Getting into the idea that you are going to make a major purchase is a daunting task no matter what it is; a car, a condo, house or business. Regardless, there are many things to consider and research to be done. There is one feature to buying a home or condo that sets this process apart, you can hire your own personal guide to work on your behalf throughout the whole ordeal, a REALTOR®. This presents a whole new batch of research, which REALTOR® should you choose? There are a bizillion of them, I mean a bizillion (approx. 1800 in NS). I’ve been working in the industry for several years now and I am constantly meeting new agents. Choosing the right agent is almost as important as choosing the right home. The agent you work with needs to have a number of qualities to help you get what you want and the protection you need.
One thing that we should cover before we get into the REALTOR® selection checklist is how agents get paid. When someone lists their condo (or house) the listing agent will offer their services at a rate, in Nova Scotia it is usually 5-6% of the sale price. If you are using a discount brokerage of some format they can be less or a fixed rate. In the case of the average agent, they will offer half of the negotiated percentage to co-operating agents, known as Buyer’s agents or Selling agents. In the case of the condo (or home) seller, this 5-6% and applicable taxes will come from the profit of the sale. As a Buyer, your agent will be paid for you by the Listing agent. The opportunity for buyers to have their agent costs covered I assume is to encourage people to use an agent to look out for their interests. REALTORS® in Nova Scotia are typically only paid on the successful closing of a property. If you work with an agent, look at a bunch of places and decide not to buy something, the agent is not getting paid for any of their work. The same is the case for an agent who lists a property, takes photos, writes copy and publishes ads in an effort to sell a home; if it does not sell, they do not get paid.
Referrals Help- Ask around. If you have a friend who has recently purchased a similar property to one you are interested in and had a positive experience, get their agent’s contact. If your friends (that you like) thought their agent did a good job, you may work well with that agent as well.
Biggest Isn’t Always Best (for you)- The biggest agent in town or the one with the largest marketing campaign is not necessarily the best fit for you. Some of the big name agents with a tonne of listings may not have the time to run around looking at condos (or houses) with you. They may also want to pass you on to an assistant, this presents the question of how long has this assistant been working in real estate? Are they a licensed real estate salesperson? Other larger agents may be stretched too thin but still try to keep your business but not be able to provide the level of help you want or need. This all being said, many agents that have larger marketing campaigns have systems in place to manage the volume and may work just right for you. Again, I suggest you ask around.
Experience Counts- Time in the industry is important. As an agent, I cannot express how important experience is. In real estate no two sales are ever the same, there are always new situations and intricacies to learn from. As a buyer or seller you want someone who has done a good number of deals and will know how to work with new challenges. If the agent is newer ask them who their mentor or a manager is, or if there is someone who they get some guidance from.
Communication is Key- Are they going to communicate with you as often as you want, or are they going to contact you too much? I have worked with clients who wanted to talk a lot, debate pros and cons, and sometimes just vent to me. On the other hand, I have had clients who I would send listings and when they found one they wanted to see, they would call me up and away we go. Adapting to the client’s communication style should be part of the job. There is a whack of paperwork about to enter your life, most of it quite technical, much of it designed to protect you and your interest, lots of it useless unless you understand it. Your agent should be able to explain all documents and terms used; they should not breeze over it, you need to know it. You don’t want to be tied into something later because it wasn’t read to you.
Part-Timers- Is the agent you are considering doing this on the side of their other full time job? Will they be available to answer the phone when calls come in about your listing or have the industry connections to get the job done?
Specialty Can Be Key- If you are looking in a particular area, it might be best to have an agent that works that area. An agent who spends most of their time selling rural properties might know a lot about getting well and septic tests done, but likely won’t be as in tune when it comes to knowing which condo buildings have special assessments pending or which have buildings going up around them in the future.
Technology Helps- An agent that is current with their technology will stay on top of developments in your market, be easier to connect with, market your property better and even get your offer in faster when the time comes.
Family Matters- A friend of mine often used to say “Never hire someone you can’t fire”. The same goes for your agent. If Cousin Tim or Aunt Delores is a REALTOR® don’t feel you have to use them. They may not suit your needs and if they fail to perform the way you would expect a professional (that you are paying) to perform, you might have a hard time letting them go. You need to work with someone who you can be open and frank with.
Go Undercover To A REALTOR® Convention- What better way to get a sense of what an agent’s reputation is in the industry than going to a convention and pretending you are one of them. You can then spark up conversation with lines like “So, how are the deals coming along?” and “I’ve heard (insert agent name here) is having a great year, what do you think of that guy/gal?”
Choose Someone You Like- Whichever agent you choose make it one you are comfortable with and who understands your needs. Do you find this person easy to get along with? Can they see things from your point of view. The bottom line is that you are going to spend a lot of time with this person, you better like them.
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