How To Choose A REALTOR

Posted by Larry Tollen on Monday, October 26th, 2015 at 4:55pm

how to choose a real estate agent

With over twenty years working full-time as a Realtor I have often found myself wondering how so many people get hooked up with so many really bad Realtors and I've come to the conclusion that the reason is they don't take time to actually interview them. Thinking all Realtors are alike can lead to a lot of heartache and problems for the inexperienced home buyer or seller. It's comparable to believing all lawyers or doctors are the same so it hardly matters who you use.

Interview The REALTOR®

Having gone through numerous "interviews" with potential Buyers and Sellers I realize that even those that do want to interview and choose a Realtor often don't know what to really ask. Here's a list of five questions I think are the critical ones any home buyer or seller should ask.

How long have you been a full-time broker/agent? - If they haven't been in the business at least 5 years I'd say you're wasting your time. 80% of all Realtors don't last two years in the business and this statistic has been the same for over fifty years. Do you want to trust one of your largest financial transactions to someone who is either inexperienced or may not even be around two years from now?

Questions To Ask Them During The Interview

How many transactions have you closed in the past 6 months? The past year? Show me a report that verifies this. - If the agent you speaking with hasn't closed on average at least 1 transaction a month, then move on. The best agents close two or more transactions a month. As a consumer you need to verify this and the way to do it is to require the agent to print out a report from their MLS system showing you their closed transactions and the dates they closed. I'm not concerned about the dollar value of each closing, the fact that their closing deals is evidence that they know how to negotiate and get deals made.

What is the agents position is on "dual agency." In other words what happens if the you become interested in one of their listings and want to make an offer or if you are the Seller and they have a Buyer who wants to make an offer on their property. The majority of agents will proceed to give you a song and dance about how they then become “neutral negotiators” blah, blah, blah. It's time to look elsewhere. You aren't hiring them to be “neutral”, you're hiring them to represent your best interests. The truth is they aren't neutral when this situation arises they have but one thought in their heads and it's this,”What do I need to do to get these two knuckleheads to agree so I can keep the entire commission?”

How Do They Feel About Dual-Agency?

Dual Agency is a clear-cut conflict of interest. When I find myself in this position I step aside from both my Buyer and my Seller and my office designates a Broker who knows nothing about the Seller to the Buyer and one who knows nothing about the Buyer to the Seller and I am removed from the transaction. As a company we believe this is the only fair thing to do. Our clients (Buyers and Sellers) hire us to advocate for them and we acknowledge that if on nothing else but the price Buyers and Sellers have opposing perspectives. Do not accept agents who try to convince you otherwise.

If You're A Seller, Ask Them About Their Home Marketing Strategy

If you are a Seller, you'll want to know how they will market your property. Don't worry about print advertising, it's basically worthless. You want to be all over the Internet and you want premium positioning on the big three real estate websites. Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow. Premium positioning mean the agent is paying money monthly to these sites to promote their listings. Every listing is on these sites for free, you want your to stand out and if they aren't willing to pay what it takes to do this, then they probably aren't the agent for you. Ask if they use a professional to take pictures (I do), will they buy a home warranty for your home? (I do for all my listings) This is business and doing business costs money, if you agent isn't doing these things it's probably for one simple reason, their not making enough money and aren't successful. Move on.

Do They Have Time For You?

How available are you? - Understand a good agent is busy, they probably don't have a lot of time to waste and you need to respect this. They don't get paid by the hour, they only get paid when sales close. That said, they need to be readily available. I always have my smart phone with me and never travel without my laptop. It's not that I like working 7 days a week, but I constantly have multiple transactions working and need to be able to respond to my clients. My clients can reach me 7 days a week from 6AM – 6PM if needed, after 6PM I monitor calls but unless we're in the midst of a negotiation I probably won't answer. I'm a morning person, and my evenings are for my family and friends, other agents are night owls, the hours they work are less important than the fact that you can reach them any day of the week and that they will respond within a few hours.

I work in the Chapel Hill, Durham, Research Triangle area of North Carolina, if your interested in interviewing me to help you with your real estate needs. Larry Tollen Real Estate, Durham NC, (919) 659-5173

12 Responses to How To Choose A REALTOR

Automated Real Estate Valuation – What's behind Zillow, Trulia and Their “Estimates” wrote:

