Is your real estate agent really working for you?


“You need to use a little truth serum to get prospective real estate agents to come clean.”

BECKI SALTZMAN – Before you sell your home, agree to a listing contract or sign off on a marketing plan, make sure your real estate agent is on your side.

Your agent is your point person. He or she can make or break the deal. You want to be sure your agent can pass muster, not just at reveille, but for the duration of the deal.

Here are five tests you can use to expose a real estate agent as a friend or foe.

Response test
– Use your communication tool of choice – email, text, social media or phone – to make an initial contact. If the response time is long, that’s pretty much what you can expect during the transaction.

If you are a seller, you can expect the agent to get back to potential buyers and their agents with the same haste, or lack thereof.

If you are a buyer, delay could leave you homeless. In a hot market speed makes the difference between closing the deal or not.

Buy or sell test – If you are a buyer, before sharing any information about your timing, price range, or requirements, ask your potential agent “Is it a good time to buy?” Listen to the answer. Then ask: “Is it a good time to sell?” Again, listen for the answer.

If you are a seller, reverse the order of the questions. How well the agent can finesse his or her way through two opposing questions says much about the agent’s sincerity and how they will finesse your transaction.

Role play test
– As a seller, ask your potential agent what they would say if they received a call from a potential buyer to view your home. A response like “Are you working with a Realtor?” can be off putting and blow an opportunity to get you the best offer.

There are other methods of extracting that needed information.

If you are a buyer, ask a prospective agent to show and tell you how they uncover homes for sale before or as soon as they are listed. Ask them what they say to other agents to get inside scoop. The answer should indicate the agent is always on the job.

Low-ball test
– As a buyer, pick a listing as an example and ask your potential agent what he or she would say if you wanted to make a low-ball offer.

You want an agent who grills you with questions about the offer, rather than one who lectures you about low-balling. The agent who grills you is listening. The agent who questions is likely more capable in negotiations, than the lecturer who wants a quick commission.

As a seller, ask how the agent would respond to an inquiry from an agent representing a buyer with low-ball offer. Tell the agent you don’t want to see the offer.

If the agent agrees with you, he or she might not be experienced enough to know how any offer can be a useful negotiating tool.

Commitment test
– Ask your agent what he or she expects from you and tell them what you expect. Respect those who ask you to sign a buyer’s contract as much as you respect those who ask you to sign a seller’s contract.

Understand that when you commit to an agent you are also committing to their brokerage.

Include an escape clause in the contract that details terms by which you can end the contract.

A former 20-year, award-winning, west coast real estate veteran, Becki Saltzman is now author of the upcoming book “Arousing the Buy Curious – Real Estate Pillow Talk for Patrons and Professionals,” set for a fall 2013 release.

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