Finding "the One"

By Diane Schlindwein

March 20, 2009 4 min read


Do your homework when picking a real estate professional

Diane Schlindwein

Creators News Service

There's an old adage that says, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." This motto certainly applies to real estate agents who are competing for your attention in trying financial times. However, regardless of the economy, the real estate business has always been very competitive, said Stephanie Singer, a spokesperson for the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

A glance at the Sunday newspaper or even a drive through a couple of neighborhoods tells the tale -- when you decide to sell or buy a home, you have a plethora of real estate professionals to choose from. "We currently have 1.2 million members in our U.S. based association who have joined through one of 1,400 local or state associations," Singer said. "Plus, there is another real estate association in Canada."

However, you need to read between the lines. "Remember there's a difference between a Realtor, who's a member of the NAR, and a real estate licensee," Singer said. "Realtors commit to a code of ethics, which protects consumers in the real estate transaction. Realtors also have access to educational opportunities and training in real estate specialties that are not available to other licensees."

With so many real estate professionals out there, how do you pick just one? "It's true, consumers have many choices -- and Realtors have business models and fee structures to meet all consumer needs," Singer said. "It's important to understand the level of service provided and match those services with your needs."

Probably one of the best ways to find a reputable agent is to talk to relatives and friends who have recently sold or purchased a home. According to the 2008 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, a friend, neighbor or relative referred 43 percent of recent buyers to an agent. Some people feel comfortable hiring a personal acquaintance to sell their home, but some would rather avoid mixing business with friendship.

No matter who you choose, be sure to feel comfortable with that person. NAR recommends interviewing at least three Realtors when you plan to sell your home or if you are ready to begin looking for a house to purchase.

When you are interviewing your choices, ask for names and phone numbers of three of their most recent clients. If they can't or won't provide you with specific information, consider that a red flag.

Other questions to ask include: How long have you been in residential real estate sales? How many days did it take you to sell your average home and how did that compare to the overall market? What type of support and supervision does your brokerage office provide to you?

Find out how you Realtor or agent plans to keep in touch with you. "For example, do you want updates twice a week or don't want to be bothered unless there's a hot prospect?" Singer said. "Do you prefer phone calls, e-mails or personal visits?"

Most likely, you want a person who has specific marketing systems and approaches on selling homes. "Look for someone who has aggressive, innovative approaches -- not just someone who's going to put a sign in the yard and hope for the best," Singer said.

Sacramento, Calif. Realtor Elizabeth Weintraub said in the end it's up to you to do your homework and then finally decide who you will hire as your personal real estate professional.

"The best agent for you doesn't necessarily work at the largest brokerage, close the most transactions or make the most money," she said. "The best agent for you is an experienced professional who will listen to you, conduct herself in an ethical manner and knows your market."

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