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How do you choose a Realtor? What are you looking for when selecting the agent you are willing to trust with the marketing of your home or the search for the next one? Do you actually make your pick based on relevant findings about the individual and his/her firm?... Or do you follow your heart and intuitions?... Or do you just play Russian roulette, shake hands with the first agent who comes around, cross your fingers and hope for the best? Interestingly enough, most buyers and sellers are rather spontaneous about making a choice. If the time is right and the chemistry is good, they don’t need to look at the agent’s brain scan to commit to a listing agreement or a purchase contract. Sometimes, the choice, regardless how it was arrived at, proves to be right. Sometimes, it proves to go the other way, which is not a good thing since we are talking here about real estate, people’s largest investment. Mistakes are expensive. My purpose, in this blog, is not to write an exhaustive study on how to choose an agent such that you can guarantee success (there is no such a thing), it is merely to offer a few simple, serious or not so serious tips on which activities you can judge an agent in order to optimize success and enjoy the ride while it lasts. Let’s look at the most common ways you come in contact with agents:

  • Referral from a friend, relative, co-worker… Happens often. Can be a good idea, but only so long that you give credence to the opinion of the referrers. They may be very different from you, have different needs and live in a different market. Pertinent when the referral comes from a neighbor who just had a good & successful experience with a local agent. Not terribly pertinent when your mother who lives 60 miles away recommends you call Jane Doe Realtor because she is a good friend…

  • You receive newsletters or cards regularly from an agent: Usually a good omen. If nothing else, it shows that the agent is working. Of course your judgment will depend on the content of the pieces. If they show a market recap of recent local sales & listings with additional statistical data, or important changes affecting the real estate business -or the neighborhood- and ultimately the value of your home, it’s good. If the write-up is too sugar-coated and offers mostly a list of local baby-sitters or a recipe for making the absolute best chocolate cake, I would keep the recipes but not the agent’s contact info…

  • You periodically receive emails/texts/tweets from agents soliciting your business: Nice to know they belong to the 21st century, but that, in itself, in no proof of their quality. The messages must be real estate relevant and represent pertinent alerts which can & should benefit the homeowners who receive them.

  • You get cold calls from agents: If you are willing to listen and some of the agents are good enough to get/keep your attention and eventually are invited to come over to make a listing presentation, they should be good enough to apply the same dedication & energy in trying to find buyers. Those agents are not the lazy type waiting for the phone to ring, they are proactive and generate their own leads.

  • You meet agents while visiting open houses: Convenient way to evaluate the demeanor of an agent and his/her knowledge of the market, the financing, etc. Since the agent is giving his/her time over the weekend to effectively market the house to potential buyers, you can be reasonably sure that the agent will do the same for you, should you decide to trust him/her with the listing of your own home.

  • You saw an agent’s listing ad in the local magazine: Not a bad sign. It shows that the agent has a listing to promote and money to promote it with. Of course, here again, It is no guarantee that the agent is good, as most such advertising is rarely meant to capture the interest of buyers but rather to impress sellers and try to secure more listings. No matter, I like agents who invest in their business by showcasing their listings or themselves. It shows confidence & ambition.

  • You call or stop by a real estate office: Always a good idea, as this will give you a chance to better judge and understand that the office & the company are truly a big part of the mission. No matter how good the agent may be, he/she cannot pretend being better than the firm they are with. Look for a company which has the means (size, marketing network & programs, financial resources, etc.). Some firms are growing; some are not. There is always a reason.

The moral of the story is: do your homework. Give yourself a choice. Listen, look, think, compare & decide. Part of the decision must be chemistry: you are going to live with your agent for a while and experience conflicting emotions in the process of buying or selling. Be sure you like and trust the agent you are committing to. Good luck!

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