The best way to find a real estate agent you can trust to stay on top of the market is to become one yourself. You'll save tons of money in fees, and also have access to the market’s inner loop, where information on the best houses sometimes never leaves.
If you have a genuine interest in the industry, it may indeed be time to take it to the next level and get your license. However, obtaining a real estate license should not be taken lightly. It is a tremendous responsibility that carries a great liability risk. As an agent, you can be held legally responsible for everything from stating false square footage (you mean, you can’t guesstimate?) to not disclosing the moldy plank the buyer found in the basement (you didn’t even know the piece of wood was there).
Become an agent because you want to be on top of the game — but take your profession seriously once you’re there. It is a serious business, and in every transaction, hundreds of thousands of dollars may be at stake. If you decide to become an agent, use your license when you buy but still consider hiring an unbiased associate when you sell. It is much better to have someone else list a property once there’s an emotional attachment.
If spending your Sunday mornings on caravan with your cup of Starbucks in hand doesn’t delight you, you’ll need to work with someone who already has that spark. In fact, if every aspect of the industry — from inventory to interest rates to which hovels are selling at what price — doesn’t stir up your curiosity, or your other career and family already occupy 103 percent of your day, don’t waste your time and energy vying for a real estate license.
Get outside help if you don’t have time to market and show your property, or to follow up with potential buyers. Having an unbiased party involved can also help you avoid the common pitfall of becoming too emotionally attached to your property to price it aggressively and get it sold.
When searching for your property pro, look for someone who is an expert in your area and who shares your goals and philosophy. Finding the right agent is like finding your soul mate: You trust him implicitly to do the right thing for you, and he in turn is eternally grateful for your business and loyalty. If you were dating, there would be a neon "get a room!" sign over your heads.
Famously fickle? Get over it. I’m a big advocate of establishing a loyal, long-term relationship with your agent. This person can really be your ace in the hole, whether by finding undiscovered gems for you or closing otherwise impossible deals. I still refer friends to the agent my parents used when they bought their first home in Pacific Palisades in 1983. That being said, if you question your real estate agent’s professionalism, availability or dedication, discuss it or move on. There are plenty of fish in this sea, and you should never settle for a mediocre agent.
The best way to meet and greet agents is by going to open houses. Some will be cordial and laid-back; others will attack you like a rabid dog. It’s really a matter of personal preference, but keep in mind that while Cujo may be a bit off-putting, he probably has a packed Rolodex. To me, the ideal agent is assertive without being aggressive.
When you meet someone and sparks ignite, ask if you can set up an informational interview. But first, get my 10 questions to ask your realtor before signing an agent agreement.
For more information, purchase "Flipping Confidential" by Kirsten Kemp (John Wiley and Sons, 2007)