How to find a good realtor?

21 Replies

I'm trying to find out how to tell if a realtor is good. There are so many of them out there. How do I find a good one? Are there questions to ask in an interview or something?

Remember when dealing with a Realtor they are first and foremost COMMISSION ONLY SALES REPS. They don't get paid for talking to you, driving you around looking at "possibles" or listening to your personal problems (that's why you have a dog) LOL. That said, IMO RE agents (and Realtors) are like the rest of the population, 99% of them are BELOW AVERAGE.

I realize that statistically that can't be correct, but bear with me a minute. The most imporant attribute of an agent to you is; AVAILABILITY. Not in person, but at least returning calls. I've found that most of them are very bad at this. Even in this day of cell phones, Blackberry's and all the other stuff that makes it impossible to get away from people who we don't want to talk to! If an agent returns your calls in a "reasonable" time, they're a keeper, if they don't, they're not!

That said, when you leave ANYONE a voice mail, make sure that you've conveyed to them (1) why you're calling (2) the relative urgency of the call, (3) how soon you EXPECT to hear back from them, and (4) the TWO OR THREE WORDS that will answer your question.

IOW, don't ramble on about everything, ask a direct question, tell them how important it is to hear back from them in XX hours, tell them to call you IMMEDIATELY if they need any clarification from you. Remember, people rate you BASED ON YOUR IMPORTANCE TO THEM. If they're working on a $300K deal with you that may close in 30 days, and I"m asking them to look up something that I could have found for myself with a bit of effort, YOU'RE THEIR HIGHER PRIORITY. But, if I've got an earnest money check on a "dog" property they've listed, and another 2 or 3 prospective "dogs" to look at I'D BETTER BE A HIGHER PRIORITY.

All of the above having been said:
The short answer to your question is: If they are prompt in returning calls and getting you the info you need to CLOSE DEALS, they're the one. Treat them with respect, honor and honesty, and they'll return the same to you.

If they don't return IMPORTANT (remember it has to be important to them too), phone calls in a reasonable time, DROP THEM RIGHT NOW. They'll be out of the business in 6 months to a year anyway.

all cash

Is there a good way to interview these agents, though? All Cash, you said it is about who is prompt in responding to you. What if you don't have any agent contacts yet? Is there a good way to go about interviewing these agents? There are tons of agents out there. I dont know where to start out in talking with them. to be honest i'm a bit intimidated in dealing with them. They seem to be like sharks. anyone?

If you need the best realtor in CT feel free to contact me anytime. You will not find a better realtor out there. If not in CT feel free to ask me what the best realtors should do for you as a client. Best of luck.

Best Regards,

Pete Marsele

The Good AGENTS are usually the ones that you see advertise the most in the area. I don't know what you mean by good? But I will assume you mean - they are experienced, know their craft and are professional.

Pay attention to the real estate signs that are placed on people properities in your area.

Individuals tend to use agents who are popular and their signs are seen the most in their area.

An agent that is making money is an agent that can afford to advertise consistantly. This pretty much also demonstrates they get business but not necesssarily mean that they are GOOD!.

If you are trying to list your home...I will recommend that you interview 3 realtors...and make it plain..."why should I hire you", what are your tactics to sell my home in a timely manner" and "how many homes have you listed in the past and was able to sell in a reasonable time...can I have their number as a reference!

Many individual choose their agent based on the rate of their commission, I do understand but it's not always the best strategy. You get what you pay for in my opinion. If you hire an agent because their commission was 3% - you might just get only 3% work and your home will sit there for several months. So truly weigh your options.
:D

I hope this helps

One of the things I would suggest is determining just what you consider "good agent" to be? EVERYONE WILL HAVE A DIFFERENT ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION.

Regardless of what a previous poster said, there are plenty of newbie agents who will spend MONTHS driving you around looking at homes because they have nothing else to do and are afraid of loosing their only client. If you just want to kill time or love looking at other people's homes, then these are in fact good agents to you.

