How to select a realtor, and how many should I engage?
August 6, 2014 7:25 PM   Subscribe

As a buyer, what is the best way to select a realtor in an unfamiliar city? Also, is it beneficial to work with a single realtor, or should we set appointments with two or more?

My partner and I are thinking of relocating to a city (population approx. 70,000) that is about 800 miles from our present home.

We do not have any friends or contacts in this city.

We are driving there next month and want to spend time viewing properties. The question that is coming up is how many realtors should we work with, and how do we choose who to work with?

We have been viewing real estate listings online. We have been in touch with a couple of realtors about listings that were of interest. Obviously they are all eager to engage.

Is there an advantage in working with several? They all have the same listings, right? What criteria should we use in selecting the realtors who will show us around? Should we select someone who is on the south side of town, and someone else in the north, and ask each to show listings based on geographical location? All areas are within an hour radius of each other.

Btw, we are comfortable working with seller’s agents.

Somehow I feel uncomfortable thinking that I might work with only one person, but I don’t know if there is some protocol or advantage one way or the other.
posted by elf27 to Work & Money (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've found realtors by going solo until I found a sellers agent I liked, who was showing a house I didn't like, and asked her to show me some more listings,
including those that were not hers.
posted by slateyness at 7:47 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can certainly set up a few appointments to meet agents that look promising via their web sites, and then go with whoever you click with.
posted by COD at 7:50 PM on August 6, 2014

"Realtor" versus real estate agent:

People who are Realtors, which is a capitalized thing, agree to a code of ethics. Not all agents are Realtors.

And you really only need one. One will have access to all the same stuff all the other ones have access to. I'd use COD's suggestion and just find one you like who seems to like you back.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 7:53 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

You will chose a Realtor to represent you. You may be asked to sign something to agree to let this person act on your behalf, exclusively.

They have access to all listings, even though those listings will be represented by all the other Realtors in the city. They represent the sellers.

Though your agent and the seller's agent can collude, and your agent is not particularly motivated to get you the lowest possible price (because they get paid a percentage of the selling price, as does the seller's agent), it's still marginally better than being represented by one person on both sides. I don't even know if that's legal in most states.

If you're willing to do all the legwork yourself, you could skip the buyer's agent and just use a real estate lawyer, but the problem with looking in a very short window (and I would strongly recommend renting for a year rather than buying in a strange city, but that's up to you) is that a Realtor is going to belong to the subscription services that control all the radio lockboxes to get you into the properties you want to see. It will be harder for you to get in on your own.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:08 PM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Check out a couple before you sign with anyone; it's good to have one you 'click' with because you'll hear from them periodically forever. Even if they find you the perfect house and you buy it, one day you'll get a card reminding you you could sell it and buy another house! The good ones pay close attention to what you want and really help you.
posted by Anitanola at 8:48 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

To expand on the picking someone you click with advice from other posters...

We had a very fast real estate search, so our realtor didn't add a lot in terms of knowledge of house listings/neighborhoods/etc. But one thing we found useful in our interactions with him was that even though many of his clients were in a higher income bracket and older demographic than us, he himself had a very good understanding of where we were coming from and what we were looking for in purchasing a first home. Once he understood that we were looking for an undervalued home in a good neighborhood that we could put our nonskilled sweat equity into, we opened up a whole line of conversation about the future of the neighborhood we were looking in and his opinions on what would be DIYable in the house we were looking closest at, based on his experience renovating a rental property to meet local code with his dad a few years back. Our realtor also recommended us several contractors he'd worked with himself, and the only one I've called so far worked out great.

Even if you're not the DIY type, I'd extend this point to say that given the choice between two real estate agents, select the one you think can most identify with your priorities in choosing your new home. All else being equal, pick the person who you feel has a real estate value system closest to yours, in essence, and they might be better able to advise you along the way.

If you just want them to let you into house listings you've self-selected and get the paperwork done expediently at time of sale, of course, feel free to disregard this advice.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:54 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Multiple listing real estate firms can get data about almost any property. If the property is listed by another firm, the fee is shared. This is one reason for using a big firm with lots of listings of their own.
BTW, 'realtor' is a term earned by someone who has achieved a certain level - and license - in the industry. Many sales people are not realtors, just real estate sales people.
posted by Cranberry at 11:23 PM on August 6, 2014

I'd make appointments to see specific listings and meet the listing agent. View the home, and chat with the agent. You'll click with someone, that person can be your agent.

