I decided to begin this blog series at what seems a natural beginning in the real estate process: choosing an agent. This is a point of beginning for both buyers and sellers, and perusing open houses is a top-notch way to subtly interview a variety of agents in their professional setting.
I hear all the time that people use their relatives and friends to buy and sell properties from, and it just downright scares me. Your real estate professional should be just that – a professional. Preferably one with whom you do business, not hang out with on birthdays and holidays. One of the most effective ways of evaluating a real estate agent is to attend open houses.
Here are some things to keep in mind when exploring different agents:
- Communication styles = do you match?
- Professional experience = years in the biz
- Knowledge of your community & area
- Professional presence
Agents come in two varieties: Buyer’s Agents and Seller’s Agents, and they each represent one party in a two-party deal, either the buyer or the seller. As a buyer you may see the “for sale” sign on a property and be tempted to call the number for the seller agent listed on it. That seller’s agent can then represent both parties and collect 100% of the commission. However, this may not give the buyer or the seller fair representation, after all, that agent already has both a contractual obligation as well as a relationship with the seller.
Where does that put the buyer? I find it hard to fathom that one agent can meet the needs of two clients. each one wanting very different things as a conclusion to the deal. Instead I strongly suggest that buyers go out and secure a buyer’s agent. After all, you would not go to court and use just one lawyer to represent both sides of a case, nor would you use one coach for both teams in a football game. It just makes sense to protect your interests and get your own agent. It does not cost a buyer anything to get a buyer’s agent. Sellers pay the commission of any and all agents involved in a Pennsylvania transaction. Protect yourself, your investment and your interests and get a buyer’s agent.
An open house gives you a great opportunity to conduct a mini interview with an agent, get a feel for both their base of knowledge, their manner and any special skills that they bring to your process. Buyers and sellers can gain insight into the skill set that an agent brings to the table when they use an open house as a litmus test. So go for brunch, read the paper and hit those open houses!