However if you want to hire someone to manage the process for you and keep it from consuming every weekend for six months, than you might want to look elsewhere.

Understand this: It doesn't take a lot to become a real estate agent in most states (a $300 two week class in my state followed by a multiple choice test) so there are a lot of people who think they can hustle a get-rich-quick scheme without working (the bored housewife/starving waiter categories) and then there are people who have embraced real estate as a career.

Ask questions like:
Are they a full-time or part-time agent? Although there are probably some very good part-time agents out there, someone who works for minimum wage at McDonald's full-time and can't get up enough real estate business to let that income go probably has something wrong with their skills or knowledge base.

Conversely, there are plenty of full-time agents who basically retired years ago but are still willing to let you pay them for doing nothing.

If they are full-time, how many transactions do they do in a year? I know full-time agents who have gone over TWO YEARS between transactions (thank God for their spouse's income...)

Do they have assistants? Everyone sucks at something. 50% of a real estate transaction is dealing with paperwork- and many "natural-born" salespeople suck at paperwork! But good assistants take care of that.

When my team grew to the point we could add an assistant, customer satisfaction went through the roof (not that it was that low, but less things fell through the cracks). It also gives you more than one person to call if you have a question or something is wrong (so if your agent is with another client and can't take your call, you still have the assistant answering the phones who probably knows more about the status of your deal than the actual agent).

Specialization is another thing to look for. The latest trend in real estate is to build a team where specific agents work with listings and others work with buyers. If someone specializes in buyers, relocation clients or a specific part of town or kind of property you are looking to buy (like a condo or loft specialist) than in theory they should be more knowledgeable than the person who's trying to juggle 15 balls at once.

If you are going to buy an investment property, then you should probably seek out someone who can figure out a cap rate and understands that ugly curtains aren't a deal killer. MOST agents (even very good ones) don't understand investment real estate.

Finally, shop around. You deserve a good agent- interview them until you find one that you feel comfortable working with. If all they want to do is push you into signing a long-term buyer's contract that doesn't allow EITHER party to cancel it without penalty, then walk away. By that I mean if you decide the agent is awful the second time you meet them, you should be able to part ways with them without being fined.

(For the record, most of those buyer contracts protect you the buyer as much as it protects the agent in getting paid so don't be afraid to sign them just because they have a contract- especially if the agent is showing you one of their own listings because without it they are legally obligated to sell you out to the seller. I personally don't trust an agent who doesn't ask you to sign a buyer's contract as much as the one's who are pushy about it- because it usually says they cut corners, are desperate they will loose your business, or are lazy).

One of the things we offer to do is sign one day buyer's agreement. That basically says we will work with you for one day and if something we show you clicks, we get paid on it- BUT if either one of us falls out of love with the other we never have to work together again. After that we ask for a 30-60 day agency agreement to continue. It's not an original idea, we got it from a very good agent who wasn't afraid to let you "test drive their skills".

Hope this helps.

IMO it all depends on your goals. If you're looking to buy houses around asking price for long-term rentals, then any agent that gets back to you will do.

On the other extreme, if you're looking to buy houses creatively with 100% seller financing, then going to just about any agent would be a complete waste of time.

For anything else you'll want to find an agent who specializes in that niche, whether you're a first-time buyer or looking for a vacation property.

Finding agents for investments is by far the hardest because lots of agents say they're willing to present lots of offers, or understand investing, or invest themselves, but they're lying. In fact it's so hard to find an agent who can fit into your investment strategy that I eventually gave up. It's much easier to just go out and find your own deals. Plus you don't have to listen to a bunch of complainers telling you what you do for a living doesn't work!

These sites have some good questions. http://www.mortgagenewsdaily.com/11112004_Choosing_A_Real_Estate_Agent.asp

This is for listings, but they apply to buyers as well. http://www.homegain.com/info_center/seller/listing/eleven_questions/show_article

For investor questions, I'd ask how long they've been investing, what's their investment strategy, how many properties do they own, where do they get their financing, how do they find deals, can they provide references to other investors that they work with, etc.

