Whether you’re ready to buy a home, plan to put your home on the market, or are looking for a solid investment property that will provide you with income for years to come, your choice of a real estate agent is a crucial element in terms of getting what you want from the deal. Ideally, you should seek out an industry professional with solid expertise and a reputation for honesty and integrity—and who will make your needs and comfort level a priority throughout the process. Looking for guidance on how to find a trusted partner for one of one of the most important financial transactions of your life? Take a look at our pointers below:
Start with referrals: One of the best ways to ensure that you work with a reputable agent who will best represent your interests is to ask friends, family members, and those whose opinion you trust for a recommendation. Other real estate agents can also be a highly credible referral source if they would not be competing for your business. Once you’ve had an opportunity to further research the agent yourself, it’s also a good idea to ask the agent directly for a list of references. When you talk to their former clients, be sure to ask them to provide you with both the asking price and sales price of the property they bought and sold.
Look for local expertise: Especially in the highly competitive Bay Area housing market, you should insist on working with someone with deep knowledge of the specific community where you want to buy or plan to sell. Not only do they offer insider information on salient factors such as neighborhoods, schools, pricing, and potential problems, but they also have a steady finger on the pulse of market trends in the area. One way to help gauge their knowledge of the area is to casually mention a couple of homes currently on the market—and listen to whether they can easily offer up details on these properties.
Make sure your agent can leverage experience: A seasoned real estate agent can guide you smoothly through your transaction; dealing effectively with any snafus and helping you navigate through the many complex regulations that have been imposed on the industry in recent years. While many experts recommend that you work with someone who has been in business for at least five years, keep in mind that a newer agent may have transferable experience and skills from a former profession, and may work closely with a supervisor who can provide critical leadership and direction.
Select an agent that is tech-savvy: In today’s market, it’s critical that your agent effectively integrates updated technologies into their business, regardless of whether you’ve enlisted their services to buy or sell your home. Since buyers do much of their searching for a home on the Internet, a seller’s home should be well-presented and easily searchable on the Internet with high-quality digital photos and possibly even tools such as video, floor plans, virtual home staging, and mobile apps. And both buyers and sellers need to be assured that their agent can quickly communicate via text, phone and email throughout the business day.
Learn the agent’s specialties: Keep in mind that some agents have a certain niche in which they work, and that it will benefit you to work with someone who is highly knowledgeable about what it is that’s important to you. An agent may specialize in a certain type of architectural style like mid-century modern homes, bungalows, or colonial revivals, or a more general description such as fine homes, condos and new construction. An agent may also focus on working with first-time homebuyers or seniors who are relocating. Also be sure to safeguard your interests by working with someone who is acting as a Listing Agent if you are selling a home, and to enlist the help of a Buyer’s Agent if you are buying a home.
Check out licensing and credentials: A good way to verify an agent’s license and credentials and to discover whether there have been disciplinary actions or complaints filed against them is to do a quick search online. To check the status of an agent’s license in California, visit the website of the California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE). Also note that an agent that is referred to as a “Realtor®” is a member of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) and has agreed to abide by its strict code of ethics. You can confirm whether you real estate agent is a Realtor® at the realtor.com website at http://www.realtor.com/realestateagents.
Be sure you mesh well with your agent: As important as it is to find a well-qualified agent to represent you as a seller or buyer, don’t overlook the importance of working with someone whom you find it easy to communicate, is considerate, and takes the time to understand your priorities and interests. It’s a good idea to talk to a few prospective agents in person to find out whether they are a fit for you. Also keep in mind that although good agents are generally busy, you should make sure that they are upfront with you in terms of the time they have to devote to you and how fast you can expect them to respond when you contact them.
Are you looking for a bit more help when it comes to finding a reputable real estate professional to buy or sell your home? SF Police Credit Union will soon be rolling out an excellent referral program in partnership with Century 21 Realty. Our upcoming Affinity Program for SFPCU members will allow you to save thousands of dollars in closing costs and offers special discounts on home protection, moving services and more. Be sure to check www.sfpcu.org for details in the coming weeks!