Buying or selling a house can be exciting and scary at the same time. It is a big decision and it will likely be the largest purchase or the largest sale of your life! This is why it is so scary.
Once you have made the decision to buy or sell a house you will, sooner or later, ask yourself the question “Do I need a real estate agent?” and then “How do I choose a good real estate agent?” In this article I will share my experience about dealing with realtors, good and bad.
I believe that you should hire a real estate agent. However, you must find a good one. A good realtor can save you from making mistakes and should be able to provide you with insights and resources you may not otherwise have access to. I will write about the benefits of hiring a real estate agent in another article. Here, I would like to share how I picked mine.
The Bad Experience
When we bought our first home, we were inexperienced and ended up making a poor choice. We chose a realtor out of the newspaper! I called, asked a few questions and he had us come to his office. Before we knew it, we were out house-hunting. The agent handed us a list of some 30 houses and we went to look at all of them by ourselves. Literally, we looked at them, from the outside. You cannot get into homes without an agent. He told us to let him know which ones we liked so he could then take us to see the inside. He sent his wife, who was not a real estate agent, to let us into homes. We eventually found the one we liked and he negotiated for us. He did show up for the home inspection to let us and the inspector in. We called him to come back and lock up. At closing he came to sign a few papers and left saying, “You all can finish up here without me, right?” That’s the last we saw of him. I think it is fair to say this was a bad experience.
Making a Better Choice
When we prepared our house for sale, I interviewed several real estate agents. I strongly advise you to consult at least three before you make your choice.
One agent, a lady, was quite accomplished and continuously bragged about that. Her luxury SUV was so high up that she had trouble stepping out of it. I went out to help her. She was very well dressed and wore a lot of make-up. She kept trying to show us a folder with other houses she had sold over the past 20 years. We also had to hear about awards and trophies she had won at her office. Before I gave her a tour of the house, she told me my list price. Don’t you have to see a house before you can price it? Stating that she had trouble with her knees, she didn’t want to go upstairs or down to the basement. Still, I asked her to please walk the house slowly. She didn’t enter most of the rooms merely peeking in from the hallway without even turning any lights on. I insisted she go into my bedroom to notice that we had a master bath unlike most of our neighbors. She refused to go into the backyard because of her high heels. I was concerned about that because she needed to show my house to buyers, yet she wasn’t going to go anywhere beyond the kitchen. When I asked about the list price she had suggested, she assured me that it was “competitive”. She was $40,000 higher than any other agent and this is by no means a high dollar house.
The second real estate agent was clean-cut, well mannered and all about business. He took a tour, told me his listing and pricing strategy. He didn’t ask much, he simply told me how we would do everything. He said that it would be easy to market our home because of all the upgrades we had done. Yes, it sure would be easy to market at the very low price he suggested. He came prepared with a folder full of information about our house and the comps. The “suggested” list price was already penciled in on a sheet of paper. He said he was firm on the price because he didn’t want to waste his time selling a house that isn’t priced right. I agree, but again, he hadn’t even seen it before he decided a price.
I must add that we were not firm on any price. We had a general idea but we desperately wanted someone to tell us the “current market value”. We felt that one lady was trying to get us to sign with her by promising the highest price and the other gentleman just wanted a quick and easy sale by pricing it really low.
When the next realtor drove up I hardly noticed because he didn’t make a “grand entrance”. His vehicle didn’t scream “I’m a realtor” and neither did his nice, but not extravagant clothes. Before coming into the house, he took a look at the curb appeal and suggested that we pressure wash the outside. Inside, he took a good look at every room. He opened closets, looked behind the shower curtain to see the tile and walked the basement. He was the only realtor to notice the crawl space in our basement. We sat down to talk about pricing and marketing. He gave me a lot of information about market conditions and closing costs. There would be no extra fees for listing virtual tours or photos. I could have open houses and agent’s tours if I chose to do so. It was all up to me. Not one ounce of force or pressure. He asked me what appliances would convey and how I wanted to price our house. Did he just ask me how “I” wanted to price “our” house? This was a while ago. The real estate market was getting really bad and he suggested that we wait a little longer before we sell. We did. And Gregg will be selling my house.
Why did I choose this agent?
To sum it up, Gregg took a close look at our house. This way he would know what he is selling. When people call him for information, he will be able to answer detailed questions about the condition of the house. He has a wealth of knowledge and gave us good advice. He spoke to us about staging, active and sold comps, knew the neighborhood and has a great personality.
When choosing a realtor, the agent should…
be someone you feel comfortable with, personality and dynamics should match yours
explain the whole process and what he will do for you
show you active and sold comparables to determine the value with you
take a good look at your house and be interested
not have 100 other listings because he won’t be able to focus on yours
be responsive to your calls and answer your questions
The real estate agent you hire will be your partner in making one of the largest financial transactions of your life. Make sure you take the time to find one that is right for you.