Shopping for a Realtor

Check out these easy tips to find a realtor that's right for you.
By: Tara-Nicholle Nelson

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Step 1: Find the Candidates

Find your candidates from interpersonal relationships you already have, or ones that you create during the Preparatory Phase. Ask people you know who own or are shopping for homes in the same general geographic area where you want to live (a) who their Realtor was, (b) how their transaction went, (c) whether they keep in touch with the Realtor, and (d) whether they would work with the Realtor again.

There is no arbitrary number of referrals you must get; if your best and most trusted friend is a raving fan of their Realtor, it may make sense to immediately follow up on that referral and create a relationship with that person. When you call that Realtor and mention the name of the referral source and your relationship to that person, you will automatically be perceived by that Realtor as being more credible, more serious, more qualified, and less mentally ill (i.e., more deserving of their time and attention) than some random person off the street.

Besides referral, the only other method I advocate for meeting prospective Realtor candidates is attending homebuying seminars presented by local Realtors. The seminar will give you a chance to see the Realtor in action, gauge their comfort level with the material they are presenting, and start assessing the fit between their personality and yours. Public speaking ability is not a necessity in a great Realtor, but you will at least gain some idea of their professionalism and their ability to effectively present you and your offer to the seller in an articulate manner. Your Realtor's presentation to the listing agent or the seller might make or break your deal on the property you select.

Step 2: Check Them Out

Visit the websites of the Realtors to whom you were referred. Get a feel for the priority they place on technology, their business philosophy, etc.

  • Type their name into the license status check box on your state Commission or Department of Real Estate website. It should read that the Realtor's license is Active and has no history of discipline.
  • Give them a call, drop the name of the person who referred you, and let them know that you're looking to get started buying a home.
  • Mention the geographic areas in which you are interested and ask whether the person works in those areas.
  • Make an appointment for a face-to-face meeting with the prospective Realtor. If their office is in an inconvenient location, feel free to suggest a coffee shop or restaurant, your place or some other place where a private, unhurried conversation can be had.
  • Again, don't feel that you have to make appointments with 15 different Realtors. Make plans to meet with one or with five based on your comfort level during the phone conversation and the level of trust you place in the initial referral you were given.

Step 3: Initial Consultation

A good Realtor will have a set agenda or presentation for the meeting, which will involve many questions to assess your requirements and preferences. You can facilitate this process by providing the Realtor with your completed Homebuying Wants and Needs Checklist. If you just feel unprepared and empty-handed without a list of questions, here are a few you might want to cover during this session:

  • How much of your business is by referral?
  • How much of your business is working for buyers?
  • What areas do you work in?
  • How long does it usually take for a new buyer client of yours to find their property?
  • Can you refer me to a mortgage broker?

By the end of the conversation, you will want to do a gut-level assessment of whether you would trust this person with your closest confidences, and whether she exudes knowledge and professionalism. At the end of the meeting, if you would like to move forward and work with that Realtor as your representative, you will want to have a "loyalty" talk, discussing your level of commitment to working exclusively with that particular Realtor. The standard structure under which commissions are paid to buyers' agents sets up a dynamic which strongly discourages agents from investing much time or energy into buyer clients without some assurance of a loyal relationship. The basic dynamics of commissions and buyer-broker relationship can shed some light on how to inspire and secure a zealous commitment from your Realtor. 

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