I’ve been a little delayed in posting on the blog because I was busy with work that kept me on the road a lot AND I was also celebrating turning the big 3-0 last week. I actually wasn’t planning on celebrating, really, because it is just another birthday and, frankly, I was tired. Though it doesn’t seem like it based on how the week shaped up…… My birthday week consisted of a pizza and pajama party at my house with family and friends (never too old for good ol’ fashioned fun!), finally meeting the baby of some good friends, dinner at Vinoteca and seeing Lorde and Lo-Fang concert in D.C. with friends (great show!), trying out the new Highland Inn with friends (food was amazing!), and then capped the week off at B & O Brasserie for dinner before seeing The Book of Mormon in Baltimore (such an amazingly entertaining show!).
Since I’d like to look at 30 as the new 20, I’ve been inspired to make a personal list of 20 things to consider when looking for in a real estate agent (in no particular order!) whether buying or selling:
1. Personable – You are going to be spending a significant amount of time with your agent and you will want to consider whether you ‘gel’ both professionally and personally. I find that I am naturally pretty personable. It’s just how I am. I think I get it from my Dad. I don’t need to be best friends with my clients, though sometimes I am 🙂 However, I find it important to get with them on a personal level so I know where they are coming from. It helps me to gauge their needs and determine what’s best for them. It is also good for them to know where I am coming from as well. I have shared weddings, anniversaries, deaths, birthdays, friendships, and babies with many of my clients throughout the years.
2. Knowledgeable – They don’t have to have been in the business for 20+ years to have knowledge and they don’t have to know everything…yet. The number of years that one is in the business doesn’t necessarily equate to knowledge. I believe knowledge is gained through experiences and education. You may find that the agent with less years may do more transactions in a year than someone who has had their license for longer. I learn so much from each transaction. If there has ever been a time when I did not know something, I went and found out. Your agent doesn’t have to know everything, but they need to be willing to admit it, and then help you find the answer.
3. Responsive – Does it take days to respond to a voicemail, text, or email? Think about if that is the kind of response time you would like when you found the home of your dreams and you’re waiting to hear back from your agent as to when you can meet to put together an offer. This brings me to another point…never assume that they got the message. If you don’t hear from them via email, please follow up with a call and leave a voicemail message. Between junk folders and phone issues, you never know!
4. Local – They should be familiar with the area in which you are looking to purchase and/or sell a home. This does not mean they have to actually live in the same neighborhood, city, or even county to serve you well. I cross-county serve all of the time. I am a Maryland native (for 28 years of my life) and I have dined, visited, and driven throughout much of the state. There are some places that I will not service because of distance or because I feel that my lack of knowledge in that area or with the type of property is a disservice to my client. I receive calls from a lot of agents outside of their service area who want me to let them into properties (because they don’t use the same systems we do) with their clients or who want me to show their clients the property because they are “too far away”. This is an example of what you do not want from your Buyer’s agent. If you are on the selling side, make sure that the agent adequately services your area and will market the home in your area. When I receive a referral or inquiry from someone who is looking to buy or sell in an area I don’t service, I am able to refer them to someone who does, and will take care of them.
5. Full Time – Do you need to see a “hot” house that just popped on the market on your lunch break and your agent is still at their day job? I take real estate seriously. It is my career. It is not a hobby. There is more to a real estate than opening the door for someone on the weekend. It is a full time job and there are issues that may pop up in the middle of a transaction that cannot wait until 5:30pm to be handled. Especially when many of the real estate partners (i.e. lenders and title companies) are closed after 5pm. You want your agent to be able to answer your question in the middle of the day and not have to whisper under their desk on their phone because they don’t want their boss to hear. If you were to interview any of my current and past clients they would say that I definitely do this full time.
6. Hungry – You want an agent who likes to eat (me!). Oh, and also one that is hungry for business. Doesn’t wait for things to happen but works to make them happen. Also, likes to eat 🙂 They can recommend some great restaurants no matter where you move to!
7. Professional – How they conduct themselves, communicate, and even……dress. I’m always dressed professionally. Even if it is only to show one house or pop open a lock box. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some sweat pants, but would you like your surgeon to roll up in sweat pants?
