What to Look For
You will need to do some research to find a REALTOR® who matches your needs. Keep in mind what is happening here, you are making a major move from one part of the country to another unfamiliar area. So having someone you can trust and rely on is essential.
In your research, I recommend looking at the individual agent’s websites to get a feel for their experience and how they conduct their business. What credentials do they have? What do their sites tell you about them? What services do they offer? What neighborhoods/cities do they work in?
Look to see if they author a blog. This may be the best way to get to “know” an agent more personally. In fact, since you’re here on RealTown, why not check out agents in your new location at RealTown Blogs.
After you find one or more agents that really interest you, give them a call. Conduct an interview (hint: make up a list of standard questions beforehand and ask each one the same questions). And guess what? If you leave a message about why you are calling and it takes forever to get a return call (say, a few hours), I’d write THAT person off the list right away, NEXT!! You need someone you can rely on, who is punctual, and who returns phone calls. You are making a big move here, and you need to count on someone for assistance.
You need an individual who knows the housing market you are moving too well. I think this is even more important than when working with someone in your local area. If they don’t, how can they really advise you, or help you get the information you need about an area you don’t know? Do they know their market conditions (buyer vs. seller’s market) and how things are selling? Do they know about the homes for sale? And have they worked with folks who have relocated before, either within the state or further away? This will help them to understand YOUR situation and the issues you are facing. And if they themselves have relocated, so much the better.
You will want to feel a certain level of comfort, and a personal chemistry. But you will also want to feel that the person you are talking about REALLY wants to help you and is committed to doing so. They need to have YOUR interests are the heart and to work on YOUR behalf. After all, YOU are the client. And if you are a first-time buyer, this is even more important.
What information does this person offer (e.g., a customized relocation package)? Can they screen homes for you based on what YOU want and need? And will they do this for you, and provide more information and photos? Can they provide you with all the listings in the area that interests you, as well as help with information resources so you can do your own due diligence?
How responsive are they, and can they assist you late at night and on the weekends? How are they with technology (phone, fax, email, text messaging). This is especially important when you are working at a distance, and from a different time zone, and on-going communication will be essential to ensure a smooth transaction.
Agent’s Years vs. Experience
The agent’s experience is important, but don’t get hung up on actual years. Some newer agents are highly motivated, energetic, great with technology and willing to do whatever it takes. That can be true of those with many years of business as well, of course. I would not recommend someone who is really new, since you need to rely on an agent who knows what s/he is doing, not still learning the ropes.
You will need to plan some house hunting trips to find your new home. Will this agent help you with that? What will they actually do for you? Set up tours? Pre-screen homes? What can you expect when you get to your new location for your house hunting trip? Can they devote a day or two, or more, to your home search?
Finally, once you have identified the home, and perhaps made an offer, there is lots of work to be done. Do you feel you can trust this person to handle things in your absence, to keep you informed at all times, answer questions, and assist in problem-solving? Remember that paperwork needs to flow back and forth by fax, e-mail or snail mail — is this person comfortable doing that? And keeping you aware of all needed disclosures and other documents unique to your new home state is just a part of the job.
It’s a weighty task to find the right person, but there are some great agents out there. Keep these things in mind and you will do just fine. Good luck! And enjoy that relocation.