Selecting a Buyer’s Agent: 8 Traits To Look For

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You want to buy a house.  A large sum of money is at stake.  The process is complex.  You don’t want to do it on your own.
So, how do you find someone that you can trust to guide you through this process?
I’ve been in your shoes, and, unfortunately, I made a bad decision the first time.  But, there’s no reason for you to do the same – you deserve better than that!  What I’ve learned over the years, both through the reflection of looking back on my personal experience and then from being on the other side and working with buyers like yourself, is that there are a set of qualities or traits that you should focus in on while selecting an agent.  By taking this approach, you give yourself the best shot at finding an agent that you will work well with.

1. Compatible Personalities

Buying a home, regardless of whether it is a house or a condo, is a lengthy process.  With today’s financial market, there is no reason to think you will be done from start to finish in less than 45 days unless you are fortunate enough to pay all cash – but not many people fit into that category.  Therefore, you’re going to want to make sure that you are comfortable with the personality of the real estate agent you work with.  There is no point spending hours and hours with a person if they grate on your nerves every time they open their mouth to speak.  Trust me, there are enough good agents in every market to not succumb to this torture :)
To a degree, you may be able to get a sense for an agent’s personality by researching their online presence.  Like me, they may have content on their website that they generated themselves; although, that’s not always the case.  They may be active on Twitter and Facebook and other social media websites that will give you some insight into who they are as individuals.  But, more than anything, a brief sit-down over coffee will be what you need to see if they pass the “don’t-make-my-skin-crawl” test.

2. Preferred Communication Method(s)

Phone calls, text messages, emails, tweets, Facebook posts, smoke signals … there are so many ways for people to communicate today.  If you have a preference, your real estate agent should be able and willing to accommodate it.  There are numerous reasons as to why you prefer one method over another – maybe technology isn’t your closest friend and your phone is the place where text messages go to die :) … maybe your job doesn’t offer you access to email during the day.  The reason doesn’t matter – if you have a preference, your agent needs to be just as comfortable using it as any other form.
My personal practice is to be a copy-cat.  Meaning: if you call me, I will call you back; if you email me, I will email you back.  The only time I vary from this approach is when you either inform me to use a different method or if time is of the essence.  If we need to make a decision in the next 20 minutes and you typically take an hour to respond to email, I’m going to pick up the phone and call you.  Most people are comfortable with this.

3. Sensitivity To Your Desires

Sensitivity to your desires is simply my way of saying that your agent listens to you.  If you tell your agent that being able to walk to down-town from your home is important, they shouldn’t waste your time looking at houses in the country club 5 miles away.  Listening is such a simple task that we often take it for granted.  Unfortunately, I’ve talked to too many individuals who’ve been frustrated by working with agents that just don’t seem to take into account what they’ve been told.
As soon as you detect a pattern of your agent not listening to you, find a new one!

4. Ability To Explain

Pre-qualified vs pre-approved.  Agency disclosure.  Escrow.  Absorption rates.  Impound accounts.  Addendums.  Counter offers.  The list goes on and on … but the point is that there are a lot of aspects to real estate that are not intuitively obvious for many of us.  Therefore, it’s imperative that the real estate agent you decide to work with be skilled at explaining each of these items in a manner that resonates and is understandable by you.
Let’s say that last part again … the agent must be able to explain the information in a manner that is understandable by YOU.
An agent may understand an aspect of a contract well enough to explain it to someone with a law background, but, if you don’t have a law degree, what good does that do you?  They must be able to break the concepts down into a familiar form that you can comprehend; otherwise, you may inadvertently make a wrong decision.  And, considering the potential financial ramifications, that’s the last thing you want to do when it so easily could have been avoided.

5. Market/Niche Knowledge

The agent you choose to work with needs to be able to demonstrate to you, at a minimum, their competency within the market and niche you are focused on.  For example, if you’re a first time buyer looking for a starter home in Walnut Creek, your agent should be well versed on the Walnut Creek market and have the ability (and patience) to walk you through each step of the transaction.  This is a very different skill-set from what you would look for in an agent to advise you on your investment plans.  Likewise, both of these examples are very different from what you would look for in an agent to sell your house.
Certain skills are universal – negotiating, for example.  However, the more focused and unique your needs, the more important it is to find an agent with the corresponding expertise.  Don’t fall for someone claiming to be an expert in foreclosures, short sales, first time home buyers and investing … it’s simply not true!  Make sure the person you select has the knowledge required for your situation.

6. Compatible Negotiation Techniques

When it comes time to write an offer, it’s important to have an agent that approaches the negotiations in a manner you are comfortable with.  The best agents are capable of adapting their style to meet your desires, and that’s important when you start to consider the potential levels of stress you will encounter during the purchase process.
Some people love to work to get the absolute best deal – that includes negotiating on everything: the price, closing costs, repairs, appliances, furniture, cars, you name it.  Others want to avoid confrontation and have their first offer accepted as is.  If you fall into this second category and your agent writes up the contract 30% under asking price and demanding everything including the kitchen sink :), you’ll quickly find your stress levels spiking when the response comes back from the seller.
Everybody wants the best deal.  Just remember that there are often multiple ways to achieve the same outcome.  Work with the right agent and you’ll get your desired outcome in a manner that keeps you comfortable throughout the entire process.

7. Industry Connections

No one buys a house all on their own – agents, lenders, escrow/title officers and inspectors are on the short list of industry professionals involved in most deals in California.  As a buyer, you have the right to choose these individuals on your own.  In practice, though, not many people have all of these connections unless they too work in the real estate industry.  That’s where your selection of a real estate agent can make or break some deals.
A quality agent will not only have these connections, but they should have multiples for you to choose from.  Ideally, these connections will be for individuals who perform at the same, if not better, level than your agent.  Don’t feel obligated, though, to work with any of them.  At the end of the day, the choice is yours.

8. Willingness To See It Through To The End

Being a buyer, regardless of the market, can be a lengthy process.  From when you first decide the time is right to buy a home until the day you close and receive the keys, many months can pass in-between.  Unfortunately for buyers, not all agents have the patience to see this through to the end when the months start stacking up.

In Conclusion

Talk to me long enough or read the articles on this site and you will discover I am a firm believer that the Real Estate industry could use some improvement.  You deserve better than what is typically delivered.  Don’t settle for mediocrity – every market has it’s fantastic agents and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be working with one of them.  You deserve better.

Why Work With the SPARRproperties Group?
Arek P. recommends Walnut Creek Home Buyers Choose Brian Sparr
We easily went through 12 agents before running into Brian. Brian immediately stood out from the pack – he is extremely knowledgeable, smart, and real estate is his passion – which is an important distinction and an absolute necessity for a great agent.
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Jenny K. recommends Concord Home Sellers Choose Brian Sparr
Brian is hard-working, ethical, timely, savvy, confident yet modest, knows the in’s and out’s of the current market, and a really nice guy on top of it all. If you have any doubt, at least meet with him!
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Dennis H. recommends East Bay Real Estate Investors Choose Brian Sparr
I do not think I have worked with anyone in ANY business that demonstrates the kind of dedication, integrity and diligence of Brian Sparr. I would never again work with another realtor and would recommend Brian Sparr to anyone without hesitation.
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Alan M. recommends Out-of-State Real Estate Investors Choose Brian Sparr
Brian’s been an incredible advisor, setting expectations for short sale & foreclosure opportunities, educating me on commercial property financial modeling, and going beyond the number crunching...
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