The National Association of Realtors recently released the results of a study that found that 41% of Buyers and 39% of Sellers found their agent through a referral. To be honest, those numbers don’t surprise me – 70% of our business comes via referral too.
I’ve just returned from the Inman News Real Estate Connect Conference in San Francisco and there was a lot of talk about review websites for real estate agents. I admit – when I book a hotel, I check it out first with Trip Advisor. Before I try out a new restaurant, I research it on Yelp. But would I turn to an anonymous website to help me choose the person who will guide me through the biggest purchase I am likely to make?
If I was hiring a real estate agent in Toronto, here’s what I’d do:
- Decide what’s important to you in a real estate agent: Neighbourhood knowledge? Negotiation and pricing strategy? Someone who’ll hold your hand through the process? Experience with dealing with investment properties or flips? Agents have different skills, expertise, experience and approaches – what do you need?
- Start your search for a real estate agent with your friends and family. Who have they had good experiences with? Who do they think you should avoid? Make sure to ask them specifically about the things that are important to you – just because your Mom had a good experience with an agent while buying a house in the ‘burbs, doesn’t mean that same agent will be the best person to find you that downtown Toronto penthouse condo.
- Research the agent online – their website and presence on social media can tell you a lot. Are they on top of their game and on top of the market? Are they experts in the neighbourhoods you’re interested in buying in?
- Check out agent review sites and testimonials to help you validate what you’ve been able to discover. Is that realtor really as great as he says he is? Look for consistencies in themes vs. one really great or one really bad review. Is everyone talking about how great they are at educating new buyers through the process? Do multiple people talk about the agent’s bidding war savvy? Ask to talk to one of the people who provided a testimonial.
- Meet with a few agents and then decide who to work with. It shocks me that 73% of people only ever call one agent.