I agree, you want a Realtor.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:00 AM on August 7, 2014

We met with two Realtors before deciding to go with one in particular. You absolutely should meet with multiple to make sure you find someone you are comfortable with. I didn't feel like the first one we met with was listening to me (and then she sent some sample listings and I KNOW she wasn't listening to me).

We had never been through this process before so having someone who could explain things to us through every step and had contacts with plumbers/handymen/electricians to get us fast quotes in the negotiating process was SOOOOOO helpful.

We also never would have found our house if it wasn't for her because she found out about it coming on the market from one of her colleagues and got us in before it was on the market. This was essential in our housing market because inventory goes VERY fast.

You'll decide is you need or want one but if you do want one then yes, you should absolutely meet with a couple to make sure you can work with the person you choose.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:18 AM on August 7, 2014

Yes, you will most likely have to hitch your wagon to a single realtor and sign an agreement. We did some research online about realtors in our (new to us) city, and contacted about 4 of them. I found that mere moments after submitting online contact forms we would get a call from the agent! That was alarming, but I guess that's how they work. You can tell a lot about an agent from that initial phone conversation. Pay attention not so much to what they're saying, but how well they're listening to you.

In the end we narrowed it down to two and met them in person. We liked that both of the candidates had a "tougher," more seasoned air about them and were brutally honest with us about our expectations. We needed that, as first time home buyers. In the end we went with the one who came with "a team," which was very helpful in terms of flexibility in scheduling appointments, as well as navigating any potential conflict of interest situations.

In the end, we absolutely depended on these people to help us, and we learned that experience and a good reputation among rival realtors is absolutely important -- our agents definitely had to fight in our corner on several points, and for that we are eternally grateful. If you aren't new to home buying, this might not be as much of a big deal, but if you are I recommend going with someone who has been around the block (but who also demonstrates excellent customer service tendencies -- those don't always go together, but you'll be able to tell from your initial conversations).
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 8:13 AM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm a former California Realtor. Most real etate agents are realtors; they have to be in order to have access to the MLS. Most people use the terms inter-changeably. In San Francisco, it's the San Francisco Association of Realtors (SFAR). If you work with an agent from any reputable real estate company, the person will be a realtor. In California, you can look up all real estate agents online to confirm a license and see disciplinary actions.

An open house is a great way to meet and screen a potential Realtor -- you can ask questions, see how much they know about the local market and the neighborhood, see if you have enough rapport to talk more later. You want someone who is knowledgeable about the area, understands local market conditions, and is highly responsive.

It's not enough to know the logistics (street names and routes), you need someone who is familiar with the local housing inventory AND someone who knows what is happeing in the local market (average number of days on market for different types of properties in different neighborhoods, buyer's or seller's market, under/over bidding, typical concessions). Talk to a few different people.

Customer service is key - do they: 1) listen to you, 2) return phone calls promptly, 3) send listings for you to review that meet your criteria, 4) send you listings that you might not have considered (especially if you're in a tough market), 5) explain the buying process (loan prequalification, making an offer, negotiating, disclosures, inspections, contingencies, closing) - these can vary enormously from place to place.

Don't work with someone who is hard to talk to, doesn't get back to you quickly, is not knowledgeable about market conditions. A good agent should give you multiple names for every add-on service, such a mortgage brokers, inspectors, handymen, house painters, interior designers, house cleaners, attorneys, etc.

It's best to have your own agent and not have the same agent representing you and the seller; this is legal but has to be disclosed to all parties in most states. You don't have to sign a buyer's agreement to have someone work with you. Don't be afraid to ask for references.
posted by shoesietart at 1:50 PM on August 7, 2014

Be sure to check how much experience they actually have - how long have they been in real estate, how long in the local market, how many sales did they help close in the past year. It is easy for someone to sound knowledgable (it's mostly just about sounding confident), you want some evidence that they really know what they are talking about.

I've been told that senior agents often delegate the job of standing around at an open house to the more junior agents who have nothing better to do with their time. If you don't trust the experience level of the people you are seeing, reach out to someone who is listed as a top seller in the office. Of course, you then need to make sure they are responsive - as someone said above, customer service and responsiveness is KEY. So you want both - experience AND service.
posted by metahawk at 5:03 PM on August 7, 2014

If you have any realtor friends where you are now, they can certainly make a referral for you. You don't have to use the person they send you to, but it's one way to wind up with someone decent.
If you are going to be in NC, I can give you chapter and verse about agency representation. I'm putting off studying for a real estate exam as we speak (and my husband has been in the biz for years.) And guess which chapter of the book I have open at the moment!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:26 PM on August 9, 2014

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