With real estate transactions diminished by somewhere between one-third and one-half from their peak levels and home prices down 30 percent, a large number of agents — thousands in Los Angeles — are working a much smaller pool of buyers and listings these days.
The good news for sellers and buyers: You can be a lot more selective than before.
Unlike most jobs where those who are more accomplished command higher fees, the best realtors receive essentially the same commission as someone who just passed their real estate exam.
Since cost isn’t a factor then, sellers and buyers have a unique opportunity to carefully screen brokers and hire the best without spending a dime more.
With so many qualified realtors available in the current market, what factors should you take into consideration when shopping for an agent? There are a few key questions that you should ask a realtor before hiring them:
“How much experience do you have with homes like mine?”
Any realtor should be able to show you what they’ve done in the past. You should find out how many transactions they have closed in your neighborhood and in your price range over the last few years and whether they usually represent the seller, buyer, or both.
You can further gauge an agent’s success by how close the final price came to the original asking price, how quickly their comparable properties have sold, and how many price reductions were necessary.
“How much attention will you give to my property?”
It is crucial to know how many clients or listings the realtor is currently handling. There are only so many hours in a day and if a broker is spread too thin, there will be compromise and conflict.
Knowing whether the realtor represents closer to four or 35 clients, you will be able to determine how much attention they can pay to representing your deal and whether their time is spent acquiring new clients or showing homes.
“Will you pass the showings off to an assistant or handle them yourself?”
It’s common for many brokers to take a listing and then hand the work over to a less experienced assistant. Whereas an experienced realtor has sharpened his or her ability to sense if a buyer is interested in a home, an inexperienced assistant often tends to simply open the door and point out the obvious: “This is the dining room. This is the living room…”
One of the skills an experienced agent brings to the table is the ability to know who is an interested buyer and who is not. Most people in the market for a home know the minute they walk through the front door if they like the property or not. An experienced agent is able to recognize this immediately and responds accordingly.
“How familiar are you with the community where my home is located?”
Ask the agent to give you a list of other properties in the area that he or she has represented or sold. There is nothing worse than a realtor who is working outside his or her comfort zone by not having enough knowledge about shops, nearby schools, police services and other characteristics of a neighborhood. A broker should be able to answer most questions a buyer asks about a community right away.
When you consider that the dollar amount you are transacting is mostly likely a great deal higher than your annual income, it only makes sense to do some extra leg work when choosing an agent.
You owe it to yourself to select the best person possible and not just someone you know with a real estate license. Several hours of prep work will result in a quicker and financially-more-desirable result in the end.