Sunday, February 18, 2007

Real Estate Agent Selection Primer—How to Choose the BEST Realtor for YOU! (Part One of Two)

The Twin Cities Fox News affiliate’s investigative team recently ran a new segment on mortgage and real estate fraud. A man was allegedly bilked out of nearly half a million dollars by a loan officer and real estate agent he met in a bar! The story is not a new one but what struck me was the “in a bar” statement. How many people are selecting their advisor on real estate over a beer in the local tavern? Let’s think about this a minute. One of the biggest, most important investments in a person’s life and they rely on an acquaintance in a bar? I hope they at least ordered some appetizers before they signed the contracts!

The average American will buy or sell a home only 2-3 times during their lifetime. It is imperative to have a logical process to select a real estate agent. Purchasing and selling a dwelling for your family is a very emotional situation. If you chose an agent wisely, you will be confident that your Realtor is on your side through the entire purchase and/or sale even when emotions are running high.

As a Realtor in Minnesota, I love assisting people to find the perfect home. My clients come from the referrals of past clients as well as open houses and other marketing avenues. When I meet a potential client, I expect questions about myself and my business. I answer additional questions about the Twin Cities metro real estate market and specifics about homes available. Not all of these potential clients ask relevant questions. They can already be caught up in the emotional buying process or a major life change. Here is a great step-by-step approach to selecting the perfect Realtor for you. Part one of this article outlines how you can prepare yourself to set up meetings with potential Realtors. Part two will give you specific questions you can ask of potential agents so that you can make a good decision.

Step ONE
Ask YOURSELF these six questions?

Who do you trust for advice?
Is it a parent or grandparent? Maybe a close friend or uncle? Or is it your sibling or boss? Think about the qualities that person possesses and why you look at them as an advisor. If your trusted advisor is your grandfather, you might prefer working with someone older. If you tend to bring your problems to your best friend, you might want a Realtor with similar characteristics to your friend.

How demanding are you?

If you are an impatient person who needs answers as soon as you think of a question, you will need a Realtor that is available to you. If you are more laid back, you might prefer a Realtor with a similar style.

Do you prefer to use email or the phone as your main source of information?

Some Realtors are very computer savvy and will answer an email within the hour. Others answer emails once a week or less. There are Realtors who return calls only one time a day or week. There are others that always answer their own phone and others that have an assistant to field calls and answer basic questions.

Are you into gadgets?

If you are listening to your Zune while you surf the net on your wireless laptop, you might prefer working with an agent who presents your market analysis in a Powerpoint presentation or emails it to you in a pdf file. If you prefer a paper document to refer back to and make notes on, a Realtor with more a more traditional style might be what you need.

Do you have expensive tastes and exclusive brands? Or are you more conservative?

If you like the finer things in life, you might prefer a Realtor who drives a BMW and signs your contract with a Mont Blanc pen. If you are more conservative, a Realtor in a Ford F250 that uses personalized ballpoints might be more your style.

Step TWO

Now that you have answered these questions, you have a bit of an idea as to what you are looking for. Armed with this information, it is time for the second step. Research websites of potential agents BEFORE you meet them. Read their profiles and determine what their style is. If you cannot ascertain their style from their site, move to the next agent. There are hundreds of good agents out there. But if they cannot market themselves, how will they be able to market your home? Come up with a list of 4 or 5 potential agents and visit your state’s department of commerce website to check for violations on each potential agent’s record. Also, check independent local sources like the Mpls/St Paul Magazine’s listing of Super Agents.

Now you are ready to interview the potential agents. Get some great questions ready so that you can find the best Realtor for you. Having trouble coming up with great questions? Real Estate Agent Selection Primer—How to Choose the BEST Realtor for YOU! (Part Two of Two) will give you some advice.