In the spirit of contribution, collaboration and community, I am pleased to bring you this, the first of many partnership interviews with experts I love and trust to improve the value of your home.
How To Choose A Real Estate Agent
Ask agents to provide a list of what they've listed and sold in the last year, with contact information. Before you start calling the names, ask the agent if anyone will be particularly pleased or particularly disappointed.
With past clients, ask what the asking price was and then what the sales price was. If you are the seller, ask if these past properties are similar to yours in price, location and other features. What you want is someone who specializes in exactly what you're selling.
Another good question for sellers is: How long has the home been on the market?
2. Look up the licensing
States will have boards that license and discipline real estate agents in those states. Check with your state's regulatory body to find out if the person is licensed and if there have been any disciplinary actions or complaints.
Some states, including Virginia, Arizona and California, put the information into online databases that consumers can search. Be sure to check to see if your state has this information online.
3. Pick a winner
Peer-given awards count. One that really means something is the "Realtor of the Year" designation awarded by the state or local branch of the National Association of Realtors. These agents are the best as judged by their peers. That is a huge endorsement.
4. Select an agent with the right credentials
Just as doctors specialize, so do real estate agents. And even generalists will get additional training in some areas. So that alphabet soup after the name can be an indication that the person has taken additional classes in a certain specialty of real estate sales.
Here's what some of the designations mean:
• CRS (Certified Residential Specialist): Completed additional training in handling residential real estate.
• ABR (Accredited Buyer's Representative): Completed additional education in representing buyers in a transaction.
• SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist): Completed training aimed at helping buyers and sellers in the 50-plus age range.
If the agent calls himself a Realtor with a capital "R," that means he's a member of the National Association of Realtors. By hiring a Realtor, the most important thing you get is an agent who formally pledges to support the code of ethics.
5. Research how long the agent has been in business
You can often find out how long the agent has been selling real estate from the state licensing authority. Or, you can just ask the agent.
Ultimately, what you're looking for is someone who is actively engaged in a particular area and price range. You will want to know what knowledge of those two factors they can demonstrate and what kind of market presence they have.
6. Look at their current listings
Check out an agent's listings online. Two places to look are the agency's own site and Realtor.com, a website that compiles properties in the Multiple Listing Service into a searchable online database.
Most buyers start their search on the Internet, and you want an agent who uses that tool effectively. A key thing is an attractive presentation on the Web.
You also can look at how closely the agent's listings mirror the property you want to buy or sell. Are they in the same area? Is the price range similar? And does the agent have enough listings to indicate a healthy business, but not so many that you'd just be a number?
7. Ask about other houses for sale nearby
A good agent should know about other available area properties off the top of his head. Mention a house in your area that has sold recently or is for sale. If the agent knows the property and can give you a few details, that means he or she really knows your area. You want someone who is on top of the market.
Sam Lepore is a Realtor with Keller Williams in Moorestown, NJ. Call him today at 856.297.6827 ....