How to Choose the Right Realtor®
Buying a new home is an important decision, and most people start by focusing on some of the more obvious factors: the building itself, the community it’s in, and so on.
But how much thought is given to choosing the right Realtor® to work with?
While there are very knowledgeable Area Sales Managers available when you are buying a new home that can take you through the buying process you might feel more comfortable using a Realtor or want to use a Realtor to sell your existing home. While it’s not as immediately obvious, the right real estate agent can make a huge difference. They can act as your main point of contact throughout the homebuying process, and they’ll be there with you every step of the way, so you want to be careful about how you make your decision.
So how do you choose the right Realtor® for you? Let’s take a look at some of the main things to be aware of and some of the factors that could influence your decision.
Make Sure You Meet With Several Realtors®
If you were trying to fill a position at your place of employment, you wouldn’t hire the first person who came in off the street. You’d start by looking at resumes, then interview a few of your top candidates. The same should be true for working with a Realtor®. Sure, sometimes the first person you talk to seems like a good fit, but you should still check out a few different options.
Meeting with several agents allows you to ask a lot of questions, compare information, and expand your own knowledge. You may be surprised to learn that different Realtors® offer different levels of service.
For instance, one Realtor® may have sharper marketing skills when it comes to taking pictures and writing the description of the home you’re trying to sell. This can make a big difference in how quickly the sale progresses.
Some of the questions you might want to ask a potential Realtor® are:
- How many years have you been in the industry? Longer can be better because it means more experience, however, a newer agent will be eager to help you close on the right home.
- How many transactions do you usually close per year? A high number is a good sign the Realtor® can sell your home, but there are other factors. For example, if they specialize in unique properties it’s normal to have a lower number.
- Who will be my main point of contact? This is only necessary if the agent is part of a team.
- What is your process for finding suitable properties? This is important if your Realtor® is also helping you find a new home to buy. You want them to have options that fit your needs.
- What do you charge and what’s your commission structure? Normally commissions are paid by the seller, but if you’re hiring a buying agent, there are different guidelines. Make sure you understand any fees you may be responsible for.
- What are your specialties? Some Realtors® might specialize in selling a certain type of home or selling/buying within certain neighbourhoods. If this matches what you need, it could be a good fit.
- What are the details of the contract? There are different types of brokerage agreements so ensure they explain the differences and which would apply to you. Find out about any exit clauses and special terms they may have.
- Do you work full or part-time? What hours are you available? Ideally, your Realtor® should be able to work around your schedule.
Check Their References
Don’t feel awkward about asking for references! A solid and reliable Realtor® should be happy to let you hear from their satisfied customers, and you’ll feel better knowing that they’ve successfully filled their duties in the past. If a Realtor® doesn’t have references to show you, it can be a red flag.
A referral is one of the best ways to find the right real estate agent for you. If you have family or friends who have recently bought and/or sold a home, ask them who they used and if they were happy. This can put you on the right track.
In looking at references and referrals, remember that every situation is different. A Realtor® may come with great references, but if those references are from people who were buying or selling different types of homes than yours, they may not be a good fit.
It’s all about finding the Realtor® who’s the best fit for your circumstances.
Make Sure They Know the Area
You want to find a real estate agent that deeply understands the particular area where you want to live. Since every community is different, a Realtor® with insider knowledge will be able to find a place that perfectly matches your needs.
Additionally, a Realtor® that focuses on a particular area will have a more detailed sense of the prices of homes in said area. They’ll know when a seller is asking too much and when you’re getting a great deal on a home.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to think carefully about what you’re looking for in a community before you meet with Realtors. Do you want parks and green spaces? A school that’s within walking distance? Easy access to the highway for commuting? These little things can all make a difference in where you choose to live.
If you’re moving to Edmonton for work, make sure you work with someone who’s going to consider your commute and your must-haves for a community. You may not be as familiar with the city, so you need someone you can trust to guide you toward the right area for you.
Keep a Good Line of Communication
As with any relationship, communication is key. You want a Realtor® who communicates well and who’s listening to your needs.
How does the Realtor® make you feel when you’re talking with them? If the conversation feels awkward or if it feels like they’re pressuring you, it’s a bad sign. Additionally, if it takes them a long time to return phone calls or emails, you may want to look elsewhere. If you’re comfortable with them, and feel like you’re being heard, that’s a good sign.
You shouldn’t expect responses within 30 seconds, but if you’re not hearing back within 24 hours, it’s hard to feel like they’re going to take the time to work on your needs.
You do want to keep in mind that you aren’t the only one the Realtor® is working with about the sale/purchase of your home. They could also be coordinating with other agents, banking staff, and/or the home builder. If communication with you is delayed, communication with these other professionals will most likely also be delayed. That can cost you time and money.
On your end, it’s important to be clear on what your needs are. Be as specific as possible so your Realtor® can do their job. This includes things about your design or layout needs, location, and budget. A good real estate agent will respect these desires, and help your dreams come true.
Check If They Mitigate Risk and Ask for Numbers
Buying or selling a home involves some risk. Depending on fluctuations in the market and how long you plan on staying in your home, your property could gain or lose value. You want to be sure that you get the best deal possible when you buy or sell your home.
A good Realtor® will be able to talk about sales and neighbourhood comps. Plus, they’ll be able to back it up with facts and figures. Some things you might want to ask about are:
- Investment analysis. Is a particular property a good long-term investment? What might happen short term?
- Neighbourhood-level market performance. What’s going on with home sales in the neighbourhood right now? What’s happened in the past?
- The long-term impact of buying or selling. Is now the time to buy or would it be better to wait if you can?
A double-ended deal is when a Realtor® represents both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction.
Now, sometimes it happens by chance when the agent you’re working with to buy a home happens to take on another client who is selling the perfect home for you. Sometimes, it happens when either the buyer or seller doesn’t have an agent yet.
But there are some Realtors® who might encourage their buying clients to focus on homes from their selling clients. In these cases, the agent would get a commission from both ends.
Most of the Realtors who do this are trustworthy, but it’s something to be aware of. The Realtor®’s job is to get the highest price possible for the seller and the lowest price possible for the buyer. If they’re representing both the buyer and the seller, someone could lose.
This is yet another reason why you want to carefully check reviews and references from former clients. If a Realtor seems to push this scenario often, walk away.
Check Your Contract
Ask to see a copy of the usual contract and read through it carefully before you sign. It will lay out all of the details, including details on whether or not you can change agents without penalty if you’re not happy with their services and the commission structure.
Since the average commission is around 3-7%, if the Realtor has a higher rate than that, it’s a warning sign. Pay attention to the type of commission you’ll be paying, as there could be some differences. Some of the most common structures are:
- Fixed percentage of sale price: this is the most common type – a set percentage of the sale price of the home.
- Split percentage of sale price: with a split percentage, the percentage decreases as the sale price rises – for example, it could be 4% on the first $500,000, and then 3.5% on anything above that.
- A flat fee: as you’d expect, this is simply a set fee paid to the Realtor® no matter what price the home sells for.
- Fee for service: where you might pay a flat or hourly fee for various services.
- Combination of fees: where you pay a flat fee plus additional fees for services.
Choosing the right Realtor® is an essential part of the home-buying process, and making the wrong decision could have negative effects on all parts of the sale. Use this guide to help you make the right choice, and you can avoid a lot of potential hassle, expense and wasted time. When you think you’re ready to start searching for your perfect Realtor®, give us a call and see what we have to offer.