There are literally millions of real estate agents in the United States and there are over 200,000 in the state of Florida, alone. There may be hundreds in your community. So, how does one choose the right Realtor? First, it depends on whether you are buying or selling. Let’s start with selling.
Experience and skill are undoubtedly important factors to consider when you are thinking of listing your home for sale and choosing a listing agent. You probably feel that getting the highest price is the priority —as it should be. But to get the highest sale price, you have get the list price right. If your agent is skilled at pricing, you should actually get more than what your home is worth —in any market; a rising one or a falling one. It does not matter. More on that below.
But a great offer doesn’t mean much if the deal falls apart along the way and you don’t make it to the closing table. Depending on the study, about 5% of deals fall apart and that percentage can be as high as 15% in any given year. The best listing agents are known for their ability to keep a deal together after your have accepted an offer. How do they do that?
Two ways; by managing emotions and controlling the flow of information between buyer and seller. With so much money at stake, it’s very easy for real estate transactions to become emotional. The buyer often feels they are paying too much or that the seller is hiding defects or unwilling to acknowledge real issues with the inspection. And sellers often feel that they are giving the house away for a below-market number. Even though your agent represents you, a truly skilled one will help both buyer and seller, the other real estate agent, the appraiser or lender, and even the attorneys to appreciate the merits of the deal as it stands, understand the specific value of your home in the current market and to problem-solve any kind of breakdown in negotiations.
This keeps the parties informed, calm, and ultimately content. Good communication is at the root of all successful real estate transactions. And that talent comes with experience. Ask the agent about their experience in keeping deals together and maybe even ask to speak with former clients.
Now, how do you know the listing agent will get you the highest price possible? There are three factors: strategic pricing will always be the number one factor and is quite difficult —and always comes with experience. The other two factors are staging and exposure to the entire buyer pool. These are also critical but are really a given these days. But back to pricing —as they say, no amount of exposure, marketing, or advertising will move a product that is overpriced.
When the listing agent gets the list price just right, it raises the number of showings and literally diverts buyers away from other comparable properties and over to yours. More showings means more offers. And more offers always drives the price up over the current market conditions; like any commodity based model, the greater demand, the higher the price. And every home is a commodity. With a compelling and strategic list price (along with good staging and wide exposure) you should get more than what your home is actually worth —in any type of market. You should sell your home at a premium for the current conditions.
Finding the right Realtor to help you find a property and then represent you in an offer has some different dynamics than when you are selling. Experience is always a good thing but sometimes a newer agent may be more responsive to you on a day-to-day basis because they are hungrier for your business as they are building their own business and making a name for themselves. You want to have a frank conversation and ask them about their skills and their ability to negotiate a good deal for you, how well they know the inventory that is on the market, how they will communicate with you and how often, if they have contractors and inspectors at their disposal, and how strong their relationships are with other Realtors.
You should also ask to see some sample offer packets and cover letters that they have drafted in the past to get an idea of the quality of their presentation skills, After all, they will be representing you, so you want to be sure that their presentation skills match your aesthetic and style. When your agent submits an offer on your behalf, the seller will have little else to evaluate you on other than the written offer packet so it should look professional and you should approve it before it is submitted or emailed to a seller’s agent.
Obviously a Realtor should be properly licensed. You can check with the regulatory real estate board in your state or county to confirm that there have been no disciplinary actions or ethics violations.
As for the agency itself, it is helpful to know how much business they do in your community. You don’t need to be with the #1 agency (although it helps!) but you should be with an agency that does a substantial amount of business in the area and is well-respected.