“Hello there! I noticed you admiring this stunning open house. How would you like to sign with me as your Austin buyer’s agent, and find your dream home?”
The appropriate answer for this question depends on what leads up to it—first off, whether you have already decided to enlist the services of an Austin buyer’s agent. It’s a good decision, but even if you have—and this agent seems well-mannered and likeable— at this point, the answer real estate professionals would recommend is, “Give me your card—I’ll get back to you.”
The reason not to jump at the first offer is the same as why you wouldn’t agree to buy the first house you visited without first looking around the neighborhood. So why do so many people sign up with the very first agent who says hello? It probably comes from some simply being unfamiliar with buyer’s agents and their industry.
You want to team with a buyer’s agent who is educated, quick-thinking, experienced, and most of all, thoroughly familiar with the current real estate offerings in Austin. Before teaming up with anyone, there are a few questions to be answered:
Is this agent licensed?
The agent’s card should show a valid real estate license number (if not, in the immortal words of a certain Cuban bandleader, they’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do!). You can verify that the licensee is currently active on the state website, or you can go to the ARELLO (national database) to confirm the information. Having a real estate license is the most basic requirement you require for legal as well as practical reasons.
Does signing with this agent obligate you to use other recommended services?
Sometimes a buyer’s agent works in tandem with other associated home-buying service providers (like home inspectors or mortgage brokers). There’s nothing wrong with recommending professionals they know to be trustworthy—but using them should never be a requirement. You want to keep your options open for identifying good prices and services, so recommendations need to be that…and only that.
Does the agent have a good recent track record in Austin?
It’s not enough just to ask the agent about his or her track record, although you certainly should have that discussion. Ask if you can speak to a recent client to get an appraisal of their experience. That’s key, because having a full staff and plush offices may be attractive, but they’re just window dressing. What you are after is the service a buyer’s agent actually delivers. And don’t be reluctant to check the web for the agent’s online reputation, although that’s less reliable. You want to get a picture of the full scope of this person’s skills and credentials. If the agent doesn’t seem to measure up, move on to another candidate.
Signing with the first Austin buyer’s agent that you meet, like choosing the first name that turns up in an online search, is a first step that’s likely to be in the wrong direction. Doing a little extra research to find the right candidate will pay off in time and effort saved later on!