours of it being listed.)

I realize this was just a lot of complaining and not actually helpful to you at all. Maybe my advice is just "don't hire someone because you went to high school with them and they were hot in 2005"??????

mm1970

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Re: What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2019, 04:52:52 PM »
I'm a realtor. When I represent a buyer, I work really hard for them. I do my best to make sure my buyers don't buy a bad house and that they get a great deal. I negotiate hard and I recommend very thorough inspectors who sometimes kill deals - which is a good thing if the house has problems. If I didn't do this, I wouldn't get referrals and my business would die.

When I represent a seller, I work really hard for them. I make sure they understand the market so they can price to get the best possible deal. I help them prepare and stage the house to help them get the best possible price. I spend money on professional photogrophy, broker open houses, and marketing. If I didn't do this, I wouldn't get referrals and my business would die.

I treat my $70k clients the same as my million dollar clients because it's the right thing to do and they all have friends, family, and colleagues to refer me to. I never treat anybody like a dollar sign. I communicate and follow up. My clients send me thank you cards and gifts - and call me for all of their future real estate needs - and refer me to everybody they know.

So find somebody like me, and you won't go wrong. Contact your friends' realtors and ask them questions. Make sure they work where you want to buy and understand the market. Make sure they call you back promptly and can jump to make appts - especially if you're buying in a "seller's" market. Make sure you feel the agent has your back.
Our realtor was like this.  I have a few friends who are realtors who are also like this.

The really awesome ones can find you the perfect house before it goes on the market.   No bidding wars.

I'll probably die in my house (first and only one we've ever bought).  But if we ever move in this town, I know exactly who I'd use the next time around.

Omy

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Re: What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2019, 07:17:38 PM »


The really awesome ones can find you the perfect house before it goes on the market.   No bidding wars.

I'll probably die in my house (first and only one we've ever bought).  But if we ever move in this town, I know exactly who I'd use the next time around.

Yes! And when there IS a bidding war, they make sure your offer wins. My client's offer beat out 19 other offers last week. I found out from the listing agent what was most important to the seller - and became the listing agent's new best friend. I was the only agent who asked to present my client's offer in person. His offer was close to all the others, but the listing agent and seller knew my client would perform and that I would make sure we made it to the settlement table since I took the trouble to meet with the seller and agent.

People who don't value realtors have never worked with a good one.

Finances_With_Purpose

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Re: What to consider when choosing a real estate agent?
« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2019, 09:40:48 PM »
You need to be aware that the real estate agent is not working for you and his/her goals are not necessarily the same as yours.

  • The RE agent is paid by the seller, so their loyalty towards the buyer is questionable.
  • The agent gets their commission only if you buy. So, they will not negotiate hard for a lower price
  • Be wary about home inspectors recommended by the agent. A good inspector might throw a wrench in the works by pointing out issues in the house. The inspector recommended by the agent knows that if they find too many problems, they will not get further referrals

THIS

Seconded: this covers the question you didn't ask, which is...what's more important?  The inspector.  Don't take a realtor's.  Find your own, a deal-killer, and tell him/her that you want to know every single imaginable thing wrong with the potential house, even though you want a house.  You're just a person who wants to nail down the loose ends first. 

We did that, and it was invaluable.  And guess what?: all the major things that could have been an issue *were* an issue in year one, and all the things that were solid remained solid.  Nothing beats predictability.

As for realtors, we found one through someone we knew for years - in some markets, you almost have to have one due to competition/bids - and it turned out exceptionally well.  The realtor helped us avoid a bad deal, then get a great one, despite my general skepticism about realtors.  I now recommend that realtor often. 

What I would say is be very willing to question and even overrule your realtor, especially when negotiating.  On one house, we went in below what the realtor recommended, and bam, it worked out.  In another instance, I helped a relative who sold and we went way over the realtor's estimate - and bam, it sold immediately.  Know your market if at all possible, and be willing to assert yourself when you know that market.