How To Find A Good Agent

With so many agents to choose from you may feel overwhelmed. Their profiles are very similar and look like self-flattering assessments decorated with a smiley photo.

However, agents have diifferent levels of skills and experience. Finding a good agent takes some time and acumen. But first, we have to elaborate on agents a little more for better understanding how they work and what makes them so important when it comes to home buying and selling.

Who Are Agents, Brokers And Realtors

Real estate professionals working as agents are divided into three groups :

Sales Associate (or simply an agent) is a licensed home trade specialist. Every agent must have a broker. When you enlist an agent, you'll enter into a contractual relationship with a broker.

Broker - Broker's licence requires more qualifications, beyond those of an agent. A broker is an employer of agents and a manager, who can also work as an agent.

Realtor - Brokers and agents who are members of the Canadian Real Estate Association can acquire the designation of a realtor through further training and licensing. They have to comply with the association's strict code of ethics protecting homebuyers and sellers.

Should you give your preference to any designation when shopping for an agent? Not necessarily. Training and certificates have a secondary significance. The quality of an agent depends more on personal abilities, honesty and hands-on experience.

How Agents Can Represent You

Agents can also be classified depending on whom they represent in the transaction. Most of the time they work either as the seller's agent or the buyer's agent.

Seller's agents receive a commission from the seller when a house is sold. Buyer's agents get paid out of the seller's agent commission with a routine 50/50 split. Agents share the money their broker, who usually takes 25% of what they make.

Regardless of the role, the agent has a fiduciary duty to negotiate the best deal as possible for the client. But how much this noble principle is reflected by the reality depends on the agent's quality and integrity.

Sometimes the seller and the buyer will have the same agent, or two different agents reporting to the same broker.

This situation is called a dual agency. If you accept it, you'll give up on your right to the agent's undivided loyalty. That means the agent can't help you negotiate the price and the terms, or reveal to you any private information which may impact your decision.

Dual agents earn a full commission from buying and selling at the same time in a single transaction. Since it's very profitable you may end up being talked into a deal which doesn't serve your best interest.

How To Pre-Select Agents

While there're plenty of agents only a small portion of that crowd deserves your attention. The truth about agents is that 20% of them does 80% of business.

The elite stays on the top because they are experienced and honest, and provide genuine value with their services. Your aim is to recruit an agent within that group.

  • Fine agents get lots of referrals. They understand that making their clients happy is more important than chasing profits from sales. So look for leads within your social circle. Ask people around you if they can recommend someone who earned their trust.

  • Distinguished bios speak for themselves. When you read agent profiles on the web see how they describe own experience. Agents who don't tell how long they have been working in the profession have little or no experience.

  • Seek specialized services for specific needs, and you'll get a much better advice. For instance, select an agent working primarily in the neighbourhood where you want to live. Or don't buy a condo with someone who mostly trades family homes.

  • Established agents usually have some listings which they show on their websites. Look for a link called "my listings".

    If you only see links to something like "current listings" or "featured properties", it's almost certain that the agent doesn't have own listings. Such links are attention grabbers, aimed to attract buyers for homes listed by other agents.

  • Majority of agents are only part-timers, who have other jobs and hang around to score a deal once in a while. In fact, agents who don't close a single transaction within a year a common.

    At least 12 transactions a year makes a full time agent. Performance averaging between 12 to 24 deals, consistent for a number of years signifies a healthy balance of competence and care.

  • High volume of sales may look impressive, but agents trading 40 homes or more in a year may not have enough time for every client.

  • There are also real estate superstars with an astounding level of business, claiming to be the best of all. In reality, they target inexperienced home buyers and sellers, ignorant of the intricate nature of the process who can be easily maneuvered into a fast closing.

    These agents are good at making a great many deals but this may have very little to do with the quality of the assistance you will get.

    They usually work in teams, and all closed trasactions are ascribed to one agent. You would be served by a lower ranking agent you actually didn't hire and don't know anything about.

Once you compile a preliminary list of agents who caught you attention, send them a quick email. Explain you reasons and ask them two simple questions: How many homes did you sell and buy in the last year? How many active listings do you have now?

