I've dealt with real estate agents with both my "homebuyer hat" on and my "real estate investor" hat on. Each brings with it a unique set of expectations.
Real estate investors represent a special group of clients for agents. As the field gets crowed both with agents (10,000 new Realtors® every year!) and technological innovations, finding a niche will be important for agents who want to thrive as the market evolves.
Following are five things that I, as an investor, tend to value in an agent. This is just my opinion, but it's informed by feedback from lots of other investors.
1) Understand the risks of investing: Some clients will need some help here. Generally speaking, investors take two kinds of risks: speculative risks and operational risks. Speculative risk is high when an investment relies primarily on future property appreciation in order to be profitable. Operational risks deal with all of the issues involved in maintaining a cashflow-positive property - vacancies, tenants, repairs, etc. There are players who think they are investors, but actually they're speculators. They might not know the difference - but you should.
2) Be the investor's eyes and ears: My real estate agent is valuable to me because she has ways of finding things out. She's plugged into the community and she's constantly talking to other brokers and agents. She does this full time, I don't. Once a property gets to MLS it's old news - I have to compete against all the other investors in my area. But if I can get to something early - that's a tip that's valuable to me.
3) Understand the numbers: If you're pitching an investment, or helping the investor to understand one that he's found himself, you should be able to answer the questions: Should I expect this to be a positive cashflow investment? How much will I be able to charge for rent? Will that cover my expenses? What sort of property appreciation will I need in order for this to yield a decent rate of return? An investor who can't answer these questions (many cant!) is driving blind. You can help.
4) Screen opportunities: Know what your investor is looking for. Bring her opportunities where the numbers work out. Shelve the rest.
5) Know the neighborhoods. This is an area where my agent helps me a lot. Which areas are generating a lot of interest? Which ones aren't? Where are a lot of for-sale signs popping up? You and your investor will come up with a strategy to decode this information; sometimes a preponderance of for-sale signs means opportunity, other times they signal trouble.
The playing field is shifting out there; agents who evolve will stay ahead of the curve.