8. Dedicated – They will do whatever it takes.
9. REALTOR® – Are they a REALTOR®? Not every real estate agent is a REALTOR®. A person who is a REALTOR® is a member of a local, state, and national association. I am a member of the Howard County Associaton of REALTORS®, Maryland Association of REALTORS®, and National Association of REALTORS®. As a REALTOR®, I have a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice that I adhere to.
10. Active – Are they active in the business or do they do one transaction every now and then? You want to work with someone who is actively engaged in the business. This business and the market are constantly evolving and changing. There is constantly new legislation being introduced that affects homeowners and real estate transactions. You want to work with someone who is on top of that. There are always new contract addenda that are needed when writing an offer or need to be included in a contract. You want to work with someone who is up to date on that and who knows what needs to be included.
11. Well-Versed – Have they worked with both Buyers and Sellers? I work with Sellers, Buyers, Landlords, and Tenants (never in the same transaction!). I think it has made me well-versed during a transaction. When I am working with a Seller and have listed their home, my experience working with Buyers has helped to anticipate what Buyers will think when they walk into a home or even how they will react when negotiating. This serves the same when I am representing Buyers.
12. Company – Who does #2 work for? (Austin Powers reference) It is important to know which company the real estate agent works for. Do they have a presence in the market? (Especially when Selling your home) Do they have a good reputation? I work for Long and Foster Real Estate, Inc. the largest independently owned real estate company in the U.S. I am also on The Creig Northrop Team, the #1 Real Estate Team in Maryland.
13. Marketing & Tools – Do they have a marketing plan? This is especially important when you are considering selling your home. Make sure they have a vast marketing plan for your home. Do they target both print AND internet marketing? How do they reach the masses? What is it that they do that no one else does? When representing you as a Buyer’s agent, do they have some tech tools that you can use to help in your home search? That’s always fun.
14. Involved – Are they involved? While many will say that this is not a requirement, I definitely think it is something to consider. Perhaps, an added bonus. An agent who is involved within their REALTOR® associations tends to be more informed with upcoming legislation affecting homeowners and real estate transactions and often hears about it before it comes to fruition. They also have access to various classes, leadership academies, and seminars. I am involved in both my local and state associations. It is a way for me to serve my fellow REALTORS® and homeowners. I also think it is important when a REALTOR® is involved in their community. They’re giving back and serving the community that serves them. I volunteer with various organizations throughout Howard County and some that cross-county lines.
15. Referral – Someone referred them for a reason. If you have a trusted friend, co-worker, family member, acquaintance, etc. ask them if they have a real estate agent they can refer to you. While they may not have necessarily bought or sold a home, they may know someone who has. A majority of my business are referrals from past clients, friends, family, and acquaintances. I love it!
16. Relationships & Network – Do they get around? Get your head out of the gutter…by that I mean: do they know a lot of people in the business/industry? Do they have a good network of reliable contractors they can refer to you, flooring company, plumbers, lenders, title companies, etc? Also, do they have good working relationships with other agents…because those other agents will be on the other end of your transaction.
17. Available – “Sorry I’m not home right now”. Hopefully your agent is available to meet with you and talk with you. Hopefully they’re not on vacation months at a time and hopefully they’re available on some weekends, during the day, and evenings (gee- that’s a lot of hoping!). They shouldn’t be at your beck and call but they should be able to work with your schedule as much as you should work with theirs. Don’t misinterpret this though (whether I actually practice this is one thing!): Real estate agents need down time. Yes, your agent is going to go away, spend time with family, and maybe occasionally eat dinner and every now and then…sleep.
18. Education – Elementary my dear! All agents are required to take continuing education every couple of years – agency, fair housing, ethics, etc. It is always a bonus when your agent has some extra credentials, such as an Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR®) or Short Sale Foreclosure Resource (SFR) specialist, to name a few. I have both of those and graduated from the Maryland Assocation of REALTORS® Leadership Academy in 2012. The other facet to this piece is that it is important that your agent educate you on the market and the home buying and selling process.
19. Communication – Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? It is important that your agent communicate with you in the way that you like to communicate. There are some topics and discussions that are better suited for email and others via phone. Your agent should communicate with you throughout the entire process. It is also important that they have good communication skills with outside parties, such as lenders, title companies, insurance companies, etc.
20. Honest – Honestly, that’s it.