There is one overriding quality you must demand when you hire the local agent who will be your partner and representative. It’s a quality you and you alone are qualified to judge. And it should be the final determinant—the last factor you consider before you make your final agent choice.
Now it’s true that in many instances, this quality isn’t even one you have to think about. That’s true when you have previously worked with a town agent who did what she or he had promised. When you’ve bought a home or sold one, been helped through successful negotiations, dealt with the unexpected snags with a minimum of disruption—and finally wrapped up the closing paperwork on schedule—you probably need search no further. It couldn’t be easier: pick up the phone, and voila! Your agent is on the job!
But if you’re new to the area; or previously had only a so-so experience with a local agent; or if your town agent is no longer available for some other reason, Job One before any selling or buying begins in earnest is the only part of the process that you will have to undertake completely on your own: identifying the agent who will serve you best.
When you choose a lawyer or accountant to represent you, a number of factors come into play that aren’t involved in choosing a real estate agent. With other professionals, their fee structures can be crucial. Although hiring the best lawyer in town can be out of reach for strictly financial reasons, that’s not true in real estate. If you’re buying, your agent’s fee come out of the seller’s proceeds—in other words, all town real estate agents, from best to worst, cost you nothing! If you’re selling, most agents work on substantially similar percentages. Another factor that plays a greater role in choosing candidates in other professions is convenience—where their offices are located. With real estate, everyone who actively works in the town area will make your location (or the addresses of your prospective next home) the focus of activity. The agent’s own location isn’t a determining factor.
So what is that final determinant? After you have interviewed the agents who seem initially qualified—what should be the decisive factor?
In the momentous enterprise that lays before you, the overriding factor has to be the degree of trust you feel in the individual who will be your teammate. It’s why you are the only one qualified to make the choice.
The process of buying or selling a home involves laying out your highest hopes and deepest reservations about home ownership—and trusting that between the two of you, the best opportunities will be uncovered, the best bargains struck, and all will be protected by properly executed documentation. Trust is the feeling you have for how the two of you interact—how the chemistry is there or is not. It’s how comfortable you feel when you are communicating, because you should trust your agent’s insight into your needs and goals, so that you can depend on the guidance he or she provides.
I hope when your next real estate venture is close at hand, you’ll make me one of your interviews. And if we’ve worked together before—welcome back!