Choosing a real estate agent is a very personal and important decision, almost as important as choosing the right property to make an offer on. Having just been through the buying and selling process myself, I am so glad I had the right team on my side.
When we bought our first home 19 years ago, we randomly chose an agent all willy-nilly like. We were young and thought that all agents were created equal. After all, what does it take to sell someone a house? The buyers give you a maximum budget and you show them a bunch of houses until they see one they like, it couldn’t be that difficult. So we walked into a RE/MAX office and said to the first person we saw, “You there, be our agent” (okay, maybe it wasn’t quite like that). I don’t remember our agents name, we liked her, and she showed us dozens of homes over a month or two and we picked one. Looking back, there were so many things that we should have done differently and we are lucky that things worked out in our favor…mostly.
When Dave and I got pre-approved for a mortgage it was for double what we felt comfortable paying on a mortgage each month. We expressed that to our agent and we were grateful that she only showed us homes in our preferred price range. Many friends had told us about agents showing them houses for what they were approved for, even though they didn’t want to spend that much. A few of them bought houses well above their comfortable price range because of that and soon after regretted it. It’s hard to pass on a house that meets your “must-have” list, even if it is out of your price range. Their homes were gorgeous, but they were house poor. They couldn’t afford to furnish their bare homes or add on a deck. In some cases they had to downgrade their vehicles in order to afford their mortgage. We were terrified of that happening to us. We knew what kind of lifestyle we liked to live and we wanted to continue to do that, even with a house. Only you know what you can truly afford, not your agent. Don’t get bullied into looking at more expensive homes just so that they make a bigger profit. 💰Get Pre-Approved for a mortgage prior to looking at houses. Know what your maximum monthly mortgage payment is. There is nothing worse than walking into your dream home, only to discover it is over your budget. It’s heartbreaking, wastes your time.
Experience is essential when it comes to choosing an agent. Remember how I thought that real estate was one of the easiest jobs in the world? I was wrong. Having worked in the business for only a few short months, I have seen some crazy things happen with transactions. Like, shit you can’t make up and belongs on a Lifetime movie kind of stuff. If you aren’t working with someone who has been there and dealt with that, you may end up with a contract that falls through. Yes, your second cousin Larry may have gotten his real estate license to make some extra cash on the side, but don’t feel guilty not using him. There is more to it than passing an exam. Experienced agents know how to roll with the punches and do what’s right by their clients. They are peacemakers, tough negotiators and sometimes therapist. Real estate transactions can be stressful, but your agent should be able to guide you through it smoothly and gently. They are the wedding planners of home buying. They fix problems before you see them and save you from enduring the stress of fixing it yourself. Inexperienced and complacent agents often let their clients face these liabilities because they failed to dot their I’s and cross their T’s. Having someone with experience who has kept up with the technology and legality of the business is vital. And with the recent changes in the past month, if an agent can’t adapt to changes in the business quickly, their clients will suffer. You are likely making the biggest investment of your life. Make sure your agent is qualified. 📝Read reviews and ask for references. Treat it like a job interview. Make sure your agent is up to speed with current local markets.
The chemistry between you and your agent is as important as experience. There will be many phone calls, emails and hopefully soon, meetings between you and your agent. Melissa and Andrea are doing virtual meetings now. You want someone who is hard-nosed, but also moral. Someone who is working for you, not themselves. Find an agent whose ideals line up with your own and you will have a happy home buying/selling process.
The reason I took the job at the Fonash Shelton Group is because I had known Melissa for years and I knew what kind person she was. Dave and I had actually enlisted her a few years back when we were thinking of selling our house. After I met Andrea during the interview process, I knew I would love working for them. They both embrace the idea of doing things the right way. There are no shortcuts taken when it comes to doing things by the book, no undermining other agents and they are honest with their clients. The Fonash Shelton Group truly is Real Estate with Ethics. I am grateful that I had both of them representing me in my recent sale and purchase. 🧪Interview agents for compatibility. If you don’t feel they have your best interest at heart, trust your gut and move on. Just speaking to a real estate agent is not a jail sentence. If you haven’t signed a contract, you aren’t locked in.
Successful real estate agents know people. They have spent years developing relationships with title companies, loan officers, inspectors, painters, plumbers, septic crews, etc… These people help ensure that the buying/selling process runs efficiently and in a timely manner. There are so many moving parts that go on behind the scene once a contract is signed. And all these parts need to fall into place in the correct order before the settlement date. The right agent will have a whole network of people who they trust and can utilize at the drop of a hat. 🦸♂️Does your agent have a vendor list? Ask agents who they recommend for home projects or mortgages. They should have an A+ list of people for you to choose from, should you need those services.
One thing that is frequently over looked is the legal protection provided by agents. When you make an offer on a house and it is accepted by the owner, that is a legally binding document that will hold up in court. Your agent is there to protect you and act as your lawyer would. They know the loop holes, the language and know how to get you out of it without losing deposit money or even worse being sued. People wouldn’t dream of representing themselves in court, yet decide to buy and sell their own homes. I believe it is because they are unaware of just how risky that is. Most transactions are NOT cut and dry, and if you are selling your home By Owner, you are taking giant legal risks. 🤺Real Estate Agents offer protection. Selling or buying a home is very stressful and people get bat-shit crazy. Make sure you have someone backing you up who knows how to diffuse situations and look for solutions.
Bottom line is that buying a home isn’t like you see on HGTV. There aren’t three amazing houses shown to you and you pick one. It would be great if that is how it worked, but it isn’t. There are thousands of buyers in our area right now who have been searching for homes for six months or more. Working with agents who know the area you are looking in and who understand your needs is imperative. Buying or selling a home is a life changing process. Make sure you choose someone who will guide you in the right direction…Someone who will direct you HOME. 🏡