Whether you’re a buyer or a seller, choosing the right real estate agent could be a major component in your success. But you’re bombarded with agents’ advertising, and you just aren’t sure where to start. Another problem is less available information than there is for other professionals. Stephen Brobeck, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of America, avers that “We don’t have information about real estate agents that we have about other service professionals” (Bankrate). This means, then, that you will have to do much of the checking and background research on your own. But here are a few things you can do to ensure you choose the right real estate agent in Tampa Bay.
Do Your Own Market and Agent Research First
If you do some market research on your own first, you’ll be able to know right off whether a prospective agent is just blowing smoke and trying to impress. Being forearmed with some knowledge will give you a leg up in choosing the right real estate agent in Tampa Bay.
Start by checking out your local housing market in person. You can walk or drive around local neighborhoods to get a feel for the local market. Pay attention to for-sale signs and see what names keep popping up. Ask around about sale prices for houses like yours. You could also drop into a local open house and watch how the agent interacts with both seller and potential buyers. Watch for knowledge and professionalism.
Look at Ratings/Reviews and Get References
The next step in choosing the right real estate agent in Tampa Bay is to dig deeper and see what kind of ratings and reviews your prospective agents have. The Internet is your friend here.
There are several reputable online, third-party review sites you can check out. Certainly, you will want to look for plenty of positive reviews, but will also want to examine the following:
- Credentials and licenses
- Professional awards
- License and disciplinary actions
- Extent of experience
- Current listings
- Knowledge of the area
You will also want to note how the agent handles negative reviews. Today, these online reviews are the next best thing to personal referrals.
Then you do want to seek out personal referrals. Talk to family members, friends, and co-workers to see if they have any agent recommendations from personal experiences. Over 20% of sellers find their agent through personal referrals. You can also find some of the agent’s recent clients and talk to them.
Interview Several Agents
If you really want to find the right real estate agent in Tampa Bay, it’s always best to have a large pool of prospects. So be sure and interview several (three at a minimum) agents before making a selection. This way you will have several candidates to compare against one another and can weigh the pros and cons of each. And make sure to handle these interviews as a genuine job interview because your agent will be working for you. The questions you should ask include these:
- How long have you been working as a real estate agent?
- Do you work chiefly with buyers or with sellers?
- Do you have a specialty, and what is it?
- On average, how many active clients do you have simultaneously?
- Are you working for an agency or as part of a team?
- Do you have the experience to handle my unique situation?
- Can you provide the contact information for some references?
Set Clear Expectations
When you begin to narrow the field, you will want to set clear expectations – and then see how the prospects respond and react. These expectations should include:
- Communication preferences – One of the most common complaints from both buyers and sellers is that they have troubling contacting and communicating with their agent. So be clear about what you expect with respect to the communication. Do you prefer phone calls or email? How often do you expect to hear from the agent about progress made? If an agent isn’t willing to accommodate your communication preferences, then move on to the next one.
- Motivation to buy or sell – It’s also critical for you and the agent to be on the same page when it comes to your motivation and resulting expectations. Do you need to finalize the deal within a certain period to avoid capital gains taxes? Do you need to sell at the highest price possible? Do you need to be in a house fast because of a job relocation?
- Selling strategy/showings – Also, be clear about what you expect for the selling strategy and for showings. You both definitely need to be on the same page here. How do you want the property marketed? Will you hold open houses?
Check the Fit
Finally, n order to choose the right real estate agent in Tampa Bay, make sure you and the agent will be a good fit. Make no mistake: you will be entering into a reciprocal business relationship, and you will have to be able to work well together. Chemistry, then, is as important as credentials and experience. Basically, you need to choose an agent you feel is trustworthy and whom you can rely on.