Let's say you needed to hire a lawyer to represent you in a matter. You go before the jury and your lawyer does nothing to present your case. He hasn't prepared a statement, doesn't present any details, has no pictures to tell your side of the story, and brings along nothing meaningful to help you. How long do you think you'd keep that lawyer working for you? My guess is, not very long.
With that thought in mind, why would anyone trying to sell their home settle for an agent who doesn't do their best to represent their interests? Realtors are professionals and it's our job to fully represent our clients and when it's a seller, that includes presenting the property in the best light to the greatest number of people. So it baffles me when I see sellers willing to settle for anything less. Just this morning I was on the MLS and looked at a lovely home in a beautiful setting. The listing had expired after a year and the actual days on market were approaching two years. It had one picture, no room measurements, no supporting documents, no description, no video or virtual tour, minimal directions that no one could possibly understand unless they live in the area, and a disclaimer saying that all this information (what little there was) isn't deemed accurate and that other agents and potential buyers are advised to verify it with their own sources. This isn't one of those minimalist, fixed rate firms that say upfront that all they will do is put a home in the MLS. At least you know what you're getting (or not getting) with them. This is an agent in a national franchise. From the point of view of another agent with a potential buyer I know what I'm in for. It means I will have to do my job and theirs if I want to properly represent my buyer. Of course, when properties like this close, the commissions are divided evenly despite the huge disparity of work involved. But I digress.
If, as a consumer, you aren't willing to settle for poor service from your lawyer, your doctor, your mechanic, your dentist, or any other professional, why in the world would it be OK to accept it from your Realtor? The answer is, it isn't OK.
Realtors all have the same basic schooling in order to get our license and we are all required to get the some amount of continuing education every year to keep our license. After that, it's caveat emptor. Before you hire someone to represent you in the sale or purchase of a property, do your home work. Here are my top picks for what to look for in a Realtor that have nothing to do with how much business they have done:
1. Do you like this person as a person? You'll be putting your trust in your Realtor and spending a good bit of time together. Is this person deserving of your trust and do you feel comfortable talking with him or her. Do you have any shared interests?
2. If you are selling a home, ask to see the website and the photography that they use to market properties they represent. Buyers find properties on the internet more than any other source and they want pictures and videos. If an agent shows you photos that were probably taken with a cell phone, think twice. OK, in deference to some cell phones, the pictures you can take with today's phones can be pretty good so look to see if the lighting and composition is good and my pet peeve...if the toliet seat is down in the bathroom. Does it look to you like they breezed through the homes just snapping whatever they could or are they professionally photos shot with good lighting and good composition. Are they the kind of photos that make people say "hey...I'd love to live here".
3. How well does the agent communicate? Does it take a week before you get a response to your email? Do they answer the phone when you call? Do they return calls promptly. Personally, I lose my patience when I don't hear back from someone in 24 hours.
4. This is a tough one, but do you get the sense that they truly care about what is right for you? Do they listen more than they talk?
5. Ask your friends and neighbors for referrals. Just because your Uncle Larry liked his Realtor is no guarantee that you will, but it's a place to start. If you were having surgery, you'd probably want to talk to a couple of different doctors to get different opinions. Buying and selling real estate is one of the largest financial decisions you'll ever make in your life. Doesn't it make sense to interview several agents before signing on the dotted line?
At the end of the day, you want to work with an agent you like, someone you respect, someone who makes the process as seamless and painless as possible. Personally, I don't think any buyer or seller should settle for anything less.