Finding a real estate agent is easy. Google will list dozens in seconds.
Finding the right real estate agent is hard. Especially when more than 5,000 agents serve San Francisco and less than 100 are selling more than a home a month.
A home for you and your family is one of the most important, and most expensive, purchases you will ever make. For this reason, you don’t want to settle for an average real estate agent. You want the best real estate agent—one who can sell your home for top dollar or beat the competition easily when you put in an offer. The right agent can mean the difference between the perfect home or a mismatched one, the best price or one that disappoints. But how can you make sure the agent you pick will find the right home and get the best deal for you?
The first thing home buyers and sellers usually do is ask people they know for recommendations, and then check out the agents’ websites. This is a good first step, and it will give you basic information including staff lists and bios, how long the agent has been in business, how homes are assessed and marketed, and so on.
But don’t settle for a scan of the website. To find the best agent, you’ll want to dig deeper, and for that, you’ll need to interview two or three agents and ask some specific questions. Now, wouldn’t you love a top-ranked real estate agent to tell you exactly what questions to ask? OK! Here you go:
1. How many deals have you done in the last 12 months?
Real estate is a practice, and like anything done over and over, you get more skilled and knowledgeable with every deal. To narrow down the field, start by asking how many deals the agent has completed in the last year. You’re looking for an agent who completes two or more deals per month, or at least two dozen in the past year. This ensures the agent is serious about the practice of real estate (not just a weekend agent) and has a proven track record to deliver the results you want.
2. How many of those deals were buyer deals? How many were seller deals?
For the best results, you want an agent or agency that’s strong on both sides. You’re looking for about a 60-40 split, with 60% sellers and 40% buyers, because the more listings, the stronger the agent’s name is in the community. If you are a first-time buyer with no existing home to sell, look for an agent with strong systems in place to assist buyers. You want someone who has a team of buyer specialists and won’t scrimp on time with you to concentrate on the listing business.
3. How many buyers or sellers does the agent work with at a time?
You want the agent to have an active clientele that suggests a sought-after agent with a good reputation, but not so many that the agent will be too busy to give you sufficient attention. If the agent has a team, ask if the team members are full time. If so, are they on payroll? Many agents these days claim to have a team when in fact they have relationships with other agents. These agents don’t have the same systems, goals or values, which lead to inconsistent results and confusion. Ask follow up questions to determine how much attention each client usually gets. Attorneys don’t typically try to run one-person shows and agents shouldn’t either. Find out more about who on the team is responsible for what so expectations are set clearly.
4. How big is the agent’s team?
Team size should depend on how many transactions an agent is doing. Since there are multiple skill sets needed to complete a real estate transaction we find that having team members who are skilled in different areas ultimately leads to the best customer experience and outcome. This allows the team to carry out two or more transactions per month and still give clients adequate individual attention. It also means the lead agent has staff with time to preview newly listed homes every week and to be in-the-know about “off-market” or unlisted homes. Agents who work alone may struggle as it is very time consuming to keep up with off-market inventory. Also, ask if the team works full time on salary, or if they are temporary, part-time, or contract workers. A team with full-time, paid staff is likely to have good systems in place to benefit clients, while those with more itinerant staff may not be as consistent with procedures and follow up.
5. Find out how homes are prepared for listing.
You want your house staged, of course, so it’s as appealing as possible to potential buyers. But you also want an assessment of your home’s physical condition and professional advice on what repairs and renovations might improve it. You also want those repairs and renovations to deliver a listing price that will result in additional profit upon contract and closing. Be sure to discuss these matters thoroughly with the agent. Some companies offer to pay for all the marketing prep fees up front with no cost to the seller until close. This can be very appealing. After all, why spend your money if you can spend someone else’s?
6. Ask about disclosures.
A thorough disclosure report can protect a buyer or seller against huge losses and save tens of thousands in negotiations. You want an agent who will prepare a complete and accurate disclosure report and walk you through the pros and cons of items like inspections. In short, choose an agent who is willing to take the time to advise you on all aspects of your sale or purchase.
Feel free to connect us to anyone you know who has questions about real estate in general. If we can’t help them, we know someone who can. Call us at 415-735-5867 for a no-obligation consultation. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.