Interviewing a Real Estate Agent

What are the most important skills and resources you offer your clients?

Real estate is an incredibly complicated business involving very large sums of money, and, since it often involves your home, not uncommonly the security and happiness of you and your family. Your agent should be able to clearly explain what it is they bring to the table on your behalf. First and foremost, should be the commitment and ability to protect and represent your interests above all others—to find you a great home at the best possible price and terms. Are their other qualifications focused on helping you? Do you get the sense they are consummate professionals in the business? Do they listen carefully to your wants, needs and circumstances? Do they seem to be a good personality match for you?

What is your area of expertise?

When buying in San Francisco, you want a Realtor® who works San Francisco. Out-of-town agents are bad representa­tives. No exceptions. Everything about real estate is specific to location: values, community, legal issues, the different options in property type and neighborhood within a given county. No agent can be an expert everywhere. You deserve an expert to represent you.

Tell me about the last deal or two you closed?

This is an excellent open-ended question to help you determine how the agent works, their enthusiasm for the business, what they focus on as important, the skills they bring to bear for their clients, and how they interact with clients and other parties during the transaction. Do they completely and calmly own and manage the process? Do they negotiate effectively? Work hard and make special efforts? Good at explaining options and strategies? Motivated by doing a great job for their clients?

Why are you with the brokerage you’re with?

Brokerage firms come in many qualities and it can be insightful to know why your agent chose theirs. Did they pick it because it allows them to provide a higher level of service and resources to you? Are they focused on reputation, exper­tise, ongoing training and skill improvement, liability management and integrity?

Is this your only career?

Many real estate agents are also mortgage brokers or have other second careers. Some are part-timers. This is a very bad sign for a transaction where so much money is at stake. Real estate is a business which takes all of a good agent’s professional time, energy and resources to do the job right. You don’t want, and don’t deserve, an amateur or part-timer. Pick your real estate agent like you would your financial manager or attorney—hold them to that standard. What would you think if your attorney also sold cars? Would you want your sister-in-law—who went to law school 10 years ago, but never practiced law—to defend you in a big, complicated lawsuit?

References, References, References!

The best indication of the job an agent will do for you is the job they did for past clients. According to the bestselling book, Home Buying for Dummies, good agents: educate you; don’t make decisions for you; tell you when you need to consult other experts; restrict themselves geographically; are full-time professionals; have contacts for skilled, high integrity resources; and have the time to serve you properly.

Do they love what they do?

People who love what they do are not only much more enjoyable to work with, but that love shows up in the time, energy and attention they invest in the practice of their business. If you have the choice, pick an agent who clearly loves the business of helping people fulfill their goals in real estate.

Buying a home is typically one of the largest, most complicated—and often,
most emotional—financial transactions of one’s life. You deserve a qualified agent.

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