Sunday, November 27, 2016

10 Ways to Be Sure Your Real Estate Buyer's Agent is Taking Care of You!

My dentist says, ‘you only have to floss the ones you want to keep.’ The same is true for any customer-client relationship. You only get to keep the ones you treat right.

But what if you’re a first-time buyer, or moving to a new area? Hiring a local buyer’s agent makes sense, but without a recommendation, you might be going into the process blindly, hoping for a good outcome, only to find maybe weeks after working with an agent, you’re just not getting what you need, personally or professional.


Assuming you’ve done your homework (checked with your state licensing board to check their license status, disciplinary actions, etc), here are 10 tips that can help identify an agent that is committed to providing great service and is seeing you as a customer for life.


1) Your first meeting place: Meeting for the first time should be done either, ideally, at the office of the agent, or at a public place. Most public places are noisy and distracting and don’t always allow both parties to concentrate on business. They should come with whatever documents they need, be professionally dressed and ready to earn your business in the first 30 seconds.


2) Being on-time: Real estate agents carry cell phones and most are obsessed with them. So any agent who shows up late without calling, texting or emailing is lazy and disrespectful. Good agents are always busy and simple things like traffic, a late previous client or a mishap at a showing can cause an agent to run behind. But expect a call. Always. And BEFORE your meeting time. Calling 10 minutes after your meeting time to say they’ll be 10 minutes late is not providing good service.


3) Riding in cars with Agents: Most agents will prefer to show homes in their car. It’s better for the environment than taking multiple cars, prevents people from getting lost or separated, allows the agent and buyer(s) to chat between showings and talk about likes and dislikes, and provides a forum to get to know one another on a personal level. And that means your agents car should be super-clean (there’s no excuse for a messy car), gassed up (unless your agent has had a busy day of showings before you, they should be ready to go), and well-maintained. While clients will read into an agents life, politics and assumed success by the car they drive, they shouldn’t. Agents who live in snowy areas, show a lot of rural properties or cover a large territory may drive beaters, trucks or small, efficient hybrids. Absence of a $95K Mercedes doesn’t mean unsuccessful.


4) Daily Provisions: At some point working with an agent, you may spend 4-6 hours on the road, looking at a lot of houses. Is your agent prepared? Good service to clients means water in the car for hot days, coffee or other hot drinks on cold ones; good area maps for each buyer to help orient them to the landscape, plans for meals if that’s appropriate, shovels to remove snow in winter from rural or vacant listings, and snacks for long days to keep everyone focused. Simple gestures that show your agent understands the process and is providing great service to keep you comfortable, happy and on-task.


5) Interruptions: Most busy, successful agents will be fielding phone calls, emails and text messages throughout their day. While some will turn their phone off completely when with clients, most will handle other business while with you, but hopefully quickly, quietly and only when absolutely necessary. If your agent is loud, obnoxious, clearly talking to friends or if rude, demanding or unprofessional with other agents, it’s a good sign that their level of respect for you is pretty similar.


6) Showings: Good agents know that your and their ability to negotiate successfully starts when they set up a showing with another agent, and continues when they get to the home with you. Smart agents know that being on-time for appointments minimizes inconvenience to sellers, parking on the street rather than in the driveway (where appropriate) gives you a better view, allows you to see any issues with the driveway (oil stains, cracks, other damage), and let’s the sellers and other showing agents come and go easily. Good agents will also announce their arrival verbally before entering (except for vacant homes, naturally) so as not to catch a seller who forgot or didn’t get the message off-guard, and leave notice of their visit with either a note, a business card or signing a sheet left by the listing agent.


7) Show and tell, not show and sell: Agents who talk about how great every house is, try to hustle, persuade or convince you this ‘this is the one,’ aren’t doing their jobs. Agents should facilitate getting you into properties that meet your needs, not sell you. Unless you specifically ask, good agents will keep their opinions to themselves, other than pointing out things you might miss, problems that might be new to the untrained eye or regional in nature that you might not be familiar with if you’re coming from elsewhere. If you want an agent’s opinion, ask. No property is perfect, so you should expect a well-rounded observation and commentary.


8) Commission/pay structure is clear and upfront: Every state and local agency is different in terms of how agents get paid. In most states, it’s pretty confusing, and if you only buy a house once every 10 years, the rules and what’s normal and customary often changed during that time, too. Be absolutely sure your agent spells out, in detail, how they work and how they get paid-in writing. In most places, the seller provides a portion of their proceeds at closing to pay a buyer’s agent, but not always. Be sure you understand who pays for what services and when, what to do if you and the agent decide NOT to work together before a purchase is made, and what your options are if the seller portion of the buyer’s agent fee is less than what you agreed to pay in total.


9) No questions go unanswered: Your agent is in the service business. They aren’t buying or selling anything, and their pay is likely based on a commission. If you have questions about a process, a property or procedure, ask. Agents don’t have all the answers all of the time, but should be ready and able to get them for you, quickly. Any agent who isn’t taking notes about your questions and providing timely, thorough follow-up is not providing top-shelf service. And if not that, what ARE they doing for you?


10) How does it feel? No agent should make you feel anxious, creepy, worried or in a hurry. There are too many agents to settle for someone that you might spend weeks or months with to feel uneasy. If things start badly, cut them off quickly, explain to your agent that you might be better served by someone else, and move on. If things start nicely, but deteriorate, don’t feel like you’re stuck. Have a frank conversation, difficult as it may be. If you can’t or won’t, call the agent’s designated broker and talk with them. Whatever you do, don’t stay. Things will get worse as you become more reluctant to interact and as a transaction moves along, cooperation becomes more critical and time-sensitive. You need clear, open lines of communication to tackle issues as they arise.


Most buyers and agents come to know one another during the buying process and have a meaningful, often friendly and sometimes life-long relationships. With a little paying attention up front and during the process, you can have that too by ensuring you have the right agent for you.


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