A great article was posted in Sunday’s Dispatch. Jim Weiker hit on some very important questions to consider when looking for a real estate agent.
Choosing the right real-estate agent makes all the difference
The right real-estate agent can make all the difference in buying or selling a home. But how to choose the right one? Homebuyers or sellers can look for agent reviews at the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List or real-estate sites such as Zillow or Trulia. They can also confirm that an agent is licensed at www.com.ohio.gov/real. After that, buyers and sellers should plan to interview candidates, just as they would contractors. Here’s what veteran agents say clients should ask.
For homebuyers and sellers
How well do you know the neighborhood?
If agents draw a blank on current listings or recent sales, they probably don’t know the market well enough.
Sellers’ agents must know the neighborhood to properly price the home against the competition. Buyers’ agents need to know the neighborhood to understand what to pay and what is available.
Do you have colleagues or assistants who can help?
Real estate is a 24/7 enterprise, especially in some hot-selling parts of central Ohio.
When an agent gets sick or goes on vacation, a buyer or seller could miss a deal if an agent isn’t covering during the absence.
How long does my commitment to you last?
Most central Ohio agents will want an exclusive six-month contract to represent a buyer or seller, although this can be negotiated. Be cautious of yearlong contracts, which are typically used for harder-to-sell properties.
Can I get a list of your most recent clients?
Agents are under no obligation to provide this, and some might balk because of legitimate confidentiality concerns, but references can be just as useful in picking an agent as they can be in picking a contractor.
What do you charge?
In central Ohio, a 6 percent commission, divided between the buyer’s and seller’s agents, is common, although the fee can sometimes be negotiated. Buyer’s agents are paid by the seller, but all fees must be clarified before signing a contract.
How will you market the home?
A sign in front and a spot on the Multiple Listing Service isn’t enough anymore. Multiple photos and, in some cases, videos draw eyeballs where it counts: online. Look also for agents whose listings appear on many sites beyond the MLS, such as Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.
Before interviewing an agent, sellers should check out the agent’s current listings online: Are they well-presented with high-quality images and inviting descriptions?
How many homes have you sold in the past year? How many listings do you now have?
Be careful of agents who sell only a few homes a year; they might not do enough business to stay on top of changing rules and trends. On the other extreme, sellers should be cautious about an agent who has dozens of listings, which could mean they’re too overstretched to give every home the attention it needs.
How quickly do your homes sell?
Days-on-market figures can be tricky because homes in different neighborhoods and price ranges don’t sell at the same pace. In addition, homes are often taken off the market and put back on, restarting the clock.
Still, sellers should seek agents who sell homes faster than the local average, which is currently about 70 days. Sellers should also be cautious about agents who boast of routinely selling homes in a few days, which might suggest they are underpricing the homes.
On homes you have sold, how close was the sale price to the listing price?
Homes should sell for at least 90 percent of the asking price. (The average central Ohio home that sold in May received 95 percent of its asking price.) Less than 90 percent suggests that agents are overpricing homes, and more than 98 or 99 percent suggests they’re underpricing. Be especially careful of agents who tell you they can get an exceptional price for your home — they might simply be seeking the listing.
How will you keep me informed about my house?
Feedback is crucial for sellers, especially those whose homes aren’t attracting offers. Make sure a clear communication plan will be in place.
How often do you represent buyers?
While some agents specialize, most represent both buyers and sellers. Buyers should look for agents who have a long track record representing their side of the deal.
Who will I actually be working with?
Big team agencies might assign new or young buyers to new or young agents. That might work fine, but buyers deserve to know before picking an agent who exactly will be handling their home search.
When will you be available to show me homes?
Buyers need an agent who is able to show them homes when the buyers are available to see them. A part-time buyer’s agent or someone with other commitments might not be there when buyers need them.
How many clients have you helped in the past year, and how many are you working with now?
Most individual agents should be able to comfortably juggle six or eight buyers at the same time, depending on where they are in the process. But agents working with more than 10 or 12 buyers might find it hard to give each one full attention.
What can you tell me about any special loan and other programs available for buyers like me?
The real-estate world is awash in special government and bank programs tailored to certain buyers — such as first-time homeowners, college graduates or veterans. An agent who understands those programs can be a huge resource.