The first thing to evaluate is the reason you need a real estate agent. Are you selling, buying or investing? It is possible that you may need more than one agent. Although a real estate license generally allows an agent to do business all over the state, it is really impossible to do that unless the agent has a team. Most professionals will specialize in 2 or 3 cities at the most and become experts in those areas. If you are buying and selling retail in the same general area it is beneficial to use the same agent because you can negotiate the commission. Agents that specialize in just a few areas can give you specific information that a generalist won’t know or have.
The public is always hearing national statistics on the news that are almost meaningless for their purposes. Real Estate is a very local market. In a suberb that has two high schools, one high school may be more desirable and therefore a home in a certain part of the city may sell faster and for more money than a comparable home on the other side of the street. We all know that in larger cities, you have to look at area statistics and not city statistics.
So, if you are selling a home, my advice would be to interview the top 3 listing agents that have sold the most homes. Look at the record of how many days each home was on the market (DOM). In addition, you want to see what the starting list price was and the last list price and compare that to the price the home was sold for. Homes that are priced correctly in the first 3 weeks will sell much faster. It is not in the consumer’s best interest for an agent to placate the home owner with the price they want and then talk them into lowering the price (to reality) later on. Ask for the names of the last 3 to 5 customers as references and call them. By interviewing the top 3 agents, you know they have experience in marketing, so, calling the references will give you a good idea of the customer service you will receive. Your final decision should be based on personality. People do business with people they know, like and trust given an equal playing field.
Finding a good Buyer’s agent is more tricky. The agent you choose has to be experienced in writing a good contract. In Real Estate, everything is negotiable. It doesn’t matter what is customary. The agent must absolutely have good organizational and follow-up skills. Many things need to be done between writing the offer and closing the sale. Just one item overlooked can cause a delay in closing on time. The choice of a Buyer’s agent is more critical if the Buyer is from out of town or the home is the Buyer’s first purchase because the agent will have to educate the buyer on the area or the process. It is critical that the Buyer’s agent be a local or specialize in a particular city because they will know what is going on there behind the scenes that may not be apparent to an outsider. I’m talking about things that may affect property value.
If an individual is looking for an investment property, it is imperative to find an agent who has personal experience in investing or who has worked with other investors on a regular basis. The best advice I could give to a person wanting to be a property investor is to attend a local Real Estate Investor Association (REIA) meeting and get some education. It is not as easy as it looks and you cannot rely on an agent’s opinion that a property is a good investment. You must do your own due diligence. Agents who specialize in investment properties can be helpful in choosing a Title Company and finding a lender. In addition, they may know of listings (pocket listings) that are not available to the public on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).
I moved to 9 cities in my first 20 years after graduating from the University of Arizona with a Business Degree in Finance and Real Estate. In that time, I was a renter, homeowner and landlord. I am an Investor / Realtor in South Florida and provide a F.R.E.E. referral service to help consumers find the best Realtor for their specific need in any area of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.