Friday, December 21, 2007

How to Select a Realtor

Buying or selling a home is one of the most major events in most people’s lives. Having help in that process typically involves hiring a Realtor. In this post, I want to address an important question in that process – How to select a Realtor.

In America today, you can buy just about anything besides Happiness (just ask Visa). And since you can buy just about anything, that also implies that just about everything is for sale. Realtors are also for sale. They come in all sizes, shapes and colors. Like computers, they come with different amounts of onboard memory, and with different features, goodies and gadgets. You can see them everywhere. They often have hardware attached to their ears.

Just like trying to purchase a car, it can be very difficult to decide which model is the best for you. Should you shop for what you want, or what you need? Should you get Old Faithful, or this year’s newest edition? Should it be fancy, or a base model?

With a Realtor, you are hiring someone to guide you through what may be the largest financial transaction of your life. You don’t need a pretty face. You don’t need an Armani suit. You don’t need a Mercedes to look at houses in. It might flatter your ego, but hurt your wallet. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very attractive Realtors who are exceptional at their craft, but this is one situation when judging a book by its cover is a mistake. Appearance and tools (like cars and clothes) are not nearly as important as the skill of a Realtor, which does not always wear a pretty package.

Technology can be a wonderful productivity enhancer. It can also get in the way. Have you ever seen someone chatting away on the phone while they all but sideswipe you coming out of the grocery store? And they didn’t even notice you! Tools and gadgets can make a Realtor more valuable to you. But, having all the gadgets is just not necessary. Why does anyone need a pager, a cell phone, a Blackberry and a laptop to go along with the office computer. Every single one of these devices requires attention. There may not be any attention left over for you, the client.

A couple of years ago, there was a TV commercial about motor oil – not something you think about every day. The point of the whole commercial was “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later, but you’ll be paying.” The point was clear - sometimes a bargain is not a good buy in the long run. This definitely applies to hiring an Agent.

When interviewing agents, ask each one if they are flexible on their fee. If they say “yes”, then terminate the interview. It sounds backwards doesn’t it? Realtor’s fees cost thousands of dollars. Why not try to save a few? Well, the fact of the matter is that there are no bargains on a Rolls Royce. And for your home, you want the Rolls Royce of Realtors working for you. He or she will save you much more than they cost you in the form of stronger negotiation skills and support after the sale. A Rolls Royce Realtor will take your call 6 months after closing when the furnace won’t start. A Rolls Royce Realtor will work for their clients long after they get paid.

Real Estate Agents don’t get busy by accident. They get and stay busy because they know what they are doing, and word gets around. High demand Realtors are in high demand because they have already been through a fire or two and they brought their clients through it safely. Don’t think that because an Agent is already busy, they won’t have time for you. You may have to wait a short time but it is the best thing for you. Impatience can cost you thousands of dollars.

If the Realtor has an assistant or receptionist that always has to take a message, move on. An assistant that tries to connect me immediately, or offers to connect me to a cell phone, or tells me that “He’s on the line right now, but says he can call you back in 5 minutes”, gets my business. This assistant is trying to channel business efficiently. Don’t be put off if a busy Realtor cannot pick up the phone right away. Do be put off if it takes hours to hear back from them. Every exceptional agent out there is adamant about returning phone calls quickly. If it feels like the receptionist is protecting the inner sanctum from intruders, you may be talking to the wrong Realtor. You should expect to get through to your agent at least part of the time.

Excellent Realtors are strong and confident people. They know that they are smart. They know that they are skillful. They know that they are very good at what they do. They act confidently, and can appear to be know-it-alls. They usually have very strong opinions about their industry. But, do you really want a timid General leading you into a war? Not me, I’ll take the strong-willed leader every time. Arrogance is self-centered, confidence is not. If the Realtor is completely focused on my transaction but appears to be really opinionated about how to handle things, I am probably dealing with a confident individual, not an arrogant one.

You hear this all the time, but it is one of the best ways to find out who you are dealing with. Satisfied customers will thank their agent for doing a good job. It takes a very satisfied customer to write a letter. If you find an agent with a shelf full of thank you letters or testimonial letters, then this is probably an individual who will work hard on your behalf. He or she has already done it for other clients. Those clients were pleased enough to write a letter about it. There is not a stronger proof of excellence that I can think of.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this further with you. Feel free to contact me.

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