Not all real estate agents are equal; some are good, some are bad, some are indifferent. Given the recent havoc created by the recession there’s also a lot of competition in the industry and local, national, discount and more expensive realtors abound. While it’s a buyer’s market these days the choice of available properties can be overwhelming, never mind the offers on the table from realtors fighting for your business. So how do you choose a good realtor, is there any such thing and how discounted are discount realtors?
Finding the Discount in Discount Realtors
Let’s dismiss the discount realtor first; most discounted realtors offer their services on a menu-style basis. This is not a bad option for experienced investors and developers. If you’ve the time, energy and negotiating skills to do much of the work yourself, then a basic listing service offered by a discount real estate agent can be an affordable way to market a property. Realtors offer access to the Multi-Listing Service (MLS) which is not easily available to individuals; this means that a basic listing service might work well for an investor/developer. For individuals, however, the combination of viewing, negotiating, spotting time wasters or real prospects is not only time consuming but can be fraught with mistakes. The verdict here is unless you’re a professional investor (or a realtor yourself) the basic listing on offer from discount realtors may not be worth the money. Discount realtors do offer additional services – at additional costs and sometimes adding these together works out more expensive than simply hiring a full service from a realtor!
Do ‘Good’ Realtors Really Exist?
In many respects there is simply no such thing as a good realtor; this is not a judgment on their ethics, personal qualities or lifestyle! It’s simply that ‘good’ is subjective here and it depends on your circumstances. Two factors are often on sellers’ minds; the price they can achieve and the timescale that they need to make a sale in. ‘Good’ is better described as ‘effective’ in this case and experienced realtors offer a wealth of knowledge in property and how to sell it. Finding one that suits your circumstances requires some research. Start with friends and family, neighbours or colleagues. Ask who they’ve used and what experiences they’ve had. Also check your own area for sale boards and see which realtors are concentrated in your neighbourhood. Use sites like Agent Harvest to build a fuller list of realtors. These routes should provide you with a shortlist of potential realtors.
For domestic sales and purchases there’s a very important factor to consider; buying a home is often an emotional decision. If potential purchasers like a realtor there’s a good chance they’ll trust them. When you have a short list of realtors, try to attend any open houses they’re running, to get a feel for their personality and style. This point can’t be under-emphasized; while realtors should have good local knowledge and sales skills, they should be people-people, with an ability to gain trust quickly. If you come away from an open house feeling thoroughly schmoozed, drop the realtor in question from your list!
The Bottom Line
Fees and references are important when it comes to choosing a realtor. Compare fees and services offered by different firms or individuals. Menu-style fees (as mentioned above) can work well for developers but if you’re new to selling and buying consider the full service option as the most feasible. Find out where and how your property will be advertised and ask for references from your short list of realtors. Ask for three or four recent references specifically, as some agents will simply pick their favorite! Much of this part of the selection process can be done on paper, or via email, but make a point of meeting your final selection of realtors face-to-face; this is how potential purchasers will see them and your gut instinct here should not be ignored. In terms of performance ask realtors for information on their sales figures in the last year and the ratio of marketing price/closure price. Here your own needs will influence what constitutes a good realtor; those with a good ratio on marketing price/closure price are ideal if you have a figure set in your mind, while those with a fast turnaround may suit those needing to move quickly.
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