Most buyers struggle to find a quality realtor to assist them in buying a house, and it’s the realtors’ fault.  The national, state, and local associations are so adamant about protecting the new agents and giving everyone an equal chance, that they provide no help whatsoever to the general public. 

Their message?  When trying to find good help, you’re on your own.

So how do you get what you need?

Everyone tells you to ask around, get referrals from friends, go to open houses, go with a big company, go with a small company, new agent, old agent, kickbacks, etc., that it probably doesn’t matter where you get a realtor, what matters is how to evaluate them.

Here are my things to look for when evaluating a realtor’s ability to help you buy a house:

1. ASK ABOUT THEIR RECENT TRACK RECORD OF SALES – Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? 

Has the agent been able to successfully guide others to the finish line this year?  The best answer is 1-2 closings per month, if you want an agent who delivers personal service.  Any agent who sells four or more per month is slamming people into houses, and those at zero, well let’s face it, they don’t have anything of value to add to the equation.  Get a testimonial from a past client, and/or at look at the sales they’ve done and judge them to see if they were good deals.  (I’ve assisted 10 buyers with closing their sale this year).

These current market conditions are unlike any seen before.  If your agent has been closing some buyer transactions this year, they must have something of value to share.  Here’s what to look for:

2. ASK THEM, “WHAT/WHERE ARE TODAY’S HOT BUYS?  How they answer that will tell you just about everything you need to know.  If they give you a smart-aleck answer, they probably aren’t the right agent for you, only because they aren’t in the game.  If they can name one, at least they are looking at properties, and those are agents who can provide value – ideally your buyer’s agent is previewing property every day, in person.

3. THEY SHOULD ASK YOU QUALIFYING QUESTIONS – If they jump in the car without asking questions, their time must not be too value to them, and this isn’t a business where wasting a lot of your time makes for good quality realtors. 

4.  THEY SHOULD KNOW ABOUT FINANCING – I guess it’s alright if they just hook you up with their lender to get pre-qualified, but if they can ask/answer the qualifying questions themselves, it might help when it comes time to structure an offer.

5. HAVE THEM SHOW YOU SOME HOUSES – Go in their car, and if they don’t need a map to get around, you’ve found an experienced veteran.  It’s not guaranteed that they can help, nor is it required, but it’s a good indicator.  If they are pointing out specific sales/listings along the way (theirs or others), then they know the comps too, which is another great indicator.

6. EVALUATING THE PROPERTY’S CONDITION – They don’t have to be a general contractor, but they should be able to educate you about the property’s condition.  If all they do is point out that “This is the living room”, they’re not going to have much to offer in terms of added value, unless you don’t know what a living room is.

7. HAVE A VENDOR’S LIST – Successful agents know professionals to call to fix stuff – the more thorough the list, the more problems they have encountered.

8.  DO THEY CHARGE FOR THEIR SERVICE? – Ask about “transaction fees”, “processing fees”, or “compliance fees”.  These are junk fees used to pad their bottom line, and are not required.

9.  DO THEY INSIST ON HAVING YOU SIGN A BUYER-BROKER AGREEMENT? – Pass on those, unless you got married after having one conversation too.

10. “FORECLOSURE SPECIALIST” – Be very leery – we are all foreclosure specialists now.  Any agent who tries to make it sound like they have some special “foreclosure ability” is blowing smoke, unless they are listing REOs and not putting them on the open market.  If they don’t mind breaching their fiduciary duty to their bank-seller, they’ll sell you down the river in a heartbeat.

11.  SHORT SALES – I personally see 2-3 short sales every day that have already found their buyer before MLS input, and it is VERY frustrating.  These agents don’t care about their own reputation amongst their peers, and that alone should make you wonder.

12.  OFF-THE-GRID – Ask about what agents can do to find properties that aren’t on the regular websites.  Any positive response would be a good indicator, and any examples of closing one would be even better.

If they can get through those questions and you still like them, you found a good agent!

NEW AGENTS – A new agent’s zeal and availability can really help buyers who don’t have the time or willingness to search for properties themselves.  Want somebody to do the legwork for you?  Put a new, hungry agent on it, but there may be some struggle clinching the deal if there are competing offers.

OUT-OF-COUNTY AGENTS – You’ll be doing all the work yourself, so your own proficiency in being a realtor needs to be up to par.

RELATIVES – Many deals crash and burn, and hearts are broken over houses.  Want a relative to help you?  Make sure that you’ll accept never wanting to talk to them if they cost you the right house, at the right price.  

“GREAT TIME TO BUY” – If you hear that catchy phrase, just walk away. 

The inventory of quality homes at good prices is EXTREMELY LOW, causing the buying experience to be full of frustration and disappointment.  You can look for weeks or months without seeing anything attractive, so I don’t know why any agent would call that a great time.

REALTOR TEAMS – No problem, but don’t interview the big dog and then get passed off to the assistant without asking the same questions.  You want to be clear about who is helping you, and what you can count on.  In my case, I may have Richard or another KR realtor help me on occasion, but I’m still the main person in charge, and am responsible for your success.

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