Don’t trust real estate agents.
Don’t trust the same promises you’ve heard a thousand times.
Don’t close your eyes and pick a real estate agent’s name at random—because not all agents are on your side.
Some agents just want to move properties. They encourage the quick buy or the quick sell. “It’s great! Take it!” “I know you don’t love it, but you can’t trust the market.” “Grab this while you can.” “Go, go, go!”
It works great for them. Their commission doesn’t change much, and they can close your deal and move right on to the next one. It’s like speed dating—but with your money and your home.
Freakonomics made a video about this type of real estate agent. It’s sobering. It’s disturbing. And to be honest, it makes me mad.
Here’s what a good real estate agent SHOULD do:
1) Guide you through the buying/selling process
Whenever you have a question, she should give you a straight answer. She should teach you all about the real estate market if you want to learn, and you should know exactly why she’s doing all the things she does.
2) Know your priorities
Your agent should be finding homes that work best for your specific situation—not just the homes that are convenient for him.
3) Look out for your investment potential
When you buy a house, it’s an investment. It’s likely the biggest investment you’ll ever make, so your real estate agent should be looking for something that she knows you can sell 10, 20, or even 30 years later and come out well ahead. This type of thing doesn’t do anything for agent herself (there’s no extra commission for picking a house with long-term value), but it’s a good agent’s responsibility to her clients.
4) Offer emotional support
Buying or selling a home is a turbulent, emotional process. A real estate agent should be your guide through the experience, and she should make the process as relaxing and enjoyable as possible.
5) Be a resource long after everyone signs the closing paperwork
Your interactions with a real estate agent should be a relationship, and not a relationship in terms of months—I mean in terms of years. If you have questions about remodeling four years down the road, or if you decide to relocate, or if even if you want some recommendations for what color to paint that living room wall, you should be able to call your agent—and those calls should feel like catching up with an old friend. That’s how we feel about them, anyway.
So how do you find a GOOD real estate agent? One who’s actually on your side and not simply out to make money?
1) Check the testimonials
You’ll find these on Yelp, Zillow, or personal websites. Don’t just look for positive reviews—look for why they’re positive. Did the agent go the extra mile? How was the emotional experience of working with her? Did she go out of her way to understand her client’s best interests? Did the client feel involved and informed?
2) Talk to past clients
This one is harder, but if you heard about the agent through a friend, ask that friend about his experience of working with the agent. Those personal stories can reveal everything.
3) Get to know her
If you look for a real estate agent the same way you’d look for a cable provider or a cell phone provider… you’re likely to end up with the human version of Comcast or Verizon. But if you take the time to know an agent personally—approaching it as a long-term relationship—you’re much more likely to find someone you can trust. Someone who cares about you.