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Selecting a Real Estate Agent

Real estate can be stressful. When buying or selling, consumers are making some of the biggest transactions they will make in their lifetime. When renting, you’re often making decisions under a tight timeframe. A real estate agent can help navigate local markets and help make the process a pleasant experience. Selecting a real estate agent is an important part of this process. Here are 6 steps to get you down the path to selecting a real estate agent:

  1. Interview - There were 422,000 real estate agents in 2012 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Picking a good one is an important first step in the process. There’s an adage, “people buy from people,” and the same is true with your real estate agent. You should make sure you have a chemistry and trust with the person. You need to know they are operating in your best interests. Interview the agent and establish your expectations.

  2. Licensing - Real estate agents are licensed (in Massachusetts, after a 40 hour course and exam.)  Research the person’s licensing and check for any disciplinary actions.

  3. Check references - Speak with current or former clients of the agent. Ask questions to make sure your considerations are met by the agent. For example, some sellers have specific concerns they need the agent to accommodate, such as avoiding showings after school. Some buyers/renters want to review a short list of properties, others want to visit a large number of properties.

  4. Check the website – Agents investing in a pleasant Web presence with automated feeds and updates are taking their business seriously. This attention to detail will often carry over to all other aspects of their business.

  5. Check listings – Active agents are generating business and referrals based on their activities.

  6. Ask about credentials – initials after an agents name can indicate further commitment to the real estate business. Some of the more common designations are:
    1. REALTOR® If the agent is a REALTOR with a capital “R,” they are a member of the National Association of REALTORS®. These are agents with additional training formally pledges to support the code of ethics
    2. Accredited Buyer’s Representative® / ABR® -  The Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation represents real estate buyer agents focusing on working directly with buyer-clients at every stage of the home-buying process.
    3. Certified Property Manager® / CPM® CPM designees are recognized as experts in real estate management. Holding this designation demonstrates expertise and integrity to employers, owners and investors.
    4. Seller Representative Specialist / SRS  The Seller Representative Specialist (SRS) designation is the premier credential in seller representation. It is designed to elevate professional standards and enhance personal performance. 
    5. Seniors Real Estate Specialist® / SRES®SRES® The SRES® Designation program educates REALTORS® on how to profitably and ethically serve the real estate needs of the fastest growing market in real estate, clients age 50+. 

A word on reviews

There are a plethora of sites where reviews can be found (such as Yelp, Facebook and Trulia/Zillow.)  Unlike Consumer Reports where independent test results are published, some of these services are vulnerable to manipulation. Many online reviewers have an agenda beyond providing valuable information. For example, many consumers try to leverage their negative reviews into getting free stuff from the place they are reviewing. Additionally, many companies pay people to leave reviews: either positive reviews for themselves or negative reviews for their competition.

Additionally, there are many inherent weaknesses in the review sites themselves. For example, Yelp can be paid to influence ratings, by hiding negative reviews and promoting positive reviews to the top of a company’s page. Also, “bad” Facebook comments can be simply deleted. Like anything on the Internet, take these “reviews” with a grain of salt.

As someone formerly writing reviews I was well aware of the need for quality, reliable reviews. My personal published restaurant reviews were always independent, while some services are paid to provide reviews.

With the right agent, you’ll be settled in your new home quickly!

Longtime area blogger Gary Kelley transitioned to real estate working as a REALTOR® in Massachusetts after running data center operations for major global retailers and financial services firms.