October 7, 2015
Avoid the Bad Agent Blues
One of the most important relationships you’ll need to establish when you’re buying or selling a home is with your real estate agent. If you choose the right person, you’ll be rewarded with a timely, smooth transaction without much stress. Pick the wrong agent, and there’s a good chance you’ll end up in the wrong home, or in no home at all. As important as this relationship is, many buyers and sellers don’t take much time to select a real estate agent, and rarely do the research necessary to find the ideal match for their unique situation. It doesn’t take much effort to pick up on some of the glaring red flags that indicate that an agent may not be right for you. If you take a few minutes to review them here, it can save you time, money and heartache in the long run.
- The agent works at real estate part time - You need someone who is up-to-the-minute on what’s currently available in your area, on both the buyer and seller side. If your agent is juggling another career, he or she is less likely to be plugged in to what’s going on right now in your local market. It’s also important that your agent be available during different time periods to show you or your prospective buyers a property – someone who can only do so in the evenings or on weekends might derail your best efforts.
- You’re connected to the agent in some other way - It usually isn’t a good move to work with a friend or family member – emotions during this stressful time can run high, especially if you feel the agent is taking advantage of your previously existing relationship to do a lackluster job. Lasting resentments can cause family feuds or end long-standing friendships. It’s best to go with someone who you aren’t invested in on a personal level.
- The agent isn’t familiar with the area where you want to buy - An expert who knows the neighborhood like the back of his or her hand can more accurately judge the appropriateness of a price, give you recommendations on school systems, transportation and commuting issues and local ordinances you may need to know about. He or she will also be plugged in to who is getting ready to buy or wants to sell – even before the house goes on the market. Real estate is truly a local enterprise, so make sure your agent is connected to the community.
- The agent charges a low commission - Most agents will charge a 5-7% commission – that’s typical of the industry. Because both the buying and selling agents split the commission, an agent who chooses a lower percent – say 4% - will have fewer agents willing to work with him or her, because the overall reward will be lower in the end. With fewer agents showing you houses or showing your house, getting the result you want is less likely.
- The agent doesn’t usually work with your type of real estate - If you’re selling or buying a suburban house, don’t choose someone who normally handles condominium sales, large rural or commercial property, or downtown apartment sales. Make sure the agent has a lot of experience with the proper specialty. And speaking of experience…
- Make sure your agent has a successful track record - Someone brand new to the industry may be eager and accommodating, but is more likely to make mistakes and miss opportunities – especially if they aren’t working with a mentor. Find out how many deals your potential agent has successfully closed before making a final decision. You may fare well with someone new, but proceed with caution. Ask him or her about their training and who they have in their corner to help them if the going gets tough. Double whammy – avoid at all costs a new agent who is a friend or family member!
- Beware of agents who work outside of your price range - If you’re buying high-priced investment property, a large, expensive vacation home or a multi-million dollar estate, don’t trust this transaction to someone who normally handles small, single-family homes in suburban subdivisions. On the flip side, don’t hire a high-caliber agent to handle a modest transaction. There’s a certain level of specific expertise required to finesse a deal in any price range.
- Poor reviews tell the agent’s story - The Internet is your friend when it comes to finding a great agent. Read as many reviews as you can find, and note if they are mostly positive or negative. Take initiative and contact some of the reviewers to ask further questions if they come to mind.
- Seeing the agent’s face everywhere isn’t always a good thing - Each time an agent’s picture appears on a billboard, online or in a commercial, it means that they feel they need to spend money to promote themselves. They aren’t pulling in a good number of clients from positive word of mouth or referrals. A good agent will always attract a nice percentage of their clients from these sources. Granted, advertising is always an important part of the marketing plan, and plenty of great agents use it, but if you see Alice Smith everywhere, you know that she’s depending on a constant stream of strangers for her bread and butter.
- The agent isn’t organized or attentive to details - If you interview an agent who loses her keys, has left her wallet home and gets lost on the way to your appointment, she’s not off to a good start. Missing a deadline or dropping the ball with an important issue is even worse. You may not know that an agent has these tendencies right away, but if they’re an ongoing problem, you’ll see them within a very short time. An occasional mistake is inevitable – we’re all human. But if you detect a pattern in the early stages, change agents before something dire happens.