Buying or selling a home is a big deal. Either way there’s a lot of money involved, and if you’re buying, the home you purchase will have an impact on your daily life. That’s why having an expert on your side is so crucial.
A realtor can be a tremendous asset, but some are better than others. You want to know the person you work with is not only capable, but has your best interests at heart.
Make sure the realtor is licensed
Granted, just because someone holds a licence doesn't necessarily mean they’re great at what they do. But a licensed realtor will have a much easier time listing your property, or sourcing adequate properties for you to view.
A licence also indicates that the realtor has fundamental knowledge of the ins and outs of real estate. No one without this background acquires a licence in the first place, so it’s an indication they’ve done their due diligence. The process of getting a realtor’s license includes training in real estate ethics and standards, as well as the appropriate way to market, make sales, negotiation and complete transactions.
Although a real estate license isn’t mandatory to act as a realtor, it’s generally a good idea to go with someone that possesses one.
Are they familiar with your chosen neighbourhood?
In large cities, real estate markets can be vastly different from one postal code to the next. Few agents can keep close tabs on every market, so you’ll end up with different agents specializing in a different areas.
However, some agents will gladly take on clients buying or selling in neighbourhoods they know little about. To them, commission is commission. To you, it could mean misreading the market value of a home, or the sort of competition you’ll face as a buyer.
If, for example, you’re looking to move to Toronto’s Leslieville area, you’d want an agent with experience in that market, not someone who has done all their work in the west end. Even though neighbourhoods are in the same city, there will be marked differences.
Honesty is key
You’d like to believe every agent has your best interests at heart, but sometimes that isn’t the case. As with any profession, experts in positions of authority can abuse their power for personal gain. For example, some agents may get you to set a low price to encourage a quick sale, or to overbid for a higher commission. It’s a good idea to interview a realtor before you hire them, and ask them questions about themselves. Their answers, plus the general vibe you get from them, should guide you in making your selection.
Do they communicate well?
Whether you’re in the dating game, or looking for a new dentist, communication is vital in every type of relationship, even real estate. Make sure you’re realtor listens to your needs. They might know more about the market than you, but they should use their knowledge to educate and enable, not to make decisions for you.
It’s also important that your real estate agent is reachable. It helps if they’re part of a team with support staff that can make everything run efficiently.
What’s their track record?
Whether it’s finding your dream home, or selling your old one, it’s a welcome relief to know your estate agent has a good grasp on everything. From the right education and expert tactics, to connections and awareness of the local market, your real estate agent needs to be on top of the entire process.
Although the length someone has been in business isn’t always a clear sign they’re right for the job, experience matters. Another metric to use is the number of transactions they’ve completed in the past 6-12 months.
Make sure they have a good reputation
A realtor’s reputation within the industry is a good reflection of their success and how easy they are to work with. Take a look at any marketing materials they have on offer; this includes brochures, direct mail and presentation books. Not only will they provide information about the realtor, they also give a good idea of how they are outwardly portraying themselves. The more professional they are the better!
You should also do some of your own research on the agent and their company. While marketing materials are a great resource, they’re unavoidably biased. If you find out they work primarily with buyers, and you’re looking to sell, they might not have the exact skill set you require. You should also find out how many successful quality transactions they have made recently, because that's a good indication of their success rate.
Trust your instincts
Friends and family might recommend their personal acquaintances, or their real estate agent, but just because it was a good fit for one person, doesn’t necessarily mean it is right for you. Don’t feel obliged to stick to a certain realtor just because someone close to you recommended them. By all means take advice from others, but remember to trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, there are plenty of other options out there. Be picky. Buying or selling real estate is not something you want to do without confidence.