5 tips to finding the perfect real estate agent.
1. Put your trust in the people you know
Word of mouth should always be your first port of call, as it may save you a lot of time and effort. Talk to your friends, family, neighbours, the owner of the local café – whoever you know that may be able to point you in the right direction towards an agent to suit your needs. It might be as simple as 2 or 3 people recommending the same agency, then you walking into their office and having a good experience. Sometimes it doesn’t take much, but personal stories from an agent’s clients of success, satisfaction and results, are extremely valuable. Much more valuable in fact than whatever your first impression is, or what the agent will say about themselves.
Generally, if someone has had a good experience, they will be more than happy to connect you with their agent. Don’t get caught out though – sometimes people’s positive experience can be just down to personality. ‘Oh we loved them’ doesn’t necessarily translate into ‘they got us the best price and gave us a great experience overall’. Ask what they loved about their agent specifically and be sure your contact can list what that agent’s service included, that helped them get the results they wanted.
2. What’s their cred in the local area?
Ideally, you’ve chosen an agent who has some experience in your particular location. If you’ve lived there a long time and your prospective agents claims to be well established in your neighbourhood and surrounds, then chances are you’ll have some common ground to explore. You should know some people in common, have kids or grandkids that went to the same schools, or maybe share a favourite local barista or pizzeria. These kinds of details give insight into how well they know the local market and exactly what they can offer in terms of insider knowledge. The personal insights mean they might have a foot in the door for new buyers to the market, or opportunities that may not have become public yet. In addition, though, they should be able to offer some real time insights about what’s been happening locally with regard to property listings, rentals and urban developments and future projects. Knowing all of this means they will help you price your property well and offer conviction to not accept offers below the true worth of the property, in that area at that point in time.
3. Find out about the agent’s history and experience
Nobody wants their property sale to be training ground for some agency’s new kid. When you meet with different agents, ask them a little about their history – how long they’ve been an agent for, how long they’ve been with their current agency, how long have they lived and/or worked in the local area? All of these questions will indicate to you just how informed that agent may (or may not) be about the local area and whether they have the expertise you need. Their experience in real estate is also important – their longevity in the industry will be signposted with all the market highs and lows, the Global Financial Crisis, recessions, changes of government and so on. All the kind of upheavals that will have tested their skills, deepened their insights and sharpened their instincts.
All the smooth talk in the world is nothing when compared to the experience of an agent who has had to navigate tricky financial markets, helped a bereaved partner sell the family home, sold a unit for a couple upsizing for a new baby, helped emotional empty nest parents cope and move on to something more practical, or witnessed dreams torn apart as fires and floods devastate regional towns. This kind of history creates perspective, understanding and resilience and an agent that brings those to the table will not only sell your house, they’ll become a trusted friend.
4. Check out the numbers
On the pragmatic side, you can always look at their stats – the numbers don’t lie after all. Most agencies will list their team members on their website and many sites will also include the properties the agent has recently sold, or has currently listed as well as what method was used to sell the property. If there isn’t enough information for you on the website, make some notes and ask them some specifics when you meet them in person or check agent reviews websites. Remember to make sure their experience is in line with your needs – if they have more commonly sold apartments than houses this may be an issue for your 4-bedroom family home.
Most will be happy to talk about their experience – especially if the results were great. Knowing the kinds of success, they have had selling properties locally in the last 12 months or so, as well as in the more distant past, will help you gain a more solid understanding of just how good they are. Not only should you get a sense that they can actually close the deal, but ideally also exceed their clients’ expectations at the same time.
It’s all well and good to choose an agent based on their merit, however you might not know initially just how much work they are currently carrying. Asking if they work independently or have close engagement with the office team will tell you what back-ups you have if you can’t reach the agent on the phone, or if they fall ill or have an emergency. Many real estate offices have close knit teams, who work with sophisticated software and communication tools that can provide you with up to date information as soon as you need it. This kind of supportive environment means you will get the very best if your agent and their team and be able to receive high level service even when they are tied up with other clients. Having a few people on board also decreases the chance of mistakes being made and things being missed or overlooked. Property sales can be quite complex and if an agent has a few going on all at the same time, having a savvy assistant or details person back in the office is imperative. This team focused approach also shows that your agent is realistic about the process and with the ability to share the workload, can approach your needs with more diligence and patience – a quality that is highly appreciated by seniors in particular.
5. Find out just how much bang you’ll get for your buck!
The crucial information you’ll need to find out is what marketing strategy they propose, how much that will cost, and what they are going to charge you in sales commission. Their initial property appraisal will be a good indicator to you of how aligned you both are on your property’s market value. Discussing their appraisal will also give you insights – what price you should set and why, what marketing would be involved and will it be included in the costs, what time frame do they think the property will be on the market for. It’s also useful to find out what kind of technology their company is using – some have adopted incredible tools that really streamline things and boost your property’s potential for a great result. Knowing all this helps you understand how the agents’ commissions work and puts their commission on your property sale into perspective.
In thinking over the costs, it’s also worth mentioning that spending more doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting the best service. Don’t be lured by fancy advertising and shiny things. Big name agencies, boutique agencies and agents out on their own are all doing the same thing – it’s how they do it that differs. Their own values to deliver you the best experience will shine through.