Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Questions You Should Ask Your Potential Realtor

There are LOTS of Realtors in our area--literally thousands. Pretty much everyone knows someone that has a real estate license.The problem is that not all licensees are created equally. This entry is meant to give you some questions you should be asking before you make one of the biggest financial decisions of your life. Make no mistake, the purchase or sale of your home is a huge financial step on your road to wealth. I want it to be a step forward for you, not backward.

How a Realtor Helps
The first question you need to have answered is the most basic of this conversation--why does it even matter? What will the Realtor do for me anyway? In our Internet driven world, this question is becoming more and more relevant. You have a ton of information at your fingertips. Why do you need a Realtor? What will they do that I can't do for myself?

You can look up all your neighbor's tax information and know what they paid and when homes in your neighborhood sold and all that. What does it mean though? How do I cook it down to meaningful, relevant information? You can also get an estimate of your home's value. Where did that estimate come from? What supporting evidence is there for that value? A good Realtor provides the evidence and provides interpretation that makes pricing easy. A great Realtor also has a grasp of the "harder to quantify" items that affect value--location, trends, popularity. They have worked enough transactions recently to know what buyers want NOW, not 4 years ago.

This brings up point 2, you will probably close no more than 10 or so transactions in your LIFE. A good Realtor will do 10-15 transactions a year. A great Realtor will close numerous transactions in a year. It's their job, it's what they do. 

Last, a good Realtor is your voice of reason. They are your conscience. They present the facts and try to stay a little un-emotional in your hyper-emotional decision. A great Realtor will also tell you if they think you are making a mistake in your choice. They understand that your well-being is more important than their commission.

Job Interview
Before we get into the questions, let's set one basic premise--choosing a Realtor should be a job interviewing process. You are "hiring" an adviser, a negotiator and an expert. You are also going to spend a lot of time with this person and will share quite a bit of insight into your personal life. Your Realtor needs to be trustworthy and compatible with your personality. Please don't make the mistake of assuming that your cousin or brother or best friend or best friend's cousin's husband is trustworthy or competent just because they are that relation to you. This can be a very costly mistake. Interview them. Interview others. That relative may be the best choice but they may not be. Don't assume.You are about to involve yourself in a transaction with tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars --be picky about whose advice you trust!

Questions for Your Prospective Realtor
  1. How long have you been in the business? Honestly, this is probably the least important question you will ask--but you will all ask it. Here's the thing--time in the business does not equate success in the business. A more telling follow up to this one is, and how many transactions have you completed in the last 2-3 years? This will give you a gauge of how active they are and if they are current with their information. What I mean is, I know agents that have been doing it for 30+ years but they've only done 5 total transactions since the Clinton administration. Probably not up to speed!
  2. Are you a part time agent? This might draw some ire and disagreement from some of my colleagues. Oh well. Real estate is a 24/7 business. It is hard to get everything done in a day, especially if you are doing the volume required to be an expert. Someone that considers themselves "part time" has resigned to not invest the time it takes to be good at this job. I'm not saying that someone that has another job is not good. Sometimes they are. But the ones that are good at it understand that they are not part time. They, in fact, have 2 full time jobs. If they don't see it that way, you don't want them. 
  3. How will you help me? Be direct. Ask the question. See how they answer it.
  4. Why should I pick you over all the other folks with a real estate license? The right answer to this is very subjective. Listen for things you like in any service provider. Listen for someone that is not ridiculously full of themselves. Listen for someone that will make achieving your goals EASIER.
  5. What skills have you acquired since becoming a Realtor? You want someone who is always growing, not sedentary. 
  6. What kind of marketing strategy do you employ? Definitely ask this of someone wanting to list your home. May not be a bad idea to ask this of someone wanting to help you buy also. See what they say. Even if they have no listings, they have to market themselves. May be a very insightful question for you to hear.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Other questions will come to mind. Some will be follow ups, some will be out of left field. Ask them. This is an interview--ask the questions. One more tip, remember that a good skill to have in an interview is to ask the prospective employer some intelligent questions. Your prospective Realtor should ask you some good questions as well. If they are not interviewing you and deciding if they want to take you on as a client, that could signal that they are willing to work with anyone that has a pulse. This is not always a good thing! This means they may have crazy people around them. Be cautious here. The other reason they need to be asking questions is that they need to be building an internal database of information on you. They need to already be figuring out ways to help. They need to be working on the relationship from the very beginning. 

One last word of advice, don't trust a Realtor that tells you what your home is worth if they have never seen your home. They may be able to ballpark it based on some vague profile of the neighborhood, but anyone who shows up to list your house and tells you exactly what to price it at having never seen it, is, at best, a guesser. 

Be careful out there. Ask lots of questions. 

What other things might be good to ask when interviewing a Realtor?

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