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How to Choose a Realtor

How to Choose the Right Real Estate Broker/Agent

We have included this article in an effort to inform the military home buyer how the real estate “system” works. Like it or not, people associate the military member with other “co-workers.” (No one thinks of one McDonald’s employee as being indicative of the rest.) Hopefully, as real estate agents see military people doing the right things, they will begin to give future military customers preferential treatment. Of course, if too many military members “violate” the rules, then the end result can be that military customers will only receive just enough service to get by.

1. The first factor in choosing someone to help you buy a house is “Can you trust that person?”. We recommend that you choose REALTORs®, real estate agents who have agreed to abide by the REALTOR® Code of Ethics. Most of the real estate advertisers on MilitaryTowns.com are REALTOR®-affiliated brokerages. We think this is better than choosing an agent recommended by your brother-in-law’s college buddy.

2. Right along with trust is the question “Can this real estate agent find me a house in the area I want?” The way to do this is simply to ask up front. Often times people don’t ask whether or not the agent is a member of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for a particular area. This is a mistake. An agent is licensed by the state so can sell you any property in that state. However, the agent must be a member of a particular MLS to truly know the housing market in that area. So ask! “Are you a member of the MLS for -- whatever area you are interested in?” If not, then you will need to find a real estate agent who is. You may have to work with different agents at the beginning if you do not know what area you want (i.e. San Antonio versus outlying counties of San Antonio), but you will find that most agents will be happy to accommodate you.

3. Also, you need to find a brokerage that specializes in your needs(to some degree at least). Again, while each broker/agent can sell you any house in an area, if you are trying to buy an average-sized/priced house and you are dealing with an upscale agency, you may not receive quite the service you expect or need simply because they do not know that end of the market as well as other agencies. So decide up front what you are looking for and ask around.

4. Lastly, when you find the right agent, stick with them. The biggest problem that real estate agents complain about is that customers don’t stay loyal. The real problem is that customers don’t know how the system works. If you have been dealing with one agent in an area and are driving around on your own and see an interesting house for sale, DO NOT CALL the number on the For Sale sign. Call your agent instead. Your agent is called the “selling agent” and the name on the sign is called the “listing agent.” They will split the commission unless you bypass your agent. The whole purpose of the agency system is for agents to be able to sell ALL houses in an area. You are NOT doing your agent a favor by not bothering them for “just one house.” Having your agent spend time and money showing you an area and then signing a contract with some other agent whose name is on the sign in front of a house you “just happened by” is wrong beyond words. Depending on the situation and regardless of your desire to treat your agent “right”, the REALTOR® Code of Ethics can prevent your agent from collecting part of the commission if you bypass him/her. DON’T DO IT.

PS: What if you have a problem with your agent? If you haven’t signed a contract to buy a house, then you have three options.

(A) You can talk to the agent to try to resolve the problem. Your agent is there to serve your needs and while most realize this, some are simply better than others.

(B) You can talk to the broker that the agent works for to try to correct the problem. Indeed, if you have to (or want to) switch agents, this may be the only way to work with another agent in that office due to conflict of interest rules many agencies have.

(C) You can start over with another agency.

Once you sign a contract to buy a home (or in some cases are shown the home that you want to buy), you are limited to options A and B above, so don’t let problems fester. Things usually don’t improve during the paperwork phase if they weren’t satisfactory during the house-hunting phase.

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