As a real estate attorney, it should come as no surprise that people often ask me to recommend a real estate broker. I often give out several names, but I also give out this Guide To Choosing A Realtor, to help them focus on all the issues and ask the right questions.
Guide To Choosing A Massachusetts Real Estate Broker
Choosing a Realtor is the first and perhaps the most important decision a home buyer will make. For purchasing a home, your real estate broker is really a Project Manager, guiding you through the entire home buying process from going to open houses to closing and beyond. She will not only help you find your “dream home” and negotiate with the sellers, but she will help you assemble a team including a mortgage lender, home inspector, a real estate attorney, a contractor, and other service professionals. For sellers, your Realtor is the key to maximizing the return on your most important investment.
Given the overwhelming number of realtors in the marketplace, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. Here are my tips to selecting the best Realtor. It’s best to use all the tools available to find the best fit.
Step 1: Search, Create A List, Do Your Due Diligence. You’ll want to obtain as many as 5-10 names. Take it seriously and do your due diligence.
- Word of Mouth. Ask people you trust for recommendations. Ask your friends, family, financial planner, attorney, or local politician. Call local agencies and ask who their top producers are.
- Ask Around Town. Good Realtors are actively involved in their communities, serving on town boards, school communities, new family networks, and chambers of commerce. These brokers know the neighborhoods like the back of their hands. They know the market. They can tell you who just sold, bought, and what listing expired. They know the best elementary schools. They know whether the quiet street in the summer turns busy when the school buses start rolling down. Find them.
- Use the Internet. The Internet is an incredibly powerful tool to find potential Realtors and vet recommendations. Understand that all savvy, sales oriented Realtors have a web presence and they know how to leverage internet marketing and social media. Google the town/city and “homes realtors” and see what comes up. If you have a name of a Realtor, Google them and check out their website or blog. Check out his listings and just solds. Read their articles on ActiveRain, a realtor blog site. Check their Facebook or Twitter pages.
- Use Multiple Listing Service as a Tool. Virtually every Realtor website enables you to access Multiple Listing Service (MLS) information. With MLS access, you should be able to get a sense of which Realtor has a high number of listings and sales in the town or neighborhood you desire. You will also see how the Realtor markets a listing. Is the listing well presented? Are the photographs high quality and sufficient? Is the home staged? Are the descriptions captivating and accurate?
- Check License/Designations. You can check a Massachusetts Realtor’s state license status here on the Real Estate Board of Registration site. An indication of additional expertise is whether the Realtor holds a special certification such as Certified Residential Specialist (CRE), Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR), Certified Real Estate Brokerage Management (CRB). Click here for more info about these certifications.
Step 2: Interviews. Armed with the above information, a buyer or seller should narrow the pool with phone or personal interviews, and ask the tough questions.
- Basics. Are you a full time broker? How many years experience do you have? What is your educational background and real estate training?
- Listings. How many listings have you had in the last 2 years? How many sales of those listings? How many expired listings have you had in the last 2 years? What causes do you attribute to expired listings? How long, on average, do your listings take to sell?
- Marketing. What’s your marketing strategy for new listings? What’s your pricing strategy? Do you recommend home staging? What marketing outlets do you find most effective, i.e, print advertising, MLS, online, direct mail, etc. Can you provide us with a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA)? What type of research tools to you use? Would you recommend a broker’s open house or public open house for our listing?
- Preparation. A good test of a Realtor’s acumen is whether he comes well prepared to your meeting. Is he armed with market data, listings, research, trends and the like? Does he have an initial pricing strategy? Does he have a game plan for searching properties?
- Type of Agency? Some Realtors represent solely buyers. Some focus only on sellers. Most cater to both. But there are different agency rules for each type of representation. By law, your Realtor must explain which agency you are operating under, and review and have you sign the Massachusetts Mandatory Licensee-Consumer Relationship Disclosure form. We’ve prepared a handy fact sheet on broker agencies which you can download here.
- Communication. Are you available to us when we need you? Do you use an assistant? Can we contact you after hours? By email or text? Are you good with demanding clients? How many current clients do you have? Being accessible and responsive separates the good realtors from the average.
- Recommendations. Do you have written recommendations from clients or can we contact your 3 most recent clients?
Step 3. Select your Realtor. Go with your instincts. Remember, a good Realtor does not tell her client what he or she wants to hear. You are looking for independent, professional advice.
Feel free to print out this list and use it as a handy guide as you interview and select your Realtor. If you want some names of several excellent realtors in all of the major areas and towns, shoot me an email.