7 ways to avoid a crummy real-estate agent
Does your agent never get in touch, fail to offer advice, or work only part time? Well, it's about time you ditch the dud and find someone who is effective.
In an uncertain housing market, an effective real-estate agent can be a big help to consumers looking to buy or sell property. But not all real-estate agents are created equal. Consumers who end up with a dud throw additional risk onto what's already likely to be the largest financial transaction of their lives. Choosing a real-estate agent is a major decision, says Ron Phipps, a broker with Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. "So you want to make sure — whether you are selling or buying — that you have somebody who is effective for you." But with so many options, how do you pinpoint the best broker?
To help consumers struggling with this question, U.S. News spoke with a number of brokers and compiled a list of seven ways to avoid a crummy real-estate agent:
1. Locate candidates
Begin your selection process by putting together a slate of qualified candidates. Start by speaking with friends and relatives who have recently bought or sold a home. What did they think about their agent? Would they use that agent again?
"Get some really good word-of-mouth recommendations from people who have used an agent," says Pat Vredevoogd Combs of Coldwell Banker AJS-Schmidt in Grand Rapids, Mich. "That is a key piece to whatever you are doing."
Bing: Search & decide
Although often overlooked, title representatives can also be good sources for referrals, says Joshua Dorkin, founder and chief executive of BiggerPockets.com, a website that specializes in real-estate information and networking. "I tend to think title (representatives) are probably a source that folks don't really think about," Dorkin says. "But they are going to know who the good agents and the bad agents are, because they are the ones sitting in the room at the end." Dorkin also recommends that prospective home sellers keep their eyes peeled for properties in their neighborhood that have sold quickly and inquire about the agent responsible.
2. Run background checks
Once you have a handful of names, it's time for a bit of detective work. Plug the names into Google or your local newspaper's online search engine and see what pops up. "If you Google somebody and you can't find their cell phone (number) and you can't find their e-mail and you can't find their (website) — you don't see them marketing themselves on blogs and various websites, on Twitter and Facebook — it probably means that they don't necessarily have the marketing skills in this day and age to do the job." says Dorkin.
Phipps says consumers can even run a background check through the website of their state's real-estate licensing board. "Make sure that the person you are (considering for your agent) has a license. It may seem obvious, but sometimes you forget that," Phipps says.
3. Conduct interviews
After narrowing down the field of candidates, meet the agents face to face.
"The main thing is to sit down with the Realtor and make sure that you feel comfortable with that individual and you feel like you can have a working relationship with them," says Judy Moore of Re/Max Landmark Realtors in Lexington, Mass., "because it is definitely a partnership between the two."
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But make sure to tell each agent upfront that you are interviewing others, says Elizabeth Blakeslee of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Washington, D.C. "Don't surprise them with it after the agent has spent a couple of hours with you," she says.
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4. Establish experience
In addition to getting a feel for an agent's personality and professionalism, there are several key qualifications consumers should establish during the interview. Determining the agent's experience in your target market is perhaps the most important. "You really need to ask them where they work most of the time: Where do you live? Where do you work? What area of town are most of your transactions in?" Vredevoogd Combs says. Consumers should look for agents with extensive experience in the area where their transaction is taking place. Vredevoogd Combs uses the analogy of a patient searching for a surgeon to perform an appendectomy. "Are you going to be his first patient, or has [the doctor] done 10,000 of them?" she says.
5. Consider communication
Consumers need to be sure that their agent will communicate effectively with them as the process unfolds.
"Those who are Gen Xers want to only talk to you via e-mail and text, and there might be some agents who might be of an age where e-mail and text aren't the major ways of communication," Vredevoogd Combs says. "Misunderstandings happen when you don't have all of that worked out upfront."
But regardless of the form of communication, consumers need an agent who is responsive and easy to reach. "And you can test that," Dorkin says. "Call them on off hours and see if they respond and how quickly they do respond. … If they don't get back to you (promptly), that is a huge red flag."
6. Know resources, commitment
Agents who have robust resources will often be able to produce better results for their clients, Dorkin says. He suggests inquiring about the additional resources, such as a staff, that the agent can bring to bear on the transaction. "A bonus would be if somebody has a team or an assistant," Dorkin says. "That's just kind of a good sign that they have got their business structure together."
