The decision to buy or sell a home
is one of the most important financial decisions most people make,
yet many give little thought to finding the real estate agent best
suited to their needs.
Agents are often chosen solely on the recommendation
of a friend or an ad in the newspaper. But choosing the right agent
can save you time, effort and aggravation in finding the perfect
home at a price you can afford or selling your home quickly for
"Real estate has always been a mark of
independence and freedom in this country," says Donald R. Brenner,
professor emeritus at American University. "Owning property
is very important, and when you deal with someone who is going to
help you buy or sell a piece of property, you'd better find someone
that knows what they're doing.
"If you pick up the phone book and choose
from the yellow pages, you won't make a better decision than if
you picked up the telephone book to choose a brain surgeon,"
Shelley O'Hara, author of 'The Complete Idiot's Guide
to Buying & Selling a Home,' says, "When you announce your
desire to purchase a house, you may be surprised at the number of
real estate people who want to represent you. Agents come out of
the woodwork. You won't have to worry too much about finding an
agent -- you do need to worry about finding a good one."
Paul Purcell, a partner in Braddock & Purcell,
a real estate advocate in New York City, agrees. "Buying a
house is the most important financial transaction most people will
make in a lifetime," he says.
"The most important thing when either
buying or selling a home is to select the right real estate agent,
but people usually go about it backwards. They read a newspaper
or get one of the home magazines in the supermarkets, and they call
about a home they see advertised. They should first select the real
estate agent -- one who will understand what they need and can navigate
the system for them.
"Advertising is designed to make the brokers'
and agents' phones ring. Typically no one buys the house they called
for, but from that point on, they're joined at the hip with a real
estate agent they don't know anything about -- whether they are
good, bad or indifferent or new to the business. They need to find
an agent before they find house."
Brenner explains, "You must make inquiries before
you sign with an agent or broker. Commissions are usually substantial,
so some real estate agents will try to sell you anything. They'll
tell you every house is the best house they've ever seen, every
room is the prettiest, your kids are going to love it, and your
dog is going to bark nicely. They'll tell you anything!
"If you're selling, your property may be the
most valuable thing you own and it is of utmost importance to find
an agent you can trust," Brenner says. "A real estate
agent has a high fiduciary duty -- a duty of trust and confidence.
It is the most important duty of any sales person or broker in real
estate. An agent must disclose all the material facts of any transaction
-- everything they know about the property, good or bad. If a salesperson
knows there are three inches of water in the basement every time
it rains, he is obligated to disclose that fact."