Buying or selling a home is a major decision in your life. Before you begin, find a professional you can trust. Your REALTOR® will be an important advisor during one of the most personal and exciting experiences of your life. It is OK to be very careful about choosing someone you feel comfortable with.
Look for the word “REALTOR®”
The first factor to understand is the difference between a REALTOR® and a real estate agent. The word “REALTOR®” can only be used by professionals who are members of the National Association of REALTOR®s (and, your local Association of REALTOR®s).
In order to be a member, an agent must agree to abide by a strict code of ethics based on values of competency, fairness, and high integrity. Among other strict standards, REALTOR®s can not be parties to any plan or agreement to discriminate against a person or persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.
An agent who has become a REALTOR® has committed to a higher standard of service and professionalism.
Interview potential REALTOR®s
When you meet a potential REALTOR®, be ready to interview him or her just as you would interview any person you might be hiring for a job. Here are some good questions to ask:
1. How long have you worked in real estate? Is real estate your full-time job? Real estate is a complex business. Experience and commitment definitely count.
2. Are you a licensed REALTOR®? Are you a member of the local MLS? Agents who cannot actually call themselves REALTOR®s have not sworn to uphold the profession’s code of ethics. REALTOR® members of your local MLS have access to all of the most current information and training on the real estate business. Members of the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service) can search through thousands of properties in your area to find a list of those that meet your specific needs.
3. How many buyers and sellers have you worked with this year? How many of them have “closed a deal” with you? “Closing” on a home means seeing the process through to the final details of the contract and the transaction. The average agent closes 10 to 15 transactions a year. A REALTOR® who closes on a lot of homes may be able to help you buy or sell a property much quicker than others. On the other hand, a REALTOR® who only closes a few transactions a year may have more time to spend with you. The choice is yours.
4. Do you have any assistants who work with you? What do they do? Some REALTOR®s have a team of staff people to help meet customers’ needs faster and more efficiently. If your REALTOR® does enough business to have assistants, make sure that the REALTOR® personally handles any negotiations including the contract and closing. It is perfectly OK for an assistant to handle paperwork and home tours.
5. Do you have any designations, certifications or special training? REALTOR®s learn as much as they can about the real estate business with continuing education. Some kinds of education result in special designations for the REALTOR®. For example, if you are interested in a historic home, there are agents who have special designations and understand the unique market conditions of the older home.
6. How do you stay in touch with your clients? If your REALTOR® prefers to send e-mail, but you want to be called on the telephone, the two of you will need to work out an agreeable communication plan.
Choose your REALTOR® carefully, but once you have chosen, stay with that person. Do not sign a buyer’s agreement at your first meeting with a REALTOR®. Wait until you are certain you have made the best choice.