[...]Let's start by stating the obvious: Zillow, Trulia and similar sites are not Realtor sites per se. They are Internet sites and have no Realtors working for them. They don't need to; it's not what they do. They have Marketing, IT, Sales and other professionals working for them and use proprietary algorithms that sift through county tax records, compile statistics and then propose “estimates of value” which, in my opinion, are the least valuable of the service they offer consumers. Interesting tidbits of information but little more. These sits offer AVM's, or Automated Real Estate Valuations, that let you input a number of factors about your home
Studying tax records or the average price per square foot of homes you may consider comparable is possibly good for determining a down-and-dirty range that a home might sell within, but even that’s prone to faulty analysis. In my opinion, it's data without context.
Consider this fact: Zillow states that in my market (Chapel Hill – Durham - Raleigh) its “Zestimate” is within 20% of the actual sales price four out of five times. So on a $250,000 house Zillow is within $50,000 of the actual sales price only 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time they miss by more than this. I wonder how long they'd last in a place like Vegas with that record?
How Accurate Are Online Real Estate Valuations?
Without having personally seen each home that's sold and only studying the numbers these online estimating programs fail to account for countless differences. For example: the lots. In every neighborhood not all lots are equal; some are more desirable or larger or offer some special feature. These algorithms also fail to consider the quality and condition of a home’s features: flooring type, kitchen updates, overall functionality, room sizes, whether the roof is old or new (and what kind it is), heating and air conditioning equipment, and so on. The algorithms don't care if the bedroom is 9x11 or 15x14. A four bedroom, 2.5 bath home is the same in these “estimates.” (Though total square footage is given weight as are agent or owner inputted information which may or may not be totally accurate) There's a long list of very important items that impact overall value missing when only studying average sales price per square foot or using tax record data.
Consider that it typically takes me several days when I'm asked to list a home to prepare a market analysis for the home. A lot of work that goes into making certain I use the right comps and adjust for differences, in much the same way an appraiser would.
Using Real People To Make Real Home Valuations
My office brings in appraisers every year to talk with us about the values they use when making adjustments. Active Realtors have seen many of the homes we use in comps or we know exactly who we can speak with to get the detailed information we need to honestly compare two or more homes. The difference between a great Realtor and an average Realtor is always experience. Knowledge of the market, the products we offer and how to prepare a realistic, useful market analysis is critical.
Market analysis is also important when I'm wearing my Buyer Broker hat. I take time to do a good deal of analysis so that I can show my buyer clients what the true market value of a particular property may be. In the past couple of years I've negotiated between 0-20% of the over 50 homes I've sold. The lower the discount the better the listing agent and owner did of pricing the property correctly. There's no reason to overprice a home (though a significant majority always are). Overpricing always works against the seller. Of the 50 plus sales I mentioned earlier the average discount was between 4-7%.
Trulia, Zillow and other similar sites do have lots to offer: great trending analysis, forums where the public can interact with real agents and get questions answered both specific and general in nature. They provide easy access to lots of great information, though like everything else, there are limitations and that's why ultimately home buyers and sellers are better off working with an experienced local Realtor who can offer the most accurate analysis possible.
If you're curious as to how to find a great REALTOR, check out this link, How to Choose a REALTOR.[...]

Posted on Monday, November 2nd, 2015 at 5:07pm

North Carolina Discount Brokerages: Why You Should Avoid Them At All Costs wrote:

[...]price and make sure that your largest financial transaction is a successful one. Here's a link on How to Choose a REALTOR
Larry Tollen and the team at My NC Homes are eager to help you with and and all of your real[...]

Posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 at 6:26pm

Getting Exactly What You Pay For - Beware the Discount Buyer Broker wrote:

[...]about using a Discount Buyer Broker? Here's a link on how to find a great Realtor in Durham... How to Choose a Realtor. If you are looking for a home in the Durham, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough area, send a message online[...]

Posted on Tuesday, November 17th, 2015 at 6:50pm

Common Mistakes Of First Time Homebuyers wrote:

[...]I do this for one reason only, it's to both my and my Buyers advantage. Realtors are no different, choosing the right Realtor will ensure you don't pay more than necessary for the property you're buying, will simplify the[...]

Posted on Monday, November 23rd, 2015 at 3:28pm

Common Mistakes Of First Time Homebuyers wrote:

[...]I do this for one reason only, it's to both my and my Buyers advantage. Realtors are no different, choosing the right Realtor will ensure you don't pay more than necessary for the property you're buying, will simplify the[...]

Posted on Monday, February 8th, 2016 at 1:27pm

Getting Exactly What You Pay For - Beware The Discount Buyer Broker wrote:

[...]about using a Discount Buyer Broker? Here's a link on how to find a great Realtor in Durham... How to Choose a Realtor. If you are looking for a home in the Durham, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough area, send a message online[...]

Posted on Monday, February 8th, 2016 at 1:30pm

North Carolina Discount Brokerages: Why You Should Avoid Them At All Costs wrote:

[...]price and make sure that your largest financial transaction is a successful one. Here's a link on How to Choose a REALTOR
Larry Tollen and the team at My NC Homes are eager to help you with and and all of your real[...]

