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There are over 16,000 real estate agents in San Diego, and finding the right one is imperative. With so many real estate agents in the area, each are running their own marketing campaigns to attract new leads. They’re using online ads, direct mail postcards, and even putting on sponsored events. As a result, it can be difficult to cut through the noise to find someone that’s right for you.
The right real estate agent can help you quickly buy or sell your home. The wrong agent can hurt one of the most important transactions of your life. Although the stakes are high, many buyers and sellers don’t put careful enough consideration into the process. After all, real estate relationship isn’t all about sales. It’s also about customer service, management, and advisement. With that in mind, here’s how to choose the right real estate agent in San Diego:
Look Into Previous Clients
An agent’s previous client pool offers great insight into their expertise. A good agent is happy to provide you with details about people they’ve worked with. One area you want to focus on with past buyers is what the asking price was and what the selling price was. This gives you a ballpark understanding of how an agent handles negotiation in favor of the buyer. For homeowners who are selling, you’ll want to know more about the type of properties they’ve sold in the past. Ideally, you’d work with an agent who has sold homes that are similar in value and property type. If possible, you should contact previous clients to get some firsthand knowledge into what their personal experiences were like. Would they recommend the agent? What did they enjoy about their experiences? These are the things you’d want to know.
Take a Look at Current Listing
An agent’s current listings are a solid indicator of the type of homes they’re working with. Pay attention to how they present themselves on the Web, and how they market their listings. A listing that’s descriptive, has great photos, and is well thought out, clearly demonstrates that the agent puts thought and careful attention into their work.
Check Their License & Credentials
Once you’ve narrowed down your potential real estate agents, it’s time to look into their real estate records.
When conducting your research, you’ll also learn more about how experienced a particular agent is. Just like any other profession, there are several credentials available for real estate agents. When agents take specific classes in real estate sales, they receive designations in those areas. Here a list of several designations:
Certified Residential Specialist (CSR) has completed additional training to handle residential real estate
Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) has underwent speciality training to be able to better assist senior buyers and sellers
Certified Commercial Investment Member is the gold standard in commercial and investment real estate
Counselor of Real Estate (CRE) is a group of certified professionals who can offer expert advice on property and land-related matters. This membership is by invitation only.
NAR’S Green Designation is a specialist that has underwent specific training to better understand green and eco-friendly features in the real estate market
Although you should always ask the agent directly, you can take further precaution by contacting the California State Licensing Authority to see how long a particular agent has been in business.
Ultimately, your goal is to work with an agent with verifiable knowledge about working with homes in a specific area and within a particular price range.
Interview Multiple Agents
You should speak to 2-3 different agents to get a better feel for which you’ll work better with. Your first meeting with an agent should feel like an easygoing counseling session. Although you’re there to interview your agent, your agent is also there to ease you into an otherwise complicated process. Here are a few ideas of questions you can ask your potential agent:
- How long have you been working in real estate?
- What’s your average list-price to sales-price ratio?
- What is your ratio of buyers to sellers?
- What San Diego neighborhoods do you specialize in covering?
- What should I expect from you in terms of communication?
- Do you have references I can contact?
- If I’m asked to sign documents, can I review them ahead of time?
And just as you’re asking your potential agent questions, a good agent asks you some questions as well, and will explain how each question pertains to the real estate buying or selling process. If you start to feel more confused than when you arrived, it’s probably not a good fit. Here are a few questions you can expect from your agent:
- What does your dream home look like? What’s your budget?
- What time frame are you looking at to buy or sell?
- What expectations do you have for an agent?
- Have you ever worked with a real estate agent before and if so, what was your experience like?
Of course, the questions they’ll ask depend on whether you’re buying or selling, and their questions should match your current scenario.
Keep in mind that although experience is important, there’s so much more to an agent than that. An agent’s experience shouldn’t be the end all, be all. You should also factor in comfortability and chemistry. Often, you’ll notice straight away when an agent doesn’t have the right chemistry with you, or when their initial meeting doesn’t make you feel comfortable.
It’s important to listen to your gut during this time. For example, perhaps they seem a little confrontational, brute, hurried, or unsure. These can all be turn-offs for anyone looking to buy or sell. No matter how great their resume is, you’ll be spending several weeks with your agent, and you should get along with them very well from beginning to end.
Watch Out for Red Flags
When you start working with real estate agents, there are several red flags to watch out for. Sometimes, an agent will look good on paper, but doesn’t perform nicely in person. For example, let’s assume you’re a buyer speaking to three different agents. You know that each agent is looking at the same data and trends, and is using that information to come up with the most accurate home value. If an agent prices too high, this is usually a red flag. Homes that are too high on the market take longer to sell, and this could indicate that the agent is greedy, unrealistic, or cannot accurately read the data.
Another red flag for sellers is if your agent charges you for a Comparative Marketing Analysis. The CMA compares your home to similar homes on the market that have sold over the previous few months to few years. A great agent considers this analysis a part of their real estate routine, and will do it for free.
Keep an eye out for signs of unprofessionalism. Showing up late or consistently canceling isn’t signs of a busy, sought after agent; it’s a sign of someone who cannot manage their time, doesn’t prioritize yours, and is putting too much on their plate in hopes of a bigger payout. Similarly, if you notice that you’re spending too much time communicating with their assistant, they’re probably too busy for you.
Ask About Other Real Estate Professional Services
Real estate agents who have worked in the field for quite some time have built relationships with other professionals in the real estate industry. They should have trusted connections with reputable vendors. This includes contractors, lenders, inspectors, and title companies. This way, you’re able to choose from several options when you require those third-party services. When they provide you with a list of these vendors, be sure to ask why they chose them.
If you notice the term “affiliated” on any the listed vendors, chances are the real estate brokerage receives a commission when those services are rendered. While this isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, it could mean you’re paying an unnecessary premium. Look for transparency in your agent; they should be able to explain any affiliations without you having to pry.