House prices continue to rise, and inventory is still low in many U.S. cities. Mortgage interest rates continue to fluctuate; but even at the higher rates, most buyers can complete a purchase. But, unlike the ‘unreality’ TV shows, whether you are buying or selling, you will benefit greatly by having an experienced, knowledgeable, successful agent representing you. There are dozens of agents to choose from and it has been said that everyone knows at least six agents, if not a dozen or more. There is nothing wrong with working with a friend as long as the friend is well-qualified. However, being a friend alone should not be the deciding factor. Buying or selling a home is a serious business transaction and should be treated as such.
How do you decide on a REALTOR®?
It’s important to find a REALTOR® with whom you are comfortable. Conversation between you and your REALTOR® should be easy; there should be a sense of competency and trust.
Real estate transactions are complex and expensive; so, you want an agent who will have your best interests in mind and will properly guide you in marketing and sale of your current home and in your search for the perfect home. Taking time to carefully select the right REALTOR® for your specific situation will result in a smoother, more informed home buying and/or selling process. Real estate sales and purchases take time, and the agent you choose should have adequate time to provide the services you need when you need them.
Choosing your REALTOR® requires you to consider a number of specific components. How long have the agents you’re considering been licensed? Are they ‘full-time’ agents or do they have another job and are just trying to provide real estate services in their spare time? How many transactions do they complete each year? Approximately how many buyers and how many sellers do they represent annually?
And there are more specifics that will help you make a decision. What price range are most of their sales in? In which geographic areas are most of their sales? Do they have experience in the area you want to buy or where the home you want to sell is located?
Interpersonal skills and communication skills are very important too. Are they willing to listen to you, or do they want to do all of the talking? Do they ask important questions which indicate they want a clear and thorough understanding of your objectives? Do they approach their client service in a businesslike and professional manner? Can you imagine them working well with other agents since doing so is seriously important to the success of your transaction?
The agent you choose should evoke a sense of ease and comfort. When you are together, you should not feel on edge; rather you should be able to relax and communicate openly. The agent you choose should evidence 1) respect for others, 2) a sense of reasonableness and reality about the marketplace and the processes involved in transactions, and 3) the willingness to take responsibility for their commitment to serve you.
As you consider which agent you want to represent you, ask yourself how family members, co-workers, and friends will respond when you tell them who you have chosen. Remember, real estate agents are often talented at promoting, marketing, and selling properties. Be careful not to be swayed by a sales pitch. Rather, make a careful, thoughtful, analytical decision.
What are the red flags when considering which realtor you want to represent you?
Like many businesses and professions, there are rules, laws, and codes of ethics which govern the actions of real estate agents and real estate firms. As you choose who you will work with, there are several 'red flags' to avoid.
Not surprisingly, you and your agent must not participate in any discriminatory activity. Both codes of ethics and fair housing laws prohibit discrimination based on a specific list of 'protected classes'.
These classes are race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Most experienced, professional agents are aware of this requirement and honor the profession by obeying the law, both in what they say and in how they act. If, as you are talking with an agent about representing you, you observe anything that may be or appear to be a violation, you will likely be best served to disengage and find another agent.
Another specific charge that the real estate profession upholds is the related prohibition against directing buyers from purchasing in particular locations or neighborhoods. This is a specific form of discrimination that may unfairly characterize a neighborhood to the detriment of all involved. It is illegal and punishable. So, again, if you detect an agent directing you to or from a neighborhood or particular location, you will not want to participate in real estate activities with that agent.
Finally, as real estate agents have lists of recommended providers of services that support the sale and purchase of property, you may benefit from relying on these providers. However, you should know it is unethical for the real estate agent or their firm to receive commissions, kickbacks, or other forms of compensation for the referrals. The reason for the referrals must be pure: the best possible service for the buyer or seller. Any other motive is dishonorable and any other action is unethical and, in many cases, is illegal.
Again, most professional real estate agents will not participate in these 'red flags', but ultimately you want to be sure you are not innocently led into a violation of such a practice.
Ask for Referrals from Friends and Family
This is one of the most important ways to find an agent you want to represent you. Getting a referral from a trusted friend, business colleague, or family member is invaluable. Ask people you know and trust who they have used and what their experience was like. Odds are that if they had an outstanding experience with a REALTOR® who went above and beyond, your experience will mirror theirs.
There are two primary considerations for your selection. You must have an agent with which you have a sense of trust and confidence, and you must have an agent with whom you have clear, direct, and easy communication. Your agent needs to both listen to you and communicate with you. Remember, you are the client, and the real estate agent is providing you with professional guidance.
