by George Lawson
Before you get started narrowing down the search for your agent, it’s important to understand exactly what (or who) you’re shopping for. For many people, the terms “Realtor” and “real estate agent” mean the same thing, but that isn’t true.
A real estate agent has been issued a license from the state in which they practice. A Realtor, on the other hand, is a real estate agent who has earned additional certification from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and must abide by a strict Code of Ethics.
Also, only Realtors have access to Multiple Listing Services (MLS) through which members share listings and have access to many more properties than non-members. Five years ago, 1/3 of real estate licensees were Realtors. Now, it’s nearly half.
Franchise or Independent?
It might be helpful to determin what kind of brokerage you are looking for. Like most things in life, there’s simply no right or wrong choice. Both big name franchises and independent agencies can be worthwhile services depending on the specific situation.
In the case of larger franchises, it is often believed these companies have access to larger databases of homes, buyers, sellers, or renters. Franchise real estate companies often have bigger marketing budgets. Their websites are often more in-depth, and can utilizee multiple forms of media to make a property more visible in the community.
On the other hand, hiring an independent brokerage might mean a good chance you’ll receive more attention from your estate agent, with a more intimate experience and relationship based around consistent communication and interaction.
If you select a franchised broker, you can take advantage of national name recognition and a strong national advertising campaign. But be aware — you aren’t guaranteed a great agent just because you selected a well-known franchise. You should select a firm … whether a franchise or independent … based on that office’s reputation.
What are some good resources?
- Your first stop might be online with a large search engine, like Google or Yahoo, searching for Realtors in your community (i.e., “Homes For Sale In Moreno Valley”).
- A truly up-to-date agent will also have a social media presence, like a Facebook page and/or LinkedIn profile.
- Ask your friends, coworkers and family for referrals. (But remember that, while friends can give you a starting point, you probably don’t want to hire an agent solely on a friend’s recommendation.)
- Stop by open houses to view other homes on the market and see agents in action.
What’s with the “alphabet soup” after their name?
Just as doctors and lawyers specialize, so do real estate agents. And even generalists will get additional training in some areas. So those letters after the name can be an indication that the person has taken additional classes in a certain specialty of real estate sales.
The designations can represent anything from two hours of online study to months of classroom education. Some designations are available to agents based solely on agent experience, extensive qualifications and payment of a huge fee. But it bears repeating … the “pedigree” of the particular real estate agent you work with isn’t as important as the level of energy, commitment and the local knowledge he or she may have.
Here’s what some of the designations mean:
ABR – Accredited Buyer Representative
ACRE – Accredited Consultant in Real Estate
ACR – Accredited Seller Representative
CRS – Certified Residential Specialist
ePRO – Internet Technology Specialist
GRI – Graduate Realtor Institute
SRES – Senior Real Estate Specialist
Now, once you have a list of potential agents, check out their online and offline presence and narrow them down to a short list. Once you’ve got 3-5 top contenders, you’re ready to interview them.
Copyright 2012, George Lawson (all rights reserved)
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