I’m a firm believer in the fact that research is the key to being a smart consumer. If I’m buying a car, I pay attention to standards and testing results. If it’s a used car, it means a thorough check-up at my mechanic, not theirs. Upgrading my entertainment system means a day spent going through price comparisons between stores, and purchasing a house means home inspections and title searches. It makes sense then that the person I choose to represent my interests, in what may very well be the largest single transaction of my life, provide the same standard of service I’ve set for myself.

While most home buyers or sellers will make this decision based on a gut feeling or positive first interaction, there are some questions I find worth asking if you intend to be selective about your agent.

· How long have you been in the business? This question may seem cut and dry, but it’s important to consider the pros and cons of the response. There is of course the benefit of the seasoned veteran with 20 years of experience and a great track record, but there’s something to be said for the enthusiastic newcomer with less bad habits, more time to concentrate on you, and access to competent mentors.

· What’s your plan?  If you’re buying a home, you might want to know what resources your agent will be taking advantage of to find your dream property. If you’re selling, inquire about direct marketing campaigns and advertising mediums. Does your agent rely solely on online marketing, or is print media also utilized? Is it necessary? Are there samples available for you to see?

· What’s going on in my area or in the area I’d like to move to? A quality agent, before meeting with you, will have done their part in researching the target area and getting a good understanding of current price trends as well as availability. An agent who’s done their homework is already demonstrating how hard they’ll work for you if they’re hired.

· How much do you charge? You’d be surprised at how many people neglect to ask the most fundamental question! What percentage or fee is expected at the end of a completed transaction and is it negotiable?

· Do you have any references? The best indicator of what an agent will be able to do for you is what they’ve done for others. Don’t be afraid to ask for references to give you a more complete picture of an agent’s work.

Choosing an agent is a complicated balance between finding a personality that works with yours and determining the skill sets that will best fulfill your business needs. It’s an important undertaking that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The wrong decision could cost you thousands, but choosing just the right representative is likely to make all the difference in the world.

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