How to Select Your Agent (Sort of)

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Today I want to give the Big Props award to the couple who selected us yesterday to represent them in the purchase of their first home. The Big Props are not because they selected us (although, I do respect their nose for talent), but because they took the time to interview agents at all before embarking on their home purchase journey. Sellers have been qualifying their agents for, well, forever, yet buyers rarely take the time and initiative to do the same. For me, I have been asked to truly interview for the Buyer’s Agent job a total of three times in ten years. Buyers, you deserve better. Take a tip from the sellers out there.

If you are uncertain about how to tackle the whole interview thing, I offer the following excerpt from the Home Seller Handbook. (Note: It is currently 182 degrees in San Diego, and I am having a little trouble engaging the small portion of my brain assigned the Serious Real Estate Thought responsibilities).

Selecting Your Agent

If you are planning on selling your home, and assuming that you don’t already have an established relationship with “Your Realtor for Life”, the first thing you will do is set about selecting your agent. You will want to interview several successful agents in your area.

Q: How many agents should I interview and what should I expect?

A: You will start out fully intending to interview three or more qualified, licensed agents, but only the heartiest of souls make it past the first appointment. You should expect the first two hours to consist of an overview of the agent’s Credentials. These credentials will include a dissertation on the superiority of his Company, of the superiority of his Continuing Education expressed as a bunch of confusing acronyms (GRI, CRS, AAA, AARP, NCAA, WMD, SCUBA), and his Client Testimonials. Pay close attention to the testimonials; they should be current. Good testimonial: “The No Place Like Homer Team was exceptional through both the discovery and deposition phases of the transaction last month“. Bad testimonial: “Homer was sensitive to our needs, always scheduling showings and court appearances around the Ed Sullivan Show.”

The next 147 minutes will be devoted to his Marketing Plan, which will outline all of the ways in which he is going to use your listing as an opportunity to market himself, while the final two seconds will focus on Pricing Your Home. The price he recommends will be the price you want to get. You will, of course, ultimately select the agent who offers the lowest commission. One agent may even offer to pay you money to list your home and throw in a free Slurpee if he is on shift next time you stop by his other job. You think this would be a logical choice.

Not so fast! You will want your interviewees to be among the Top Tier of Neighborhood Specialists. The trick here is actually identifying this top tier, top tier being defined as those agents who are the most sincere, caring, ethical, experienced, knowledgeable and photogenic.

Q: There are 37 agents at this very moment milling around the front of my home looking hungry. How do I narrow the field?

A: You can approach the all-important Agent Section Process in one of several ways.

Approach #1: Ask for referrals. These referrals should come from friends and family whose judgement you trust; this “good judgement” thing is key. You may have enjoyed some great times and a pitcher or two swapping war stories with Randy “Duke” Cunningham, but he’s probably not your best go-to guy for character references. The guy who works at the liquor store or Crazy Aunt Margaret might be better choices, the latter only if you are certain she has taken her meds. If you are lucky, both may in fact be themselves licensed, which will certainly streamline the process. In this case, pick the guy at the liquor store. A well-stocked liquor cabinet could come in handy.

Approach #2: Utilize the resources at your disposal (as in, the resources that have been disposed of on your property). Strap on your hip boots and venture out to your front porch. At any given moment, you will find a veritable compost heap of flyers and leaflets from the more active Neighborhood Specialists promoting their talents (and, sometimes, even their listings). Of course, these Courtesy Informational Materials will be at first overwhelming. This is where the Random Selection Process comes into play. Grab a handful (don’t cheat by peeking), knock the snails off of the one on top, and start calling! Unfortunately, the Random Selection Process has been known to result in a home listed by Merry Maids.

Approach #3: Prayer. Pray to your Supreme Being of choice. If you are an athiest, this approach is obviously a little tricky. I once had a listing interview with a gentleman who informed me, “We are moving because God told me that my son should be playing football for (Another) High School.” That’s pretty cool, I thought. His God is the sporting type. At the conclusion of our meeting, he further stated that the family would be speaking to God again that evening to determine whom they should hire to represent them in their sale. Apparently I had made a poor impression on his God (I didn’t get the job), but, hey – Who am I to argue with a deity?

Approach #4: Public Transportation. This approach will require that you venture beyond your front door and navigate your way through the 43 Neighborhood Specialists (their ranks are growing) who have now pitched tents and are enjoying s’mores on your front lawn. If you are resourceful, you will leave your home donning the disguise of a Realtor, which will include a business suite, a name badge, and a steaming mound of papers which at first glance would appear to be MLS printouts but in actuality represents your last year’s tax return. Don’t make eye contact and, if they offer you a s’more, politely decline and say that you are late to a meeting with your client. They will follow, of course, so run, don’t walk to the nearest bus stop. Here, you will see the smiling face of your future agent.

Approach #5: Rock, Paper, Scissors. This will require a rock, paper, scissors, and a partner. Oh, and hip boots (since two of the necessary items will be secured from your front porch). Caution: In order for this approach to yield acceptable results, DO NOT run with the scissors!

Q: I was a hearty soul, took a leave of absence from my job, sent my children to Camp Muddywater for the month of August, and completed the three requisite agent interviews. Now that I have made my selection, how do I break the news to the others? And, can I finish my Slurpee first?

A: You can certainly call each agent who spent their countless hours preparing and their evening delivering their thoughtful presentation in your home while the family in their home ate meatloaf leftover from the Clinton Administration before attending their oldest child’s graduation from Harvard, or you can take the more popular path. Let them just figure it out when they see the yard sign go up. This will serve two purposes, the second being their signal to relocate their encampment to your neighbor’s yard. God knows (because he told you), you’ve been through enough.

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