We all either love "Nextdoor," the Google bulletin-board site that's very neighborhood specific, or hate it.
I go back and forth, depending on how busy I am. With too many postings to keep up throughout the day, I'll admit that I'm not always happy to see "free couch" pop up in my inbox while I'm trying to be productive. (I think I need to set the announcements for once a day). But a few week's ago, a request for a "good, local, agent" did appear to which I promptly replied. . . as did 53 of my neighbors throughout the week! Ummm, does everyone have their license or know a Realtor they'd recommend? (Evidently, they do.)
Which leads me to my next point, which is that if there are a sea of Realtors from which to choose, how does the prospective home Buyer or Seller pick one? OR more importantly, how do they pick the right one?
That's a good question, Grasshopper.
For anyone who's ever bought or sold real estate, the relationship between Agent and client is typically unique; or should be. It's often a well choreographed quickstep in which we get to help you transition from one stage to the next, and because it's also a transaction that for most of us, represents our single-largest purchase and investment, this relationship needs to be rock steady. In short, we're your conduit to the fast and furious pace of the home buying or selling process.
What's more, because acquiring or divesting in real estate has become so complicated, you are better served by a strong advocate and time-tested adviser; a local Realtor (emphasis on "local") who intimately knows and understands his or her marketplace and the players involved. (With all due respect to Redfin or Zillow, that's frankly, impossible on a national level.) In other words, you are going to need local representation to steer your cleanly through the transaction and as importantly, explain the process as it moves along. (Real estate is highly localized and can differ considerably from county to county.)
Still, is there any Agent out there who would freely admit they don't have your best interests at heart, that they don't work diligently on your behalf, and that they aren't passionate about real estate? (I don't think so. If there is, they won't last very long.)
But because each Agent is essentially their own subcontractor, there are subtle and not-so-subtle differences to what we do - and how we do it. Some Agents will be hard-selling, while others will sit back and wait for your call. Some will be far more hands-on as project managers, while others will give you a "To-Do" list that puts you in charge. Some will absolutely take over, while others will work more collaboratively.
While we are all trekking up the same mountain, these differences are important because you don't want to find yourself tied to someone who is hard to reach IF communication and transparency are high priorities for you. In my experience, there are many clients that simply feel overwhelmed and want to hand over the entire project to their Agents (yes please), while others absolutely need to micromanage the journey (for better or for worse). As my friend, Ann, often says, "There's a lid for every pot!"(Ann has an optimistic 50's sensibility about her that fits her sunny disposition, but she hasn't been in my cupboard and seen those mismatched pots and lids . . .) Still, it does help to know what kind of pot we're dealing with. That's as true for you as it is for me.
What's my style? It's both full-throttle and ease-up, depending on what you need and how seasoned you are at the game (first-time Buyers and Sellers will have a much steeper learning curve) but typically, I'm information driven with some levity along the way (and cookies, always cookies). While admittedly, the easiest Buyers or Sellers are the ones who jump in with full faith and trust, I've also worked with many home owners who are understandably protective about their properties and skeptical about the process. (That's okay; we'll get there either way. Just understand that stress doesn't move the transaction forward, it just adds stress.)
But here are a few questions you should ask any Realtor you are considering before choosing one:
1) What is your territory? (Work LOCALLY. Realtors tend to work with other Realtors we know and trust to get the house through escrow. Out-of-area Agents may be great, but we won't know them so you'll be at a disadvantage.)
2) How long have you been buying and selling real estate and what is your track record?
3) What can I expect from you? What is your process? What is your online presence?
4) How will you communicate with me and how often?
5) Do you act as a dual Agent? If so, how do you represent both side's interests? (This is my personal litmus test. I DON'T believe Agents should represent both Buyer and Seller in a single transaction!)
6) When is the best time to buy or sell? How many other listings are you currently representing? (Good Agents will represent many Buyers and Sellers at once, but you want to make sure you are not in direct conflict with respect to timing.)
7) What's happening in the current marketplace and how do we best prepare?
8) What are the upfront costs involved? What expenses do you cover and what expenses should I reasonably expect to absorb?
9) Who pays the commission and how is it divided?
10) What duties DON'T you perform? (This is the question I wish I'd asked my contractor before signing on. Agents have limited authority. We're not financial planners, CPAs, Inspectors, or lawyers!)
If the Realtor can't answer these nuanced inquiries, move along. There are plenty of highly-qualified, hard-working and caring Agents among our ranks.
Oh, and don't be afraid to interview more than one Realtor before signing the papers; we should be prepared to compete for your business. That's fair. It's a BIG decision and you want the right "fit." Then go online and make sure your Agent is relevant in this internet-driven world that now defines us all.
In the end, perhaps it comes down to style and what "style" works best for you. And here's the good news, with so many motivated Realtors from which to choose, you are definitely going to find one that aligns with your way of doing things. (Just go on Nextdoor and ask.) Better yet, ask a friend who had a great relationship with his or her Realtor ("relationships" being the most important component of any successful transaction.)
How can I help you? (Or your friends, your family or your neighbors?)
P.S. Referrals are the lifeblood of my business. Please pass them along.
Check out my Instagram at: piedmontrealtorgirl
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.