How to Choose a Realtor

In a small community like ours, most people know several Realtors, so what do you do when it’s time to buy or sell property–who do you choose to represent you? The answer is simple: you pick the person who can best meet your needs (as opposed to the person you meet for drinks after work).

Before I get into how to hire a Realtor, here’s a quick reminder on why to hire a Realtor. Simply stated, Realtors know their stuff and can save you time and money—yes, money! They can help you avoid expensive mistakes, negotiate on your behalf, and take advantage of opportunities you may not be aware of. Remember, it’s in your Realtor’s best interest to help you meet your goal, because Realtors only get paid if you get what you want: a completed transaction. In fact, licensed real estate agents have a fiduciary responsibility to deal honestly and in the best interest of the principal (you). It’s not just an ethical responsibility, it’s a legal one.

So, how can you choose a good Realtor? First, talk to your friends and neighbors for recommendations, and maybe more importantly whether there is anyone they would avoid. You could use that age-old question, “Would you hire them again?” Ask your insurance agent, your accountant, your attorney and your local banker, too. These professionals understand the economics of real estate and are likely to have a valuable opinion on the subject.

The Realtor you ultimately choose to engage needs to be someone with whom you can have both a business relationship and a personal relationship. It’s critically important that your search not simply be a popularity contest, because we’re talking about dealing with hundreds of thousands of dollars. Ask the following questions and if by the end of the interview you’re confident you can work well with this person and they can meet your needs, you’re probably in good shape.

Does their communication style work for you? Do they use all the communication tools you like (e.g., cell phone, text, email, even that old fashioned standby face-to-face)? Are they available on weekends or during evenings? How long do they usually take to respond to questions?

Do they have the expertise to meet your needs? When measuring expertise, pay attention to years and type of experience, as well as professional designations such as Realtor (instead of simply real estate agent). Some Realtors even have additional education like GRI (Graduate, Realtor Institute) or CRS (Certified Residential Specialist).

Do they have the capacity to take you on as a client? Although the agent may have wonderful credentials, it is important to find out whether they can currently give you the time and attention you need to buy or sell a property on your timeline.

Do they have the technical tools to do the job right? In this world of constant communication and electronic marketplaces, can your Realtor excel? Do they or their company have a mobile app? Website? Blog? Access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)? Franchise affiliation with impressive online networks?

If you responded positively to all these questions, you’re probably in great shape. When it’s all said and done, the Realtor you choose should be someone you trust and get along with, and someone who has the expertise, capacity, and company support to accomplish your objectives.

I know it can be hard to look friends in the eye after you’ve hired their competitor, but this is business, not personal. For example, clearly, I hope you hire someone from my office, but if not, so be it. Choose the best person for the job, and I promise not hold it against you…much.

If you have questions about getting into real estate, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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