Thursday, February 23, 2012

9 Things to Ask Before Hiring a Real Estate Agent

I was browsing the real estate section of this evening and came across a great list of questions that you should ask a real estate agent before hiring them. As I read the questions, I thought "you know... this would be a great blog post." Sooo - here's the complete list of the questions along with our answers:

Whether you're buying or selling, there are a few key questions to ask an agent before saying, "You're hired." Before hiring a real estate agent, make sure to ask these questions:

1. How long have you been in the real estate business?
How long has this person been on the job (look for upward of a year), and were they full or part time? While experience is no guarantee of skill, real estate, like many other professions, is mostly learned on the job.

Answer: Melissa has been a licensed Realtor since 2004 (8 years) and Rebekah since 2008 (4 years); however, we have much more experience than just our "licensed years." Prior to becoming a Realtor, Melissa worked for one of Georgia's top Realtors (since she was 15!) and Rebekah worked in the corporate office of a large real estate firm as a relocation specialist. Growing up, our mother was a successful Realtor and still works in the industry. Oh, and our aunt is a Realtor as well! Let's just say, we go way back when it comes to real estate.

2. Are you a member of the National Association of Realtors?
This organization requires certain standards from its members, and you don't want to worry about having a shady agent.

Answer: Yes, we are! We're members of the National Associaton of Realtors, Georgia Association of Realtors and the Metro South Association of Realtors. In this market, many real estate agents have elected not to continue their membership with this great organization (in effort to avoid the membership fees involved). We are proud to say we're members!

3. Are you a member of MLS?
This is the Multiple Listing Service, which gives agents access to houses represented by all agencies -- not just their own. For sellers, this means your home will be posted on the list as well, which means more people will see it.

Answer: Yes, we're members of both Georgia Multiple Listing Service (GA MLS) and First Multiple Listing Service (FMLS). This is extremely important in the Metro Atlanta area as many agents that serve the southern crescent of Atlanta are only members of GA MLS. What's the difference? The Southside is pretty much ruled by GA MLS and Atlanta upwards is FMLS driven; however, when marketing a home, it's extremely important to have as much exposure as possible.

4. Do you work on weekends? Since this is when most open houses take place, the answer to this should be yes.
Answer: Do we work weekends? Are you kidding me? Of course we do! We understand that majority of our clients work normal schedules which means they're only available on evenings and weekends. Therefore, it's important that we're available during evening hours and weekends. It's true ... some agents don't work weekends and some don't work evenings. I always love agent voicemails that say "if you're calling after 6:30p, your call will be returned the following buiness day." -- you know... sorry, client Smith, you're not important after 6:30p - your question will have to wait.

5. Can you outline how you would represent us?
The answer should include your housing inspections, following through with your mortgage approval process, and being present at your closing.

Answer: When we represent a buyer, we hold their hands through the entire process. We assist with the pre-qualification process with the lender if necessary, show properties, assist with research/questions, write offers, negotiate, draft contracts, negotiate more if needed, assist with scheduling home inspections, negotiate repairs if necessary, keep in constant contact with your mortgage lender to make sure the process is going smoothly on the back end, schedule closing, communicate with the attorneys, attend closing and the best part of all ... we're still there to assist in any way needed after closing.

6. Will you show me houses listed by other companies?
Double-check that the agent isn't partial to his or her own realty group.

Answer: Absolutely! As licensed Realtors, we're allowed to show any home listed in MLS, no matter who has it listed -- Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, ERA, Century 21, Solid Source, No Name Realty, etc, etc. We can even show you for sale by owner properties so long as the owner is willing to allow us into their home for showings! If you're interested in a house, we're going to show it to you!

7. Are you familiar with our area?
You'll want the agent to know the ins and outs of your community.
Answer: Well, since this is generic, I'm not exactly sure where your area is; however, I can say that we never represent buyers in areas that we don't feel that we know well. If you ask us how far the closest grocery store is and we don't even know where any grocery stores are in the area - we probably don't need to be assisting you in that area. We would rather you work with a true professional who knows the ins and outs! In this market, some agents are craving a sale so bad, they'll drive 2 hours away to areas they don't know in hopes of selling a house....

8. How many homes have you sold?
If you're in the market to sell, find out how many homes they successfully sold last year. While those numbers may be low due to market activity over the past six months, it’s a good way to compare candidates.
Answer: We sold 50+ properties in 2011 and to be honest, I couldn't give you an overall total because we don't keep a running tally of ALL of our closings. The numbers aren't important to us, our clients and current transactions are! We could spend time bragging on our recent sales, awards received, etc. but we don't. We don't have time to go back and compile it all; however, it would be interesting to see and we certainly have a proven track records! 

9. What's your business style?
Do you want a broker who calls you once a week or emails daily? Find out how the agent will keep you updated on prospects and inform them about your preferences.

Answer: We're as aggressive and assertive as you want us to be. If you're just beginning to explore the possibility of buying/selling a home and contact us but you're not quite ready, don't worry. We're not going to stalk you with phone calls and emails; however, if you call us and you say you're ready to go, then we are too and we're going to be there every step of the way! We communicate in whatever way is best for you -- phone, email, text, in person, and we've even Skyped with some of our clients!

 Have any other questions? We'll be happy to answer them! We realize that there are a gazillion agents out there and you don't know us from Adam. So if you have other questions, please don't hesitate to call or email!

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