Don't Just Find an Agent. Hire one.

A while back, I was approached by some buyers for an interview. They told me that they would be talking to approximately 6 agents before choosing one to work with. Now the average person may not know this, but it is very rare for a client to take up a formal interview process when looking for a real estate agent, so I was a bit surprised but happy to do so. Actually, I commended them for taking the time and effort to find an agent who would be a good fit for them. Upon meeting with them, they told me that not everyone had been so thrilled with having to be interviewed and, as a matter of fact, a couple of agents even bowed out. Surprised? I certainly was. That is, until I did some research. 

According to a study by National Association of Realtors®, 66% of buyers and 65% of sellers speak to just one agent before selecting one to work with. ONE AGENT. That means that two-thirds of the time, people hire the first real estate agent they speak with. Shocked? Yeah, me too.  

As a real estate agent striving every day to be exceptional at what I do, I must ask: Why is the bar so low for hiring a real estate agent? It would seem people are willing to put more effort into finding a good hair stylist than they are in finding a good real estate agent. Realizing this, it dawns on me that even the language we use to describe the process of working with an agent reflects this. "How did you find your agent?", is what we say. No one says, "How did you hire your agent?". But I think it's about time we did.  

So whether you're in the market for your first-ever agent or even a new agent, here are some tips for hiring the best real estate agent for you: 

1 ) Ask around. Just because your best friend's neighbor's sister had a great experience with her agent, doesn't necessarily mean they'll be the right fit for you, but it's a good place to start. Gather referrals from family, friends, and even neighbors and colleagues and after some quick online research, add the ones that rise to the top to your short list. 

2) Visit open houses. In some areas, the agent hosting the open house isn't necessarily the listing agent. Those agents are there to work with buyers, which means they are actively engaged in the market and eager to work with you. You also have the added bonus of a brief in-person encounter to see if you click. And if you don't, certainly be polite, but you have every right to move on and keep looking. 

3) Find a local expert. There is so much information available these days thanks to the internet and I say, use it! Keep an eye on listings and closings in your immediate search area and see if there are one or two stand-out agents representing buyers and/or sellers in that area. And if you can do a little further digging and find an agent that lives in your search area, definitely add them to your short list. 

4) Don't use the I-word. Now that you have a short list, it's time to interview the candidates. But here's the thing: don't actually use the word, "interview". Given that only 1 in 3 real estate agents hired are actually subjected to an interview process, the word "interview" might put some agents off (as demonstrated above). So instead, ask them to meet to "discuss their process". 

5) Key questions.

  • Ask how they prefer to work with buyers/sellers. Technology and therefore access to information have blurred the line as far as how and who keeps an eye on new listings.  Whether you prefer to do that legwork or you expect your agent to do it all, it's critical to set that expectation upfront.
  • Ask how they communicate with clients. Again, technology has proliferated our communication options, so if you're fond of a certain means of communication, it's critical that you ensure your real estate agent is willing and able to utilize it.  
  • Ask about the extent of their knowledge of the area you're looking in. 
  • Ask how many clients they work with at any given time. This will give you some insight into their availability. It's a difficult balance - you want an experienced agent, but not one that is so busy that you'll be talking to their assistant more than them. 
  • Finally, use the time to get to know them personally. You don't have to be BFF's with your real estate agent, but finding someone who shares your values and who you like spending time with can only help in what can be a complicated and sometimes tense process. 

If you had an experience with finding or working with an agent that others can learn from, please share in the comments below. Thanks in advance!