The process of selecting a real estate agent can be a daunting task for new home buyers. Often buyers will take the recommendations of family or friends or look for an agent using local commercial advertising.
Locating the right agent can ensure that buyers avoid many of the hassles which come with purchasing or selling their homes. The right agent can save a buyer time and effort, and cater to the specific conditions for a particular customer. Most buyers are looking to find just the right home, at a good price, whereas sellers are looking to get the optimal sale price for their home.
Once a prospective buyer/seller decides to start the process, they’ll find no shortage in ambitious agents eager to represent them. The key point here is to use discretion in finding the right agent for your particular real estate scenario.
The most common mistake people make, is looking for a particular home before they find the right agent. These customers immediately limit themselves, as there are usually agents assigned to the listing for your dream home.
Ambitious, savvy agents can trap potential customers, and be difficult to shake once they have discussed money details and a future transaction. Finding the right agent is essential to ensure a customer finds their dream home, instead of being part of just another sale.
Finding Your Agent
The first step to finding your agent is doing the right research about the market. Customers should consult family and friends that have recently had real estate transactions, find out what agencies they used, and their evaluation of the service they received and their overall experience.
Potential customers can also consult online reviews on local agents and agencies when deciding who would be their best fit. These steps can help narrow down the search to a few potential agents.
Once the list is narrowed, the customer should prepare a list of questions which can evaluate which agent is best for their particular situation.
Narrowing Down the Search
The list of questions for a potential agent should not be about “dollars and cents”, as it should give the customer a feel for the personality and level of professionalism of the agent. After all, the agent is working for the customer and not vice versa. Therefore, a comfortable personal dynamic between agent and customer is key.
Customers can break the ice by asking the agent to say a little about themselves. What are their strengths and weaknesses? Undoubtedly, most people will embellish their strengths and omit their weaknesses. However, the customer can still gauge how the agent answers these questions and how honestly they do so.
Information and Evaluating Your Agent
It is important to ask the agent to send you some information about their company or themselves. Customers should pay attention to how long it takes for them to send this information. Is the information presented in a professional manner? Is the information useful and informative to your situation?
What Information Matters in Your Decision?
A smart customer should want to know certain facts, such as how many houses they’ve sold in the past year. How long have they been in business? Experience is important, but it’s not everything. Such information helps a customer determine an agent’s success rate and their market reputation. Successful real estate agents sell a lot of homes, and in turn make a lot of customers happy. This is a strong signal for a good real estate agent, however success should not be the sole determining factor. Successful agents can be extremely busy and spread very thin amongst their client pool. This means that there is a high likelihood of success and a sale, while it may be harder for them to provide special attention to individual cases.
Specialization cannot be understated in a customer finding the right agent. What kind of homes does the agent normally deal with, and in which area of town do they primarily work in? Or is the business spread around? If you’re looking for a condo in downtown Ottawa you don’t want a real estate agent who specializes in country homes in rural areas. Likewise, a customer looking to buy a home in Orleans should deal with an agent familiar with that area rather than an agent who has the majority of their sales in Kanata.
Another good measuring stick can be the agent’s affiliation with reputable organizations or governing real estate bodies.
Is your agent apart of an organization like The Ottawa Real Estate Board? This board is further governed by a code of ethics provided by the national body CREA. (The Canadian Real Estate Association)
If the agent does have membership or affiliations with such accredited bodies, this can be a strong sign that they have a certain level of professionalism customers are looking for. Organizations like CREA have strict requirements and high standards to uphold. Therefore, those agents affiliated must uphold a certain level of service and professionalism to keep membership. This can be another great tool in filtering down potential agents.
Dollars and Cents, Getting the Bang For Your Buck
Buying or selling a home can be a complicated process. However, the primary concern with most customers is money. How is my money being spent? Am I getting the best “bang for my buck”? A good way to answer such questions is to look at an agent’s list price to sales ratio, which compares the listed price of the home and the price that the home actually sold for. There is a buyer list price to sales price ratio and a seller list price to sales price ratio. These ratios are a good evaluation of your agent’s negotiation skills, and can be seen as the most significant statistical value for determining which agent is right for you.
A buyer list price to sales price ratio that is furthest away from 100% is optimal. This means that a real estate agent representing a buyer would get the home’s final sale price as low as possible away from the listed price. A closer look at this ratio can reveal how much money your agent is saving you and where your money is actually going. For example if a house is listed at $500,000, but your agent closes your deal for $450,000, they have saved you 10% of the original cost.
The seller list price to sales price ratio which is closest to 100% is optimal. This means that the real estate agent selling the home got as close of a price to the list price as possible. Simply put, if your house is listed to sell at $500,000 and your agent sells it for the entire $500,000, the seller has received the best value for their real estate sale.
Having a Plan/Marketing Strategies
The final step in securing your agent is cementing a plan for matching you with a compatible buyer or seller.
Sellers need to ask questions like; what are the marketing strategies for my home? How are people going to see my listing? Options include online marketing, MLS, print ads, etc.
Buyers need to ask similar questions about the avenues agents are exploring to find their dream home. Where did they find this listing, and does it suit your desired location or price range? How will they find your dream home?
Making Your House a Home
For most people in society the purchase of a home is the biggest investment they will ever make. In order to ensure that this is a sound investment, people need to find the right agent for their particular situation. In order to get the right agent, the customer has to ask the right questions and do the necessary prep-work. If potential customers educate themselves on the realities of real estate and real estate agents, they can ensure they will choose the right agent. With the right agent, your house becomes a home, and not just another sale.