What to Look for in a Real Estate Agent

By: Jeff Tompkins

You have decided to put your home up for sale, and look for a new home better suited to fit your growing family. You flip open the Yellow Pages, to find hundreds of real estate agents, all seemingly the same. How do you whittle that number down to find someone who has all that you need to sell and buy real estate?

First, realize that to find someone who really fits what you want, you will have to conduct interviews, much like you would with an employee. Here is what you want to know from that real estate agent before you sign on with them:

Experience: Experience is key in any business, but particularly in real estate. While I know that some real estate agents new to the business can obviously perform and get the job done, you get a smoother ride with someone who has done sales similar to yours many times before. Ask potential real estate agents about how long they have been in the business, training they have had, number of sales a year they participate in, etc. With experience comes knowledge, and for me at least, I want someone who is very much an expert in their field if I am going to pay them to sell my home or find me a new one.

Skill: Following very much on the heels of experience is the idea of skill. Does your real estate agent know contracts intimately, are they familiar with the technical areas of their jobs, including title, inspections, appraisals, negotiation, etc.? Are they involved in continuing their education to keep up with changes in the law, technology, etc.? Like any professional, you want to get a sense that they know what they are doing and that you aren't a test case for them.

Market Knowledge: Along with knowledge of the home buying process, you want a real estate agent to know the area in which you are buying or selling. For example, a real estate agent in San Francisco may know the Bay area like the back of his hand, but if you are buying in Los Angeles, he may not be as helpful. You want a real estate agent to know the community you are thinking of moving into, to be familiar with comparable sales and inventory in those neighborhoods, and to know what's going on in that area. It's to your advantage to have a real estate agent who knows that the new highway is going in right next door to that cute neighborhood you liked so much!!

Integrity/Honesty: Admittedly, this is hard to sometimes pick up on in an interview. When asked directly, nobody is going to admit to being dishonest. Go with your gut, if someone you are interviewing seems eager to make a buck, or seems too slick, look elsewhere. You want to find a real estate agent who has your best interest at heart, meaning they want you in a home that is well-built, safe, and within your means.

Work Ethic: Real estate agents have hard jobs; they spend a lot of their evenings and weekends showing homes because its what their clients need. While you don't want a real estate agent to neglect their own families and lives, you do want one who works hard for you. Are they prompt in returning your calls? Do they schedule showings and home visits around your schedule, not pushing when you are busy with other things? Are they sensitive to your situation? In something as big as buying or selling your home, you want to be treated as a priority. Make sure your real estate agent isn't too swamped with business and other clients to give you the time you need to shop and sell.

Resources: Does the real estate agent have a lot of resources for you to utilize in your decision-making, such as a website listing homes for sale (with pictures preferably), lots of homes to choose from, relationships with mortgage brokers to provide your home financing, etc.? When my wife and I bought our home, the process was easy because our real estate agent had a website with access to everything up for sale, so that we could sort through and figure out which ones we wanted to see before ever going out.

Attention to Detail: Lastly, is your real estate agent organized and have an eye for detail? Completing a real estate transaction requires juggling many tasks, managing time effectively, and paying attention to the details, especially the details in the contract itself. It's normally the little things that can kill a deal, so you want to make sure your real estate agent is on top of the little things. Luckily, its fairly easy to find out if your real estate agent is organized and on top of things'the first time you get a ring at the door for a showing you weren't warned about beforehand, you will know!!

Many thanks to Tracey Nix, real estate agent with Dawson & Michael Realty in Indianapolis for inspiring this article!

Jeff Tompkins is owner and president of Teacher's Funding Group, LLC, a Colorado mortgage broker that specializes in providing home financing to those in the education industry and all those who need it. Visit www.teachersfunding.com for more information.

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