Here are four critical questions I believe buyers should ask agents to assure they have a ‘match’ between what they are looking for and what the agent provides. In addition, I’ve added what I believe buyers should look for in the anwers (that means that we agents must be able to qualify on these terms). I’ve also given advice to agents on how to prepare to meet that criteria.
1. “Is selling residential real estate your full-time career?”
My advice to buyers: Listen to be sure the agent specializes in residential real estate. You want someone selling homes for a living, not apartment houses. Listen to see if this is the agent’s full-time career. Ask additional questions if the agent’s answers need more clarifying.
Agents: You must really, really know your market, your statistics, and be able to provide prioritized knowledge to your client, not the same things the consumer can get on the web! You need to fess up to the client, now, if you’re not committed to the profession and them full-time, so they won’t be disappointed later (read the stunningly low buyer satisfaction levels with agents below).
2. “How many homes did you sell last year?”
My advice to buyers: You want someone successful; that means, at minimum, the agent sold homes to buyers at least six times in that year.
Agents: You need to practice enough that you are really good at it—and committed to your profession. If you don’t aspire to more than 6 transactions a year, how valuable are you to the client?
3. “How long have you specialized in residential real estate in this area?” or “Describe the work you do in our price range and area.”
My advice to buyers: Be sure the agent has been working in the area where you want to purchase for at least six months, so you know the agent has expertise and interest in that area.
Agents: Even if you’re new, you must prove to the client that you are worth that prioritized knowledge. Become a buddy to an experienced agent. Make yourself the area expert; do not try to ‘cover the whole state!’
4. “Tell us how you will work with us.”
My advice to buyers: Listen as the agent describes the buying/selling process, as he views it. Does it reflect what you’re looking for?
Agents: Be sure you have a Professional Portfolio, to give the consumer an idea of your work. Remember, we believe what we see, not what we hear. Organizing your portfolio also shows your commitment to our profession. Include testimonials; we believe what others say about us, not what we say about ourselves.
Agents: Think These Criteria are Too Tough?
Did some of those questions and my advice to buyers make you defensive and argumentative? That’s because we agents tend to look at things ‘inside out’ (from our perspective). Instead, pretend you are a discriminating buyer. You’re going to spend $60,000 on a car. What kind of customer service do you expect? Now, think in terms of the real estate buyer. What kind of service should a real estate buyer expect?
Newer Agents: Panicked Because You Think You Can’t Qualify?
Relax. You don’t need to qualify on all terms. But, you need to have answers and explanations ready so you can provide buyers reasons to work with you. Advice: Educate yourself so that you are as well-prepared to help a buyer as an agent who has sold 100+ homes in his/her career.