Whether you’re selling or buying a property, a real estate agent is an almost essential ally. A good one will help you find the best possible mortgage for your circumstances and steer you towards the home of your dreams. On top of that, they’ll offer more than just professional support during this mentally taxing and emotionally draining time.
Finding the perfect real estate agent for your unique circumstances can be tricky. Fortunately, by following a few dos and don’ts, you can be sure to find the perfect partner for all your real estate needs.
Do Your Research
An online search is a great first step when looking for your ideal real estate agent, and there are many websites designed for this very purpose. The best allow you to add filters such as location, property price range, years of experience in the trade, etc., and offer detailed descriptions of all viable agents, including certifications and awards.
Be sure to understand the different terms real estate professionals use. Here’s a brief rundown:
- Real Estate Agent – has undergone the required amount of training to qualify as an estate agent. May be self-employed full or part-time or employed at a larger firm;
- REALTOR® – is a member of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and must adhere to a strict code of conduct and ethics, as well as complete ongoing training;
- Broker – often an owner or manager of a real estate firm, who has taken advanced training.
Don’t Settle for ‘That’ll Do’
While an online search starts you off in the right direction, treat it as a first step, and don’t be tempted to hire the first agent you see with a good profile. Cross-reference and seek out more information from other sources if possible, and in particular, look for reviews. At the same time, search for a selection of agents so that you get a better idea of who is out there, as well as having a plan B, C, and D.
Do Get in Touch and Ask Questions
With a short list of real estate professionals, it’s time to contact them and ask some probing questions. It’s important to put yourself in the mindset of a CEO hiring an employee. You want the best person for the job, and you need to know they are as good as they say they are! The following questions are a good start but add as many as you feel are relevant.
- How long have you worked in real estate? – a minimum of 5 years is a general rule of thumb;
- How long have you lived in the area? – it’s important to hire someone who knows the area and is up to date on property prices. Also, they’re more likely to be aware of local amenities;
- Do you work in a team or solo? – a team of professionals can be a great advantage and may offer more availability;
- What’s your schedule? – ideally, you’re looking for someone who lives and breathes real estate, rather than someone who does it as a hobby;
- Do you have any vacations planned? – you could find the ideal agent, but if they’re setting out for a few weeks in the Bahamas next month, they may not be your ideal choice! Of course, if they have backup arranged, shorter vacations may not be an issue;
- Can I see your credentials? – ensure your prospective agent is fully and legally licensed and check which courses they have completed.
Don’t Believe Everything You Want to Hear
Be wary of the ‘perfect’ agent. If they tell you everything you want to hear, they may be making promises they can’t keep. It’s important that your agent is not afraid to challenge your views when required, and present you with a healthy dose of reality, rather than stringing you along. This also shows that they are not afraid of conflict, a key attribute when it comes to negotiating great prices.
Do Interview More Than One
Even if you think you’ve found the ideal agent, it’s well worth meeting and interviewing at least 3 or 4. This affords you a broader view of what services are out there, and what different agents can bring to the table.
Don’t Dismiss Less Experienced Agents
While a minimum of 5 years’ experience is preferred, don’t dismiss a less experienced agent off the bat. There are some wonderfully talented agents who are keen to make a great impression and prove their worth. Also, their schedule is probably less busy, which means they can devote more time to you.
Do Ask for Referrals
Referrals from friends or family can be a great way to learn about some fantastic real estate agents in the area. However, don’t hire on a referral alone, be sure to conduct an interview and see if they meet your needs, which invariably differ from those of your friends and family.
Don’t be Tempted by Low Costs
While it can be tempting to save money wherever you can when buying property, in the long run, you may end up losing far more by not investing in a good estate agent. It’s important to bear in mind that ‘you get what you pay for’, and a cheaper, less able agent may cost you time and money.
Similarly, when selling, be wary of an agent claiming to get a higher price than other agents. If they cannot provide solid data to support their claim, they may just be telling you what you want to hear, or they simply don’t know the local market.
Do Trust Your Gut
Hiring a real estate agent or REALTOR® is like starting a new relationship. It’s important that you click, and that you feel confident that they are trustworthy and able to help, rather than hinder you. You’re likely to be working side by side for several months, so it’s essential you get along from the beginning. The best agent on paper is not necessarily the best agent for you.