From The Whit Harvey Group Blog:
So you want to buy a house? You’ve looked online, talked to your friends, driven through neighborhoods, and you are feeling overwhelmed…what next? Buying your first home is one of the most important decisions of your life. Yet most people lack in-depth knowledge of the process and aren’t sure what an agent should do for them (or not do, for that matter).
When you lack experience, how can you tell if you have a good, bad or incompetent agent working for you? Here are 5 things to look for in a good agent.
1. The agent should listen to you.
Right off the bat, an agent should ask you several important questions:
• How long have you been looking?
• Are you pre-qualified and, if so, for what type of loan?
• What time frame are you looking to move in?
• How much are you looking to spend?
• What type of house and how many bedrooms are you looking for?
• Are good schools important?
• What neighborhoods are you interested in?
If your agent keeps showing you things that are outside your chosen parameters, then you might have a problem.
Before you get in a car with an agent to look at that first home, he should go over the process, how he operates and what he charges, and get a good understanding of your needs, wants and wishes.
A good agent should preview most of the homes he is trying to sell you, so he doesn’t waste your time. If a house is a fixer-upper inside or has an enormous dead tree in the backyard, your agent should know about it before you agree to go.
2. Choose someone with experience.
Real estate is a full-time job. Someone who works another job in addition to her real-estate gig probably isn’t able to scan the listings as often as she should — at least twice a day to catch everything — and you can bet she isn’t able to get back to listing agents, mortgage brokers and others as quickly as a full-time agent.
If the agent lacks experience, contacts and credibility, she might have a harder time securing that winning bid for you. Listing agents like to work with other agents that they know can get the deal done.
Your agent should:
- Prepare a detailed market analysis with comparable values for the same type and size of property when you’re getting ready to make an offer and tell you the reasons you might want to offer more or less on a property.
- Fully explain parts of the sales contract, and what they can and can’t do for you under the law.
- Inform you about homeowner associations and restrictions, if you are looking at a planned community or condominium complex.
- Be licensed by the state and have the transaction experience and confidence to negotiate effectively in a competitive market.
- Preferably have some sort of additional training, such as Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR) certification or be a graduate of the Real Estate Institute (GRI), to let you know that she is circulating in the real-estate community and committed to the business.
- Agents should provide full disclosure of any other parties they are representing in the transaction, such as the seller, an arrangement called “dual agency.”
3. Your agent should be trustworthy.
Your personal information should be held in confidence, no matter how seemingly inconsequential. He should never reveal your motivation, budget or the urgency behind your offer, such as that you are getting divorced and really need a new place, or that you’re getting evicted from your current rental and would therefore be willing to pay a little more.
An experienced agent should know how to negotiate effectively without revealing anything other than your offer, your priorities and the terms of your financing.
4. A good agent makes herself available to you.
With real estate, timing is everything. If you can’t get reach your agent, you can’t get things done in a timely manner. Indeed, when bidding on a house with multiple offers, a delay of four hours might mean losing it.
If there’s an offer you want to put in or you are in the midst of negotiations on a house or moving paperwork back and forth, the agent or someone from her team should get back to you within the hour.
You want someone who won’t leave you hanging, whether it’s on a question about financing or your decision to put in an offer.
“During a difficult time in my family’s life, Whit Harvey skillfully, patiently and with an impressive depth of knowledge, directed us to our new home that fulfilled my families needs while staying within my budget. We never felt pushed or rushed, our questions were always respected and answered. He even followed through afterwards to check up on the progress of our moving and settling in. We always felt that Whit made our family’s happiness his first priority.”
5. A good agent is a good negotiator.
Real estate can be fast-paced and a little cutthroat, but your agent shouldn’t be playing hardball all the time.
Real estate is a business built on relationships, and you can be put at a disadvantage if your agent has a reputation as being difficult.
A good agent knows how to diplomatically push for the things that are of absolute importance to you, without offending the listing agent. You don’t want someone passive or shy about calling the other agent, but you don’t want someone who’s combative from the start.
Is it time to break up?
Do not should stand by your agent if you are treated poorly. There should be no yelling, critical comments or badgering you if you’re not ready to make an offer on a property or don’t want to spend more than you had originally discussed. And your agent shouldn’t try to talk you out of something you really want.
And no one should be made to feel bad for spending less. There should be the same level of customer service whether you are spending $180,000 or $580,000.
A good agent should be your “guardian angel,” protecting you in the transaction and welcoming questions about the area or the process. They should make it clear that you are not imposing, and they are happy to deal with you.
Part 2: Choosing a Listing Agent.