Making The Most Of Your Real Estate Agent

chalkI recently spoke with a man whose parents owned a residence in Boston. His parents were considering selling their home and he indicated that, once they made a decision, they would contact me. This approach is a great example of a missed opportunity. If his parents already have a relationship with an agent they trust, they have an excellent opportunity to get some high quality free advice and consultation. If his parents don’t have an agent, they can evaluate the agent’s services on a trial basis and possibly get free advice and consultation.

The greatest value of having a relationship with a real estate agent you can trust is that you can consult with him or her regarding major real estate decisions. For a seller, what decision is more important than the initial decision to sell? Even a seemingly simple situation can actually be quite complex. For example, suppose you are transferred to the west coast. Do you need the equity out of your home so you can purchase in California? Should you rent out there first? What are the implications of renting your home here? How solid is the current market and how confident are you that the real estate market will get better for sellers, stay the same, or get worse? And how does all of this factor in to your decision?

Consulting with an agent regarding your decision to sell reveals the ability of your agent to objectively analyze your situation and offer sound advice. A good agent with a consultative approach can assist in fully analyzing and synthesizing all the different factors to help you make a powerful choice that furthers your goals.

Many people, however, make these decisions without expert advice, because they are uncomfortable bringing in an agent to help them. This is understandable. They don’t have a real estate agent they can trust. Because agents work on commission, they naturally have a bias in favor of wanting you to sell. It is difficult for them to be completely objective in their analysis and advice. However, at some level, almost all professionals have a personal financial bias. It all comes down to trust. Can you trust that your real estate agent has enough integrity to keep your interests truly in mind and be as objective as possible?

Your agent’s trustworthiness will be put to the test by consulting with him or her regarding the decision to buy or sell. The primary piece of information that you probably need, if you are thinking of selling, is an accurate picture of the value of your home. Most agents offer this analysis without charge. Not surprisingly, the raw data is subject to interpretation and the final value is more art than science.  Agents are often overly optimistic about the value of your property. You want the home to be worth as much as possible, and the agent wants the business. An experienced agent, who understands the market, and is good with the numbers, is the starting point. Only an agent you trust, and one who really understands the value of a long term agent-client relationship, can give you a truly honest appraisal of your home’s value. If you already have an agent you trust then this information will be very valuable. If you are working with an agent who is new to you, vigilantly check your agent’s references and consider how much you trust the agent before making any decisions. If you feel that the agent has genuinely assisted you in the decision-making process, and there is a foundation of trust, even if you decide not to sell in the current market, you have found the right agent. {Please Comment Here}


  1. David Russell says

    This post raises an important issue–how do you know how trustworthy an agent is? I like the idea of viewing an agent as a kind of consultant whose expertise can guide you through a complex and sometimes emotional process. I also like the idea of checking references. I’d add that interviewing your agent as you would a potential employee would be a good idea. How long has your agent been in the business? What is the depth of his or her experience in this particular geographical area, or with your type of housing or needs? Has he or she worked with someone who matches your profile? Ask to talk to some of those clients, rather than just a standard selection of happy customers. You might also see if the agent has professional references. If they work for an office, is there a supervisor you would talk to? Are they a member in good standing of any professional organizations? Are they listed on any reputable review sites, like Angie’s list?

  2. David Russell says

    Another post useful to me as a homeowner. If you develop a sense of what an Energy Star whole-house rating would be worth in dollars or percent increase in value, please share it! That information would help guide my renovation decisions.

  3. Scott Lush says

    Very informative description of when remodeling pays and doesn’t. You really know your stuff. So if no one room (kitchen, bathroom) can be remodeled and generate a positive return when sold, when is a renovation of any kind worth it?

  4. Scott Lush says

    Very informative blog entry about the importance of keeping a separate condominium account with an annual budget in which at least 10% goes into a reserve fund for future expenses.

  5. says

    This blog helps you see your real estate as a financial investment with a Return on Investment. It is a different take than other real estate investment sites, which tend to focus on purchasing property for the purpose of investing. This one pulls the emotion out of home ownership and let’s you look at your primary residence as part of your overall portfolio. Information is power!

  6. says

    How would an association determine what expense items should be in a residential budget, versus the general budget. The association has commercial units, residential unit and parking spaces.

    • says

      I am not familiar with an association having a “residential budget” versus a “general budget.” I assume you mean that your association spends money on behalf of the residential side of the building separately from the entire building. My educated guess is that this is set up by your condominium documents, and thus governed by them. Otherwise, it is simply an accounting judgment call.