real estate

Pros and cons of hiring a part-time agent

Part-time real estate agents rarely get positive reviews from full-time agents. Does that mean you should avoid hiring a part-time real estate agent to sell your house?

"It's very difficult to place all part-time and full-time agents in one hat. I've worked closely with both. There are some part-time agents that are extremely active, even more active than the full-timers," says Chantay Bridges, a senior real estate specialist with Clear Choice Realty & Associates in Los Angeles.

What's important, says Bridges, is an agent's work ethic. The agent either is or isn't responsive to the client's needs. Because clients can have different needs, Bridges says there is plenty of room for quality part-time agents in the market. There are pros and cons to hiring a part-time agent, and clients who choose part-time agents aren't necessarily at a disadvantage.

Benefits of hiring part-time agents

If there's one myth about part-time agents, it's that they're busy doing something else when clients need them most. According to Bridges, a part-time agent isn't necessarily a scheduling nightmare. After all, full-time agents have busy schedules, and in some cases a part-timer can be more flexible.

"Their schedule and yours may coincide nicely, especially if you have a full eight-hour-a-day job and so do they," Bridges says. "You can meet after hours and weekends, and it may work out great for both of you."

Part-time agents can end up costing less because they don't necessarily have to work on commission. While the fee is something all sellers will have to negotiate, Bridges points out that sellers who want to move slower and tend to consider offers over a longer time may be able to find part-time agents willing to work at fixed rates.

Drawbacks of hiring part-time agents

Many full-time agents don't see any advantages to working with part-timers.

"Part-time agents are the worst," says Herman Chan, a real estate broker in San Francisco. "I always know when I'm dealing with a part-time agent because they only return my calls at noon or after 5 p.m. -- meaning their lunch break or after they clock out (from their day jobs)."

While that may not sound like much of a sin, Chan points out that residential real estate in the age of cellphones and social media means constant connectivity is a must.

"If you're offline for a half of a day, your client can miss out of an offer," Chan says. "Part-time agents really do a disservice to their clients because buying and selling really is a 24/7 career."

But Chan concedes even full-time agents struggle to keep up with the pace of today's real estate business.

"Part-time or full-time, it's all about being a professional and having great follow-up skills," Chan says.

Market knowledge is important

Of course, it isn't about service alone. Expertise is one of the main reasons sellers choose to work with an agent. Ziad Najm, of Cedar Real Estate in South Orange County, Calif., says part-timers often lack the local knowledge that can make a difference when it comes to pricing a house.

"Residential real estate transactions can be complicated on many levels, and each market presents unique challenges that require an agent's full attention to best advise their clients," Najm says. "From a market knowledge standpoint, an agent who is fully invested in learning and staying current with their market's inventory can better advise their client as to the pros and cons of a transaction."

But that doesn't just mean pricing a house. In fact, says Najm, a lot more goes into selling, including financing, marketing and showing the house in the best possible way.

For Najm, full-time agents are just better positioned when it comes to using those various skill sets on behalf of their clients because they get more opportunities to hone their skills.

The stakes are big

Najm says selling or buying a home is typically a person's biggest financial transaction. "Given the weight of the decisions throughout the process, it makes sense to have someone who invests their full professional capacity to serving their client's interests."

While Najm believes a full-time agent is a better choice, he agrees that sellers should always consider an agent's experience, expertise and professionalism.

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