Choosing a real estate agent will be the second most important decision you make after you decide to sell or purchase a home. What should you be looking for when you start the process of choosing an agent?
Interview Multiple Agents
It would be ideal to simply choose an agent after only one contact. However, it is important that you research agents and interview more than one. Take notes during the interview and you should notice if they are on time and they listen more than they speak. Pay particular attention to their communication skills. For example, are they capturing and communicating your needs or do they have a generic process that does not meet your individual or unique needs?
Trust, the Most Important Trait
Real estate agents enjoy sharing their stats, but is that really helpful?
If your agent relies on past sales, ensure you ask them to verify their numbers. Ask them to see the MLS listings they have sold.. Agents who rely solely on sales results may be ignoring the fact that each buyer or seller has specific needs and stats alone do not give the complete picture of what an agent’s skills are.
If an agent carefully listens, repeats what they heard, and acts on what you have told them, you have started to build the key trait, trust. Building a relationship will your agent will mean that during difficult phases of the home buying or selling process, you will rely on honest and up-front advice from your agent.
Check their Online Presence
A solid online presence includes an affiliation with a reputable brokerage company. Are they listed by the brokerage company they claim to represent? Do they have a phone number and contact email address? If they maintain their own website is it credible? Is their website well organized and up-to-date? In today’s real estate market it is essential that agents have a firm knowledge of the industry and in order to remain relevant, your agent needs to be aware of market conditions, economic trends and issues in the local area. All of these factors are important considerations that will help you buy or sell your home. Check out their online reviews and ensure they are legitimate. The reviews of past clients will provide you with key insights on the focus of the agent you have chosen.
Check for RECO Complaints
The Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) oversees complaints made against REALTORS and maintains an online database of fines and convictions. Ensure you check out their complaints database by clicking here.
Does your agent have a recommended strategy that is tailored to your specific needs? If your agent has a strategy that they use after meeting you then it may be a generic approach that was used in the past. Your home and neighbourhood have unique characteristics and a reliable agent will combine your knowledge and their own research to provide a winning plan to sell your home.
Marketing strategies are also important for home buyers as agents are always in communication with their colleagues and they pass along information about your comments. A selling agent will always represent their clients in a positive manner so that other agents will professionally assist their colleagues to provide the best recommendations.
Do They Represent You?
If an agent represents both the buyer and seller in the same transaction, are they able to represent competing interests in a professional manner? An agent that represents both parties will be the real winner in this scenario. Be mindful if an agent that recommends you list your home exclusively? YOu will want to expose your home to the full marketplace to get the best value.
How does your agent respond when you disagree with their advice? Do they carefully consider what you have said or do they convince you to make an uncomfortable decision? Remember, building a relationship is what a great agent will do and while there will be some differences of opinion along the way, you will benefit from an agent who is up-front and fully explains the advice they are providing. They will not shy away from being challenged and they will find a way to work with you towards finding common ground. When an agent provides you with issues about homes you have visited that you may have missed but are important to the needs you identified in previous conversations, you will know that your agent is representing you.
Are They Professional?
This is often an overlooked consideration as this is more than just the way they dress.
Do they have the most up-to-date industry knowledge? The real estate industry is changing at a fast pace and they must not only know about the value of homes but they should have a working knowledge of the mortgage process, first-time home buyer issues, tax issues, and a wealth of other topics that impact the home buying and selling experience. Without that knowledge, you will be confused and this may lead you to make an uninformed decision. Is an agent using you to assist them to leverage other listings? If their intent is not to bring in the most buyers or to get the highest price for their seller, you will know their intent is to advertise so they can gain more clients for themselves. An open house is for the sole purpose of selling your home and it is not an opportunity to meet your neighbours so they can become prospective clients. Your REALTOR® is there to serve your needs and not their own.
An agent who is trustworthy can be identified by the pride they take in their work. They know that a client has questions at any time of the day and they will respond in a timely manner. If your agent cancels showings and appointments are they too busy or unreliable? You are the client and your agent needs to understand how the relationship works. You hired an agent to untangle the difficult home buying or selling process and their expertise will make it easy for you to navigate this journey.
Don’t forget to check their references. Their feedback is a useful indicator of the skills and strengths that are important to you. Your agent should be able to assist buyers and sellers with different needs. This includes assisting first time home buyers, home sellers and investors with different needs, and clients with questions about mortgages, tax implications, energy efficiency and rebates, credit reports, and affordability.
At some point in the process, your agent must negotiate a deal. Is your agent experienced in ensuring a fair deal for both parties? A REALTOR® needs to approach the process with integrity and fairness and they should educate you on what a good deal looks like. If they appear to be rushed or uninterested then perhaps they are looking out for their own interests. If they are well respected by their colleagues in the industry they will ensure that your interests are well represented so you can get the best price. A trusted agent will also ensure both parties get the best price as negotiation is about bringing all sides to a positive conclusion. A reputable agent will advise you with a clear explanation of when to reject or accept an offer.
An agent should understand the neighbourhood you are living in. The amenities, schools, and other characteristics are key considerations but they are not the only ones. Knowing the value of homes in the area and current prices will help you with your buying or selling decisions. Your agent should know more than just the value of the highest selling home in the area as their knowledge should extend to the values of all types of homes.
A knowledgeable agent should be aware of economic and social issues that impact home values in a specific area. To find out more about the neighbourhood and why it may be attractive to home buyers their best source of knowledge is YOU. Friends, neighbours and of course you, can provide a clear picture of the area and an agent should not just simply take notes as your input should form part of the marketing strategy to sell your home.
Research is the key ingredient and conducting a thorough review of your neighbourhood is the hallmark of a well-informed agent. Why a home is selling (or not selling) will help to guide your decision-making and accurate advice will shape your financial considerations. Sellers need to know that a home is priced and marketed appropriately for the area. You can test your REALTOR’s® knowledge by asking what are their favourite qualities about the neighbourhood.
You are hiring an agent to provide expert advice and guidance but you also need someone who is a strong relationship builder. Empathy is defined as having the capacity to understand and feel what someone else is experiencing from their frame of mind. A skilled agent will have business acumen and people skills and a desire to ensure you are satisfied with the value of the home you purchased or the home you sold. A good work ethic combined with the ability to fully understand your needs will mean the best fit between a competent REALTOR® and a satisfied client.
Ensure They Listen!
“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
You have an opportunity to find an agent that will guide you with one of the most important financial decisions you make in your lifetime. Ensure you choose an individual that is working to meet your goals and don’t settle for anything less. Choose a competent, knowledgeable, skilled and thoughtful agent, someone who listens with purpose and does not have predetermined responses and marketing strategies.
Help With Closing Details
Your real estate should be there from the beginning to the end of the process. If you need advice on the mortgage commitment or they need to tidy up the loose ends of the closing details, your agent should be able to help. If you need assistance to pick a home inspector or attend a home inspection, consult with your agent. Your agent should be able to negotiate any home inspection repair requests and they can communicate with the seller’s agent throughout the process.