I'd ask the questions to see what their connections are, experience is, and if they can think creatively.

I think you will find that the best Realtors in your area will also be the most active. This is true for a lot of reasons:
1) They are the most active because they do a good job.
2) They will handle a lot of transactions so they will have a lot of experience.
3) They will be full time agents
4) They will have good relationships with other people in the industry who can help them complete the transaction.

Many agents will tell you how long they have been in business. This can be an indicator but I know a lot of agents who don't depend on Real Estate to make a living and who have been around a long time but who don't do much business.

Just like if you want something done find someone who is busy. If you want a good agent find a busy agent.

I would disagree that a busy agent is necessarily a good agent. That is good for the agent but not necessarily for the client. A busy agent is a good prospector, which does not mean a thing to the client. There are many many busy agents out there that are not responsive and that don't provide the attention necessary. Also, I can look on the MLS at a lot of high profile, busy agents and see that their closed to expired listings ratio is very low compared to other agents.

Also, if I was trying to sell a house I would be wary of agents with lots of listings that are way higher priced than my house would list for, because you will not be a high priority for them.

That being said, I would interview several agents (busy and not busy) and listen to what they have to say, you should be able to tell if they have any intelligence or not and I would talk to some of their previous clients to see how responsive they were. A busy and responsive agent would be great, but I'd rather have a responsive newby with a good broker backing them up than a non-responsive busy agent any day.

Kevin

i don't agree that higher priced means higher priority.

I'm not saying it should be, I'm saying that in reality that is often the case with a lot of agents.

If you are looking for a sellers agent then you want to pick a realtor that tells you what you don't want to here. In other words if you think your home is worth 300K and he is telling you he can get you 225K then that's the guy you want. You don't want a realtor that is going to blow smoke up your but just to get the listing and then cant sell your home because it is overpriced..and this is coming from the mouth of a realtor

This is for Manhattan. I don't know about the suburbs, and the rest of America.

1) A good agent is busy and will not waste their time. They will not drive you around (in Manhattan this means cab or limo) like you are the only card in the rolodex.

They will suggest you hit every open house you can for the next month to educate yourself about the market and neighborhoods so they don't waste their valuable deal-closing time... then come back, and get started.

2) A good agent is confident. They have the buyers and the sellers. They know the market, and when to expect change.

3) A good agent will lay it on the line -- tell it like it is. They have no time for lying, convincing, conniving, or any other games. It's all business. So, they will be saying things that are fact instead of what you want to hear. They might come off as coarse or stern. This is good. Don't expect to be coddled.

4) A good agent has connections... from City Hall to the Kiwanis Club to Donald Trumps favorite restaurant maitré D.

5) A good agent can spot a buyer by their shoes.

6) A good agent won't open their mouth to you without pressing a business card into your palm and reminding you that they are still waiting for your 32 year old son to move his new bride into "proper" accomodations.

7) A good agent will have a well-equipped black car waiting outside for you on discovery days.

8) A good agent will be well dressed and well informed. Their response time will be almost immediate since they are techno-savvy. Market statistics, building comparables/neighborhood comparables, buying/selling trends, recent contract data are available within the hour in most cases.

9) A good agent can provide information and response 16 hours a day. Yeah, we live our work, gladly.

10) A good agent is aware that you have a life and a business or important career to run. To that end, we are efficient.

I work as an agent in Oregon and Washington state and I would suggest to meet with a few agents and you should be able to tell immediately who would work for you the best. Agents tend to attract people much like themselves. I agree that an agent is good if they respond to your questions in a timely manner. Your not locked in to an agreement with a buyers agent so if they don't do a good job for you then you let them know your going to find someone else to help you.