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He also recommends that buyers steer clear of agents who work in real estate only part time. "They are probably doing that and something else, whether it is raising a family or doing another job," he says. "You do want somebody who is fully devoted to being either a sales or a buyers agent."
7. Call references
Finally, consumers should ask agents for a list of clients they have represented recently. "References are good, but the thing that most people don't do is they don't call them," Phipps says. "Call them." When speaking with references, consumers should try to find out as many details as possible about the agent's performance during previous transactions, Dorkin says.
Responding to Ohio Home Inspector (OHI) who said, "many agents skirt on telling , especially first time buyers about Home Inspections, or are refering inferior inspectors to clients so "deals" go through. This is the only profession where the better job you do, the more the so called "refering agents" will "black list" you." I'd like to say this. That may be the case with some Realtors, OHI, but not with me. I ALWAYS recommend that my buyers have a home inspection performed. And I recommend one particular inspection company in particular precisely because they HAVE found deal-killing problems with homes my clients were involved with in the past. If I recommended a home inspector who never killed a deal, I'd be recommending the wrong darn home inspector. In fact, that same home inspector found serious enough problems with a home I sold literally last week that I recommended to my buyer that we kill the contract and move on to another home. As of this afternoon, I learned that the seller signed my earnest money release form and that my buyer's returned EM check should be ready for me to pick up for her by tomorrow. That'll work out well. I can pick her check up and then I can hand it to her when we meet to look at three different homes tomorrow night.
I think one of the most important things that may get over looked when working with a realtor is the contract. What slime bag realtors don't usually tell you while signing 50 other documents is that they conveniently put a buyers contract in with your offer and had you sign it. Likewise, when selling your home through an agent go with the shortest terms possible. That way if you absolutely hate the person you can get rid of them ASAP. From a buyers stand point I'd never sign this garbage...it only benefits the agent. SO...word of advice PAY ATTENTION to those buyer/seller contracts it's pretty much what everything hinges on. Don't end up like me... sued by a realtor with no buyer/seller contract who after I purchased a home from another realtor lost miserably trying to forge my signature to a false contract so he could still try and get his lousy commission...know what you've signed.
I am a Real Estate Broker in the Denver Metro Area and I agree with this article. Usually I don't agree with the MSN Real Estate articles but I thought this one had some pretty good advice for clients. If your Broker can't address these items easily, keep moving. Personally, I also think it's in a client's best interest to work with a full time Broker. The majority of Brokers are NOT full time and clients suffer because of that.
P.S. I like the name of the author (Phipps). It's a good name.
"Real-estae agents who insist on a client using a particular lender or affiliated company for the trasaction should trigger alarm bells." 'That's a huge red flag because odds are they are getting a cut on a referral fee" says Joshua Dorkin."
Well, Joshua and Luke that would bet called a kick-back, it's illegal and agents DO NOT refer for money. We refer to GET THE JOB DONE. If I make a referral it's becuase I know my client will not have a bad experience with a person I trust.
Real Estae agents build their business on how happy their last client is in their new home, by the ease of transactions and frankly every article I've read here is poor information.
Good Grief people. Thank goodness I don't lump all journalist in with these guys. Because that WOULD BE WRONG!
Not ALL agents are bad. HOWEVER, many agents skirt on telling , especially first time buyers about Home Inspections, or are refering inferior inspectors to clients so "deals" go through. This is the only profession where the better job you do, the more the so called "refering agents" will "black list" you.
So here is our twist...you want to find a good agent who will look out for a Buyers interest? Ask a home inspector ! Find and interview a Home Inspection professional FIRST. We have worked with and watched hundreds of agents and we know who puts the BUYER first.
Then begin your search. We are consumer protection specialist. We can tell you things to look for before you begin your home search to help you narrow your choices.
Want to sell your home faster? Have it inspected PRIOR to listing it. Advertise it as inspected! Your potential buyers will feel better about your disclosure forms.
We just chuckled at some of the comments by real estate agents on these articles, because you know what? There are MORE agents than not, who won't take back offers, though required by law, and who do not put the best interest of a client first.
The great agents....are worth every penny of their commission, and bless them for remembering ....happy clients and word of mouth will get you more long term business.