Instead of a statistical analysis of our local real estate market, I’m going to give the numbers a rest this month and look at what is often the most important element in any real estate transaction—the agent.
Although numbers are the basic ingredients in any transaction, having the right partner in your home purchase or sale is often what determines success. Real estate is like any other business: it’s about who’s on your team and what they know. Your agent is the cornerstone to past, present and future transactions, so it pays to evaluate one’s agent, even if he or she happen to be more friend than service provider. While there’s some comfort in working with someone you’ve dealt with previously, buying or selling a home is typically the largest financial transaction we make, so mistakes or unexpected consequences should never be part of the closing statement.
The top professionals in real estate—those who create value in real estate transactions—have three common characteristics. They’re knowledgeable, they’re connected communicators and they’re skilled negotiators.
Let’s look at those traits one by one.
The most important attribute for any agent—listing or selling—is knowledge. Your agent should be a source of reliable information about the neighborhood, construction, weather, schools, trends and risks. The best agents also know the local market in minute detail. They know which properties are on and off the market—and they understand the power of pricing. Knowing how to price a listing correctly in today’s market is especially critical. A transaction can go wrong from the start if your agent misprices the house to avoid insulting you or because a larger commission matters more than selling the property in a timely manner. It’s your job to ask questions, but it’s your agent’s responsibility to understand and articulate the data surrounding the transaction.
Remember, it’s what you didn’t know that comes around to haunt you after the deal is done.
Being able to communicate with your agent is key. In today’s era of e-mail, PDAs and smart phones, your agent should always be a click away. Today’s top producers are in constant touch with their clients multiple times a day (and night) during a purchase or sale. They are not just managing their clients; they are connected to colleagues, inspectors, banks and appraisers.
Once a deal is in hand, an agent who is a seasoned negotiator helps mitigate the risk of leaving money on the table. Carefully review all the reports and inspections of the property, then have your agent negotiate specific items on your behalf. Needed repairs and problems found on inspections aren’t items to overlook when calculating the true cost of ownership. Equally important, knowing when to push and when to back away can save you from cutting off your nose to spite your face. A good agent serves as a guide at those moments.
Also, make sure your agent has detailed knowledge of current contracts. Real estate purchase agreements change frequently and the related documents are full of complicated terms and clauses that can greatly affect your transaction and your future in your new home. Most local brokers have ongoing, mandatory contract training for all their agents. The last thing you want to have to do is worry about the legality of the transaction during the purchase.
It’s always good to return to the basics and evaluate who will serve you best in the important transaction of buying or selling a home. Friends will always be friends, but the business of buying or selling a home is more than whom you know—it’s what you know that counts.