How Do I Find a Good Real Estate Agent?

By Martin Brown

sold smwI feel confident that as we move toward summer the housing market is going to improve so I want to start looking now while the prices are still depressed. I was wondering if you had any advice on picking a real estate agent? How do you know a good one when you find one?

I’ve house hunted with bad, and good real estate agents, and from my experience I would advise you to pick carefully.

In a nutshell, a good agent assists you in finding the home that comes the closest to what you are truly hoping to find. For the bad agents your needs are secondary, getting you into a property, getting a deal made, and getting their commission is the real priority.

I don’t know how many agents would agree that ever happens but in my experience, the bad agents outnumber the ones that really care. I’m fortunate that my wife and I found two agents, a husband and wife team, who have looked after our needs and found us a great property at a good price.

Knowing that I lack any journalistic objectivity, but confident that they would, as they have done in all our other dealings over a decade plus, give me the straight scoop, I sat down with Bill and Sharon McKeon, of Alain Pinel Realtors in  Greenbrae, California and asked them the very same question that you asked of me.

Says Bill: “If you’re searching for an agent, a good place to start is to talk to trusted friends who are pleased with the experience they had with their agent. Contact that individual. Better still, find two agents who meet that standard and interview them both.  Get a feel for how they work. You want an agent who will listen to your needs, who is a good adviser, and who will assist you in accomplishing your goals. Of course, it is also important to find an agent knowledgeable in the specific areas/locations where you are looking to buy. Additionally, the agent should be a skilled negotiator and a good communicator who will keep you, their client, consistently updated and informed.”

For the McKeons, the key issues are “trust, knowledge, skill, and professionalism.” I couldn’t agree more. Briefly let me tell you a couple of tales of other agents that we looked with before finding the McKeons, and you’ll quickly see the difference:

One agent we spent a good deal of time with reviewing our likes, and dislikes, what areas were, and what areas were not of interest to us, and more. She then proceeded to take us on a three-hour tour of everything we said that we did not want to see. When the McKeons said, “an agent who will listen to your needs” that’s what they were talking about.

The other red flag (and when you see your agent do this run, don’t walk,  away from that agent) is when you start feeling pressured to make an offer on any and every place you walk into. They pepper you with lines like, “You could turn this into a really lovely home,” or “you’ve got the potential to do great things with this property, it’s been waiting for someone just like you to come along.”

Don’t allow yourself to forget that the purchase of a home is a huge financial decision, if your agent sounds much like the guy who was pushing hard to sell you a washer dryer combination at Best Buy last week, chances are that’s not an agent you want to do business with. By contrast again, the McKeons, would say things like, “that’s not a fair price for the condition this home is in,” or “you should keep looking you can do better than this.”

To do right by their clients, realtors have to work really hard. There are, I’m sure, some cases where you find the right property at the right price, the first afternoon you go out looking. But in a competitive market, like the one we have here in Northern California, getting that lucky that fast is as easy as pulling a rabbit out of your hat. You need an agent who is willing to do his or her due diligence, and do it with patience and persistence.

And, as Sharon McKeon would add: “With a sense of humor helps, too.”

All the more reason to put some time in to picking the right agent for you.

Then, when you sit down that first night in your new home after a long day of unpacking, open a bottle of wine, and let it and yourself breath, you’ll realize the long journey was worth the effort. The right agent can be essential in bringing you safely to that one very special moment.


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