Ask this question to the real estate agent who has the most listings and she’ll answer: “the one with the most listings.” Ask the one with the highest average sales price, and he’ll answer: “the one with the highest sales price.” Statistics can indicate past success and industry knowledge, but the answer isn’t so simple. The agent with the most listings might also have the least time to dedicate to your needs, and she probably delegates important work to less-experienced staff. The agent with the highest average sales price? Well, a real estate agent has a lot more responsibility than simply placing a house on the Multiple Listing Service and waiting for offers to roll in, or driving around town showing pretty houses to anxious buyers. Truly great real estate agents are distinguished by the diligence and skills that enable them to anticipate and resolve sophisticated issues and ensure smooth transactions for their clients. Here are the characteristics that really count:
- Professional Demeanor: Not only will your agent work closely with you, but also with lawyers, lenders, home inspectors, and the agent on the other side of your transaction. Reach out to a prospective agent by phone and e-mail, and make note of the professionalism in the agent’s response. An agent with a professional demeanor will work better with you, and also better with colleagues.
- Good Communication Skills: Similarly, written and verbal communication skills are an essential item in marketing listings to prospective purchasers, negotiating issues with other agents, and presenting clients’ issues in the best and most convincing light possible.
- Punctuality: Make note of how long it takes a prospective agent to respond to your calls, e-mails, or texts. Even if an agent simply responds to let you know they’ll have an answer soon, you know they’re addressing your needs. An agent who is not punctual will inevitably lead you to missed opportunities, overlooked deadlines, and delayed closings.
- Modern Approach: Does your agent have a 21st century website with MLS listings embedded? Is he or she prepared to manage transactions and collect crucial signatures and funds electronically? Does he even use text messaging? The industry has evolved, but many agents have not. It’s critical to use an agent that won’t ask you to wait for his telegram to arrive.
- Extensive Knowledge: It’s easy to find an agent that understands buying and selling houses, but a real estate transaction is much more involved. Does your agent understand zoning regulation? What about environmental restrictions – wetlands, flood plains, groundwater protection districts? What does she know about the community – its long term municipal goals, its budget priorities, schools, open space and recreational opportunities, its economic climate? You’re your agent understand how to numerically analyze an investment property? Sure, your attorney may find these issues and more during the due diligence period, but a knowledgeable agent will catch them before you even make or receive an offer.