Whether you are a buyer or a seller in the Los Angeles real estate market below are 5 questions you should be asking your real estate agent before you hire them.
How do you choose your agent? Obviously the best way is going to be a referral from someone you know and trust who used an agent with whom they had a great experience. Do you scour the internet by entering the search terms “Los Angeles real estate agent”, or “top Los Angeles real estate agent?. Do you choose an agent who appears next to a listing you are interested in on sites such as Zillow? Do you just pick a top agent from one of the big box real estate firms assuming that is the safe choice? If I weren’t in the business these are probably the options I would pick.
It really does not matter how you pick an agent, but you need to be sure you have picked the right one. So how can you be sure that you have? Here are some questions you should ask, and they may not seem the obvious ones to you. I will explain why in each point.
- What can I expect from working with you? It is important to establish a working relationship with your agent from the beginning. The answer to this question may cover the rest of the questions and then some, but it is important to ask. Maybe the agent you sign up with will not be the one working with you, it might be their assistant. Maybe the agent has a strict set of rules which may not meet your needs. Maybe they expect you to do your own research on the process you will be going through. Other things may come up that give you pause.
- How available will you be to me? If you are someone who needs to move quickly and likes to see a property as soon as it comes on the market. you may want an agent who is available at any reasonable hour. You may want your agent to preview properties before taking you out, or at least screen each home before sending the listing to you. Some agents just put their buyers into an automatic system which sends out every listing that comes up and rely on you, the buyer, to dig through them all. If you are an out-of-town buyer maybe you want to have your agent do a Facetime with you at properties of interest.
- How will we communicate? This will address the way you like to be contacted. Do you expect your agent to be available to you when you call or at least return your call as soon as possible? Do you want an agent who explains the process step-by-step as you go through it or do you like to be left alone?
- Can I rely on you to negotiate the best possible price and terms for me? If you are a first-time home buyer you may not understand what is going on behind the scenes and want to be able to feel comfortable that your agent has your back. This complements the previous point of communication. Ask them to explain how they will go about the process and help you understand that you are in good hands.
- Ask for references. I take online references with a grain of salt. Talking to actual buyers who have gone through what you are about to with your agent is golden.
See point 4 below.
- What can I expect from working with you? This will establish how the agent will go about listing and marketing your home; how many open houses they will have and how available they will expect you to be for those and any subsequent showings? This also goes back to point one above. Is the agent themselves going to be doing the open houses and showings, or will they be using an assistant. Don’t forget, open houses are a great way for agents to meet new buyers and an opportunity for their assistants to pick up business. You want to make sure that full attention is given to your home. This discussion should set the groundwork for how the whole process will go. Another important point to ask is if the agent will be having professional photos taken. You want your home shown in the best possible light.
- How will we communicate? Are you someone who likes to be kept up-to-date regularly on how an open house or showing went? Do you want to get feedback on each showing? Make sure your needs are met.
- What do you want me to do to prepare the home for sale? There will be things you will have to do to get the home ready, such as cleaning up clutter, maybe painting or landscaping, but you may have an agent who insists you stage the home. Know what is expected of you.
- Will you do dual agency? Dual agency is important to understand. This is when the listing agent is contracted to represent both the buyer and seller in a transaction. Some states do not allow dual agency but California does, even though some brokerages do not. It is very difficult to represent both sides of the transaction fairly and equally which is why it is discouraged by some brokerages. The only real beneficiary is the agent, so caveat emptor (buyer beware), you do not have exclusive representation.
- Ask for references. See point 5 above.
Not all agents are created equal, as I am sure you well know. These 5 questions you should be asking your real estate agent should help you feel a little more comfortable.
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