2011 Feb 14th

Finding a Great Realtor May Be Difficult, But Spotting a Bad One is Easy

Five Questions You Should Be Asking When Interviewing a Hoboken Realtor to Represent Your Interests

1.  Do You Have a Smartphone?oldphone

I actually spoke with a agent the other day who bragged that he did not own a smart phone.  He said he only checked his email when he felt like it.  That kind of swagger may work if your buyers and sellers are as technology-resistant as you are, but the majority of today’s buyers and sellers are very tech-savvy and expect instantaneous response.  The days of 24 hours being acceptable to respond are over.  Now, if someone emails me and I don’t reply within an hour, they’ll find another agent who will.  If you’re a seller and your agent is stuck in the mesosoic era you’re going to be hurt by that and miss out on potential buyers.  If you’re a buyer and your agent isn’t updating you with new listings and current data and market information, you may miss out on your dream home.

2.  Do You Have a Website, a Blog, a Facebook page and Do You Tweet?

Most agents utilize at least one of these technologies, but “just one” will not cut it in 2011.  Sellers’ agents should be utilizing technology to reach buyers through as many avenues as possible.  Buyers’ agents should be sprinting to get new listings into their customers’ hands before another buyer snaps up the property.  If your agent advertises your home for sale by sending a “Just Listed” postcard, that postcard is more likely to wind up in the recycling than in the hands of a qualified buyer.  I guarantee that qualified buyers ask their tech-savvy agents to text them the second new listings hit the market.  Those same agents  tweet new listings to their home-hunting followers.

A facebook page is a great place for an agent to share information about the market and the local community.  Twitter is a way for an agent to connect with his or her audience of followers.  If your agent’s idea of using twitter is to spam followers with nothing more than tweets of their own listings, and they use facebook to post those very same listings on their personal profile page –  they really don’t get social media.  Find an agent who does.

3.  How Many Listings Do You Have?  (More is Less.)

When an agent tells you they currently have 45 listings, your initial reaction might be “Wow, this guy (or gal) must be some super-duper agent!”  What it really means is that he probably has a team of people working for him, and that he devotes very little of his own time towards his customers after that listing agreement is signed.  If you’re comfortable dealing with the junior team member or non-licensed staff assistant then this type of arrangement may be fine for you when you sell.  However, if you want the agent you hired to take a hands-on role in selling your most valuable asset, you should seek someone with a manageable number of listings who personally sees to all aspects and details of your transaction  throughout the entire course of the deal.  How much personal attention can you reasonably expect to receive from an agent serving 45 masters at once?

4.  Do You Work Exclusively with Buyers, Sellers or Both?

Many agents are specialists.  Some work almost exclusively with buyers, while others only work with sellers.  (There are plenty who specialize in rentals too, but that’s a blog post for another day.)  They will pitch themselves to you as an “expert”, but in actuality they’re more like outfielders who can only hit and can’t field.  (Check out this HREN blog post from April ’09 about “5-Tool Realtors.”)  Working with buyers informs an agent of what buyers look for when they shop for a home.  The agent gets to see the buyers’ reaction to different home features and can see firsthand mistakes other sellers have made which turn the buyers off.   Similarly, working with sellers teaches a realtor what special features need to be pointed out to buyers and what pitfalls are to be avoided.   If possible, try to find a realtor with a balanced perspective  who understands the viewpoint of both the buyer and the seller or work with a team of realtors whose skill sets and experience compliment each other.

5.  References May be Biased, but Photos Don’t Lie

If you ask an agent for references, do you think he’s going to tell you to call the guy who thought he did an awful job?  Of course not!  References are often meaningless when produced by the subject of the referral.   Instead, ask the agent to email you links from the MLS to all his listings (not a sampling – all of them) for the past year.  Then read the descriptions and look at the photos.  You’ve heard me complain in the past about terrible photos and poorly worded descriptions.  Look at his actual work and determine for yourself if the listings show the degree of professionalism and attention to detail you would demand when selling your home.  Be wary if it takes him days to honor your request.  Proof reading, deleting typos and swapping out bad pictures takes time.  Sending links from the MLS is easy and takes 5 minutes max – if you don’t get an email by the next day at the latest, he may be doctoring his past work.  While you are at it, ask for samples of all his marketing materials:  flyers, signage, blog posts, market analysis, facebook posts, tweets, property websites, property videos, trulia, zillow, realtor.com, craigslist and any other internet postings he or she will be doing for you.  Yes, you should expect all of these services to help market your home.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about choosing the right realtor, and offered advice on asking the right questions when buying and selling a home.  Check out these gems from the HREN vault:

The 10 Worst Things About Hoboken Realtors

The 3 Most Important Questions to Ask When Selecting a Hoboken Realtor

The truth is, if you want to find a good realtor, start with one whose judgment you trust.  Someone who knows and understands both the Hoboken real estate market and the economics of the real estate market in general.  Someone who has a proven track record of excellence but who is not afraid of technology and who keeps up with the latest trends.  Someone with a well-rirounded financial, legal, economic and business-related background.  Someone who blogs and writes all of his or her own content and never relies on a paid, third-party service for content.  Someone who never rips off her ideas from other agents and who believes in honesty and transparency.  Finding a great agent doesn’t have to be difficult at all.  Sometimes the answer is staring right at you.

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