This will narrow your selection to a very few candidates. Invite at least three of them, one by one to your home to have a chat.

Meet Agents And Ask Questions

Right questions will help you to decide whom to hire. Otherwise, you may only be told what an agent wants you to hear, and that may not be enough to make a good choice.

  • Request references. Agents with a long employment record would readily show them to you. If you give up on contacting previous clients you'll simply deprive yourself of a very effective pre-screening opportunity.

  • Tell the agent to log into the MLS and run his or her performance report. Verify the number of transactions for the last year. If the report doesn't confirm what you've been already told, you simply caught the agent lying to you.

  • Than look at the reports for previous years. They'll deliver the naked truth about the agent's experience.

  • Click on properties which show up in the reports. You can find out where they were located. Learn the difference between the listing and selling price, so you can estimate how effective the agent is as a negotiator.

  • Another MLS report to ask for is active listings. No listings doesn't disqualify the agent. Competition among agents is fierce, and it's understndable the agent may not have any current listings when you meet.

    See how MLS active listings compare to those presented on the agent's website. If you discover that the agent misrepresents them you have a reason to downgrade that agent in your evaluation.

  • Make sure the agent whose volume of business is large has an assistant. Very busy agents can still do a good job if they have someone supporting them.

  • Test agent's knowledge about local markets you are interested in. Are they buyer's or seller's markets? How are properties priced? How quicly they sell, and what at what asking to selling price ratio?

    Did the agent answer your questions with confidence and clarity? Did he or she support own assertions with up-to-date sales data and recent examples?

  • Did the agent ask questions to learn about you? Mediocre agents will work just for anybody. True professionals are more selective, and they won't commit to someone who might waste their time.

  • Did the agent pay attention and listened to you carefully? Were you cut off in the middle of a sentence or distracted by agent's cell phone?

  • Working with an agent is an interpersonal experience. So, trust your gut feelings and don't take any chances. If he or she didn't seem to be someone you would be comfortable to entrust your business with, move on to another candidate.

If you are not a first-time home buyer and have a house to sell than there are more issues to think about and discuss with an agent before you sign a listing contract.

Why To Have An Agent

Agents possess tools, skills, knowledge and experience which you don't have. More specifically, if you hire one of them you'll be assissted by a professional who can provide the following services:

MLS - Agents have an exclusive access to the Multiple Listing System, where an overwhelming majority of home trades originates. It's the most effective real estate marketing resource, a database of properties agents use to sell and buy homes for their clients.

Although MLS listings can be seen online by everyone at, this website doesn't have the same quality. Not all MLS homes are listed there, and certain property details aren't available. This way agents don't give out all essential benefits of the MLS for free and keep their services in demand.

Furthermore, some publicly viewable listings are outdated. They serve the purpose of soliciting cold calls from potential buyers. So, instead of finding a house with you may stumble on an agent who tries to fish you.

Convenience - Hiring a pro will save your time. An agent will find you a house which meets your criteria, and sell your home if you already have one. You don't have to bother with making arrangements for viewing properties. All the hassle is on your agent.

Price - You'll receive a professional opinion on how much a house is worth, when you either buy or sell. Agents are trained to estimate home values with the Comparative Market Analysis (CMA), based on sales data for silimar homes in the same area.

CMA is a little less accurate than a full property apparisal, but still good enough to get you on the right track.

Guidance - Home trades are complex, often tricky. There're many pitfalls awaiting a novice which may have far reaching consequences, and you won't be alone throughout the whole process.

Transaction Quality - All decisions on how you sell or buy will be yours. However, your agent can advise you on transaction merits, according to his or her knowledge.

Negotiations - Someone who already closed a lot of transactions is most likely a better deal maker than you. Seasoned agents are well-versed in choosing strategies and arguments, and they know how to bargain with other agents.

Contract - An agent will draft you an offer or review it if you are selling. Then, he or she will take care of your contract. You will have an expert advice on what conditions you can make or agree to, and when they can safely be removed.

Coordination - There are many parties involved, as well a great deal of documents. An efficient agent, like a good manager will stay on the top of all proceedings to ensure a timely closing.

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