As an Agent/Broker we try to work with each client in a way that is most comfortable to them. For example some of my clients like to text because they are at work and can't always call me. Some only want phone calls and others like to email. I usually try to find out the best communication and since we are working for commission only, I am going to work very hard for that person because I don't get paid if a house doesn't get sold. Find an agent that is dedicated to his or her Real Estate business. If they have a busy family life or a lot of family issues they may not be able to focus on clients, it may just be a part time job for some.

Experience doesn't always mean you have the best agent. A new agent has very few clients so they will be the most available and usually have a managing broker that looks over everything they do for a time. Sometimes those extremely busy agents are only working with listings and they don't want to work with buyers.

Originally posted by Paige Abu-Nawwas:
Experience doesn't always mean you have the best agent. A new agent has very few clients so they will be the most available and usually have a managing broker that looks over everything they do for a time.

Hi Paige,

Not sure if you have experience working with investors or not, but most new agents don't have the skills to properly support investors in their businesses. To be a great agent for a real estate investor, the agent must understand how to analyze investment property, how to analyze comps for properties that are currently distressed but will soon be retail, how to stage/market properties that are vacant, etc. These aren't skills that most new agents have -- in fact, most experienced agents don't either.

Btw, as far as I'm concerned, the best agents are the ones who have the strong networks; a great agent can get your house sold by sending an email to their network. Most new agents won't have the ability to do this.

I agree that a new agent lacks experience and maybe even the network. I was only saying that at one time we were all new in the business so just don't discount them because of being new. Some of us had great backgrounds in business or owned other businesses that helped us to be able to do a great job from day one in Real Estate. New to Real Estate doesn't mean an 18 year old with no life experience, business experience or educational experience. I am saying this respectfully and not to offend anyone here.

A good agent is one the is HONEST, KNOWLEDGEABLE and COMMUNICATES effectively. A big part of being a good agent is really listening to your client and understanding their needs, many agents out there don't listen they simply sell.
A good agent is also relative because it depends on your needs at the time, and experience by itself is NOT an indicator of a good agent.

Johnson Ejalu

I agree with Johnson. In all things "listening is the real key" so if your out interviewing agents and they do all the talking, you know your not going to be heard. I have met many agents like that and just trying to have a conversation with them over the phone to get information for a client can be frustrating because some of these agents don't even hear your questions. Frustrating.

In these economic times it is more important to focas on the real estate firm more then the realtor (though both are important).

Realtor: You want the person who YOU feel most comfortable with who YOU believe is honest and has integrity. (the one good question to ask is how long has he been a Realtor and does he work any other jobs).

Broker (or Firm): this is where you will find the real meat and potatoes... most agency's today are franchises (which sucks for YOU) because they are only as big or wealthy as that one owner of that one office. Remax, Success, C-21 are all great examples of "the big SHOW" to homesellers (you believe they are some great big nationwide company when they are NOT, the offices who aren't doing REO's are dropping like flys today! Better to go with a firm who is large enough to have a large ad budget (otherwise you get some wingnut agent who has to pay out of their own pocket for ads at a time when they cant even pay their own mortgage) .... these agents usually work for these "franchise" operations (beware!)

Originally posted by Shay W:
In these economic times it is more important to focas on the real estate firm more then the realtor (though both are important).

Shay,
I have to disagree with you on this one! The individual agent is by far the most important! The best agents will naturally be at a good firm. It could be a big franchise or a one man show, but it is the agent that drives the success. We refer to Realtors many times each month and get mostly good ones, a few exceptional ones and some that we will not refer to again! As Realtors ourselves, we know the questions to ask and what to expect of the Realtor. We do well with out picks, but we don't win them all!
Bill

Originally posted by Shay W:

Realtor: You want the person who YOU feel most comfortable with who YOU believe is honest and has integrity. (the one good question to ask is how long has he been a Realtor and does he work any other jobs).

Like Bill above, I highly disagree with this advice...

While having a realtor you're comfortable with might be a reasonable criteria when you're buying (or *maybe* selling) a personal residence, when it comes to investing, this criteria isn't even on my list...

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