ROBYN: I’m Robyn Moreno for howdini.com. If you’re in the housing market as either a buyer or a seller, you may be looking for a good real estate agent. But how can you tell if a person is honest? Here to help us tell the honest brokers from the potentially shady ones, is Gerri Willis. She is CNN’s personal Finance Editor and author of Home Rich: Increasing the Value of the Biggest Investment of Your Life. Welcome Gerri, how are you?
GERRI: Hi Robyn.
ROBYN: Why is it important to one, interview these real estate agents and two, what questions should I be asking?
GERRI: You’ve absolutely got to interview these agents. Because you don’t know who’s going to work with you unless you really sit down face-to-face. Look: get some suggestions from friends and relatives, people in the area who can tell you who’s really good, who’s in touch with the market. And then sit down and grill them. You have to ask them questions to find out, are they active in the market you’re interested in, the neighborhood you’re interested in, and then do they sell the kinds of houses you’re interested in? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been lined up with an agent who is actually selling gabillion dollar houses when I’m not buying a gabillion dollar house. You really need to find a match in terms of price tag. Now a great way to go after this is to think about is the agent active in the neighborhood I’m interested in. If I’m selling my home, are they active in my neighborhood? Look: if you find a really good agent who lives three blocks from you, if you’re trying to sell this house, they can be over to your house pronto to help you sell. They can show your house any hour, they’re available all the time. They know all the ins and outs of the neighborhood. It’s a real help if you’re looking to sell.
ROBYN: What are the responsibilities of an agent?
GERRI: Well, they’re supposed to give you all the information you can. Look, if you’re a seller, they’re supposed to tell you every offer that comes in on your house, if people are qualified. You know, sometimes I think people worry, am I getting all the information I should from your agent. They’re not supposed to let anything hang back. These folks are going to help you do everything, soup to nuts. They’re going to help you stage your home. You know, they’re used to the entire process, you know, they’re not just there for the close or just there to land the contract. They have to help you get the house ready for sale as well.
ROBYN: Are there really some signs of a good agent, some things I should be looking for?
GERRI: Well your agent should be web-savvy; you’re probably going to have to put your house on the web to sell it. They’ve got to know the technical aspects of their job, as well as having great personal communication skills. You know, you’re looking for somebody who can really do it all, and you’ll only really know that if you sit down with them and talk to them one-on-one.
ROBYN: What about some flags of one that’s really bad, or maybe just unscrupulous?
GERRI: Well, I think you really want to think about, is this person doing it full-time. There are lots of newbie’s in the industry; they came in during the boom, who really don’t have a lot of experience. I think right now you should be looking for somebody who’s been in the marketplace for at least eight years. That means they’ve had experience in a down market, so they know what to expect right now.
ROBYN: What is the role of a home inspector, and why do you say that one should not be so closely aligned with your agent?
GERRI: Hey, look. The home inspector is probably the person who is most important to the process of buying for the buyer, and the person who gets the least investigation by the buyer. Typically, people simply just take the recommendation of their real estate agent. Well I have to tell you, a lot of these inspectors are really close to the real estate industry, they know what inspectors do their inspections really quickly, and those are the people they’re going to recommend. You want somebody who’s going to have your interests at heart, who’s going to spend a long two hours looking at absolutely everything having to do with the house, the roof, the, the basement, the foundation, the plumbing, the electricity, and make sure everything works properly. This person has to work for you, not the real estate agent.
ROBYN: Gerri Willis, thank you so much. Great information on how to find the best real estate agent for you.
GERRI: My pleasure.
ROBYN: I’m Robyn Moreno for howdini.com.