If you don’t know anyone personally who has recently bought a home in your area, you may seek out online reviews. Agents with little to no reviews could be considered a red flag, and most likely means that they are either new to real estate or lack an online presence. While it is perfectly normal to see a few negative reviews from disgruntled or difficult customers, a pattern of negative reviews should also raise concerns about the REALTOR®.
Decide What You Want in a Home
If you are buying a home, you may want to first take some time to determine your potential budget and what areas of town you want to consider. When speaking to potential REALTORS®, ask about their experience in those areas. If you want a house in the $250,000-300,000 range, you will not want a REALTOR® who specializes only in land sales and commercial deals or is exclusively focused on multi-million dollar homes. Like in many other professions, real estate agents specialize in several ways: type of property, location, and price range.
Agents routinely work in a variety of neighborhoods and different areas of the metro area. Ideally, the agent you choose would have some experience in your price range and in the areas you are considering. An experienced agent may suggest areas that you have not considered because they know the areas have the amenities and features you desire. Viewing potential homes in person with your agent will help you see firsthand the types and locations of homes that are available in your desired price range.
Most buyers shop extensively on the Internet, which is a valuable tool indeed. However, many buyers and agents, when visiting a home in person they have first seen on the internet, find the home to be different than they imagined. Homes may seem smaller in person. The finishes may be more worn. There may be negative characteristics or components of the property that were not displayed in the online listing. Sometimes buyers go to view a listing expecting it to be perfect for them, only to realize that, when they view the home, it does not suit them.
Your agent can and should show you as many homes as you want and need to see in order to make a purchase decision. Remember, showing buyers homes is good for the agent as well as the buyer because it expands the agent’s knowledge of the current market inventory.
In this day and age, it’s imperative that your REALTOR® is tech savvy, particularly since 95% of people looking to buy a house use online tools during their search process, according to NAR. While it is important to drive through neighborhoods and look for ‘for sale’ signs, in today’s active market a home may be under contract before the sign even is installed in the yard. By staying up to date with online listings and real estate apps, you can be “in the know” as quickly as possible. You and your REALTOR® do not want to miss out on any desirable homes you’d like to see, so the use of technology is very important..
When it comes to using online tools to view and communicate about homes, agents have a wealth of tools at their disposal including virtual tours, outdoor drone footage, online bookings for showings, virtual signings, 3D 360-degree views of homes, and more.
Additionally, many buyers and sellers execute listing and selling documents with the electronic transmission and signature systems available to real estate agents which improve efficiency and timeliness. Being efficient in preparing and executing documents can be critical to achieving the successful purchase or sale you desire.
The use of technology will only increase in the future, so make sure the REALTOR® who represents you is up to speed with the current technology used in real estate.
You May Want to Interview Agents
Regardless of how you identify the agents you consider, you will benefit from interviewing one or more. You may be best served to schedule agent interviews one at a time so that you can stop interviewing once you find one you feel will provide the services you want and need. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions, especially if you are having any hesitations. Ask about their history, strategies, qualifications and certifications, and experience. You can also ask for references, i.e. other clients they have served in the past. Just as you want your agent to be open and honest with you, you must be open and honest with them. If you are interviewing several agents, be sure and let them know that so they will not be disappointed if you do not choose them.
See How Well-Connected They Are
An experienced REALTOR® will have connections across the city and in all aspects of the home-buying or home-selling process. Whether you need a contractor, inspector, or mortgage provider, your agent may have referrals to qualified providers of the services you need. This can take some of the stress off of you, as the buyer or seller, as you won’t have to spend as much time looking for experts in those areas.
Read Their Contract Thoroughly
Both listing your home for sale and purchasing a home requires the use of many documents specifically prepared for these purposes. Real estate documents are legally binding so you need to know what they say and why they are a part of your process. If you are unfamiliar with the documents, ask your agent to go through them in detail with you and ask any questions that result from this review. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of real estate representation, ask your agent to explain it. And if you are unsure about the costs of the transaction, including commissions, fees, the length of the contract, and other aspects, your agent is there to educate you so you know what you are doing each step of the way.
Call Marx-Bensdorf REALTORS® for Experienced Real Estate Agents in the Memphis Area
We have served the Memphis area for over 155 years. Whether you need a Downtown condo, a single-family home in Germantown, or anything in between, we can help you find the home of your dreams. If you need to sell your home, our experienced REALTORS® will help you get top dollar for your home. Call us today- we will be there for you, every step of the way.