"Should I Hire a Real Estate Agent?"
Find a Real Estate Agent, Find a Realtor
  Why in the World Would You Hire Me?


If you're buying a home, you must ask and answer the question, "Should I hire a
real estate agent?"  There's only one reason not to hire one--to save the commission.  There are several reasons you might decide to hire a Realtor:

1.      The Agent has access to thousands of available homes through the Multiple Listing Service.

2.      The Agent has experience in finding, screening, and evaluating homes.

3.      The Agent has education and experience in drafting contracts.  See note on Realtors drafting legal documents & staying out of trouble.

4.      The Agent is constantly keeping up-to-date on changes in the law that can substantially effect your transaction.

5.      The Agent as your "Buyer's Agent" does not cost you anything, because he/she gets paid a commission at closing out of the Seller's proceeds.

6.      A good Realtor does this full time and is very good at it and very professional. 

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You may be thinking, "Where can I find a Realtor like that?  I'd hire him."  Well, they should all be like that, but we know they aren't.  This does seem to emphasize the importance of actually interviewing your Realtor before blindly hiring him, doesn't it?


The tendency of human nature is to assume or think that we can do everything ourselves, including buying our dream home or investment home.  Please be careful, because that kind of thinking could cost you a small fortune and lots of stress.  As I write this, understand that I am assuming that you are very intelligent and very good at what you do, and that you have bought and sold houses before.  It's just that as an attorney for 20 years, I made a lot of money from buyers who did not retain my services until after the fact.  Why use an Agent to buy?  Because it is wise.

Now, let's get to the fundamental rules on retaining a real estate agent.  For purposes of full disclosure, I am a retired real estate attorney and now a real estate associate broker.  The rules are not difficult, but are not widely known or not widely practiced.

1.      Identify an Agent who is first of all competent.

2.      Filter through those who are competent with another qualification--honesty.

3.      Hire the Agent because the Agent meets your criteria, not just because the Agent  works at a large franchise.  

4.      Know what to expect from your Agent, and know what he/she expects of you.


Now, let's get into a fuller explanation of these criteria, because for you there is
much at stake.  


1.  Identify an Agent who is first of all competent.

Before you even contact your agent, see what you can learn about a prospective Realtor. Realtors like to talk about "prospects" like you. You might as well talk about Realtors as prospective Realtors.  Create a list of half a dozen Realtors, and then filter though that list. Can you get a good referral from a trusted friend or business associate?  Add that name to your list.  Check out the Internet web sites to see who is doing what in the area you are interested in.  Be careful not to assume that a "Top Producer" can do the best job for you. Maybe.  Maybe not.  We're looking for competence here, not just volume.  Check out the Realtors resume, and find out what has he been doing all these years that will contribute to doing an extraordinary job for you.  Frankly, someone who has been a housewife for 25 years and then gets a real estate license probably does not meet this competency standard. That person could do a great job for you on a single family purchase or sale, but you can still end up with some very serious and expensive battles because an addendum was not drafted precisely.  We never get away from the challenge that all Realtors have:  when a Realtor drafts a contract, they are held to the standard of a lawyer.  

Look at the prospective Realtor's history.  Does he have experience in anything related to real estate that can be helpful as a Realtor?  Was he a builder, contractor, plumber, inspector, loan officer, title officer, escrow agent, attorney, urban planner, or property manager?  If not, it's not the end of the world, if he has a great deal of education and experience that can substitute.  Remember, the goal is to find a Realtor who knows a lot more than you do about real estate and drafting contracts, and who can keep you out of trouble in the process.  You want someone you feel is competent and can do a great job for you.   

2.  Filter through those who are competent with another qualification--honesty.

Some may think I'm joking when I say find an honest Realtor.  I'm not.  Honesty in this context isn't the simple childhood concept of not telling a lie.  Today, our culture has extended the boundary of subtle misrepresentations far into dishonest territory, but it's not considered dishonest by most standards today.  Word games.  There are plenty of them, and what isn't said is often as much of a misrepresentation as what is said.  So be on guard.  Make sure you have enough discernment to recognize honesty, or lack thereof. And, by the way, there are a few very dishonest agents out there.  Don't use them.  ("Gee, he sure seemed like a nice guy when we first met."  Heard that one dozens of times.)

3.  Hire the Agent because the Agent meets your criteria, not just because the Agent  works at a large franchise.  

When you hire a Realtor, you hire the person, not some fictitious franchise or building or corporate atmosphere.  It's your Realtor who does the work, and if he can't do it well, the rest of the Brokerage is not going to do it for him.  Furthermore, if he delegates important responsibilities to a non-licensed person or a less experienced agent, what good did the franchise or largeness of the company accomplish for you.  Maybe the opposite of personal attention.  Ultimately, whether you get outstanding professional service depends on your Realtor, not the rest of the building.  

4. Know what to expect from your Agent, and know what he/she expects of you.

If you have made a list of half a dozen prospective Realtors (as opposed to just a real estate agent), filter through that list with further research, much of which can be done right on the Internet.  You should personally interview the final contestants in person and in their office during the week day.  

Once you have decided on a Realtor, tell him exactly what you expect of him, and ask him if he could do those things for you.  Then ask your Realtor something virtually no one asks their Realtor in the beginning, "What exactly do you expect of me?"  

CONCLUSION.  If you do all of these things carefully, you minimize the chances of misunderstanding with your Realtor, you increase the probability of a successful relationship and a successful real estate transaction, and that means more money in your pocket and less stress.  And as Martha Steward would say, "That's a good thing." 

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