Posted on Monday, February 8th, 2016 at 1:35pm

Automated Real Estate Valuation – What's behind Zillow, Trulia and Their “Estimates” wrote:

[...]Let's start by stating the obvious: Zillow, Trulia and similar sites are not Realtor sites per se. They are Internet sites and have no Realtors working for them. They don't need to; it's not what they do. They have Marketing, IT, Sales and other professionals working for them and use proprietary algorithms that sift through county tax records, compile statistics and then propose “estimates of value” which, in my opinion, are the least valuable of the service they offer consumers. Interesting tidbits of information but little more. These sits offer AVM's, or Automated Real Estate Valuations, that let you input a number of factors about your home
Studying tax records or the average price per square foot of homes you may consider comparable is possibly good for determining a down-and-dirty range that a home might sell within, but even that’s prone to faulty analysis. In my opinion, it's data without context.
Consider this fact: Zillow states that in my market (Chapel Hill – Durham - Raleigh) its “Zestimate” is within 20% of the actual sales price four out of five times. So on a $250,000 house Zillow is within $50,000 of the actual sales price only 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time they miss by more than this. I wonder how long they'd last in a place like Vegas with that record?
How Accurate Are Online Real Estate Valuations?
Without having personally seen each home that's sold and only studying the numbers these online estimating programs fail to account for countless differences. For example: the lots. In every neighborhood not all lots are equal; some are more desirable or larger or offer some special feature. These algorithms also fail to consider the quality and condition of a home’s features: flooring type, kitchen updates, overall functionality, room sizes, whether the roof is old or new (and what kind it is), heating and air conditioning equipment, and so on. The algorithms don't care if the bedroom is 9x11 or 15x14. A four bedroom, 2.5 bath home is the same in these “estimates.” (Though total square footage is given weight as are agent or owner inputted information which may or may not be totally accurate) There's a long list of very important items that impact overall value missing when only studying average sales price per square foot or using tax record data.
Consider that it typically takes me several days when I'm asked to list a home to prepare a market analysis for the home. A lot of work that goes into making certain I use the right comps and adjust for differences, in much the same way an appraiser would.
Using Real People To Make Real Home Valuations
My office brings in appraisers every year to talk with us about the values they use when making adjustments. Active Realtors have seen many of the homes we use in comps or we know exactly who we can speak with to get the detailed information we need to honestly compare two or more homes. The difference between a great Realtor and an average Realtor is always experience. Knowledge of the market, the products we offer and how to prepare a realistic, useful market analysis is critical.
Market analysis is also important when I'm wearing my Buyer Broker hat. I take time to do a good deal of analysis so that I can show my buyer clients what the true market value of a particular property may be. In the past couple of years I've negotiated between 0-20% of the over 50 homes I've sold. The lower the discount the better the listing agent and owner did of pricing the property correctly. There's no reason to overprice a home (though a significant majority always are). Overpricing always works against the seller. Of the 50 plus sales I mentioned earlier the average discount was between 4-7%.
Trulia, Zillow and other similar sites do have lots to offer: great trending analysis, forums where the public can interact with real agents and get questions answered both specific and general in nature. They provide easy access to lots of great information, though like everything else, there are limitations and that's why ultimately home buyers and sellers are better off working with an experienced local Realtor who can offer the most accurate analysis possible.
If you're curious as to how to find a great REALTOR, check out this link, How to Choose a REALTOR.[...]

Posted on Wednesday, January 11th, 2017 at 10:48am

Leviticus Bennett wrote:

I like your idea to ask how many transactions they've closed recently. I think it's also a good idea to ask if they can provide referrals of previous clients. Getting in contact with them can give you some great insights on the realtor.

Posted on Friday, March 24th, 2017 at 2:07pm

Max Jones wrote:

My wife and I have been looking at a few different homes for sale for a while now, but its such a hard process for us, and I wish we had help. I think that getting a realtor and being able to ask them questions to make sure you want to work with them is a great asset to finding homes for sale. I really liked your suggestion to ask about how many closings a realtor has had in the last 6 months, and I think this will probably help us get a good gauge on whether or not we want to work together! Thanks for the tip!

Max, you're welcome and I definitely would advise any buyer that working with an experienced Buyer Broker is to their advantage in terms of saving time, (frequently money) and having a professional to consult with and guide them. Happy House Hunting - The My NC Homes Team

Posted on Thursday, May 18th, 2017 at 1:21pm

Jade Brunet wrote:

My cousin recently got a new job and is now looking to sell her home. She wants to find a great realtor to help her get the job done. It is good to know that one should ask potential realtors about how many transactions they have had in the past 6 months. This would give you an idea of the agent's success rate.

Jade glad you liked the article and found it useful. Best of luck to your cousin.

Posted on Thursday, June 1st, 2017 at 2:06pm

How To Buy Your First Home In North Carolina wrote:

[...]with won't accept a 30-90 day agreement, that's reason enough to keep looking. I've written about choosing a great REALTOR before.
I hope this information proves useful and I wish you all, “Happy House Hunting.” If[...]

Posted on Wednesday, December 20th, 2017 at 4:56pm

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