How to find a great realtor

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How to find a great realtor

Poor realtors. Who wants to be in a business where you have to put a "relatable but tough" glamour shot on your business cards? That's a lot of pressure - almost as much pressure as guiding people through the biggest purchase of their lives. Almost.

With online tools like Zillow and Trulia at our disposal, we are not totally dependent on a realtor to help us find the house of our dreams. However, we are dependent on a realtor to help us GET the house of our dreams.

When you are buying a home, especially for the first time, the realtor you choose to team with can make or break your home buying chances.

When we bought our house three years ago, we were in an insanely competitive market. There were seventeen offers made on the house we bought. We did not have the best offer initially. What we did have was an on-the-ball, well-liked realtor to guide us.

Here's what you need in a realtor:

1. Someone who works for you as though they are working for you

As a buyer, you don't technically pay a realtor. The seller pays a realtor fee (usually 6% of the purchase price) which is split between both realtors (buyer and seller). But really you do pay the realtor because the seller uses the money you pay to buy the house to pay the realtor fee.

Of course, a realtor is not your personal assistant. You should treat your realtor like the professional he is and your realtor should be treating you like the adult client you are.

You should feel like your realtor respects you and your opinions and is not condescending, impatient, or pushy.

2. You need someone who is available

Just because a realtor takes you on, doesn't mean she's actually got the time to devote to you. The initial offers and acceptance can move fast and if your realtor is not able to show you that house today or return your phone call until after the weekend, you could miss an opportunity.

Our realtor told us that she tries to make every client feel like they are her only client.

3. But you don't really want to be the only client

The individual attention is great but being the realtor's sole provider is not. The last thing you need is to feel pressure to buy a house so that your realtor can feed his kids for the next few months.

Because realtors work so much by word of mouth, a busy realtor is probably a highly recommended realtor.

4. You need someone who puts your best interest ahead of the realtor fee

Who wants to feel like they're teamed up with a pushy car salesman when looking at houses (no offense to the lovely car salesmen in my life)?

You don't want to be talked into buying a home. That's almost as bad as being talked into getting married.

If your realtor is calling a three foot bedroom "quaint and cheerful", instead of pointing out, "you'll never fit a crib in here," then your realtor may have her best interest in mind instead of yours.

5. A realtor who never says, "That's not what you said before"

Guess what? Especially when you're buying a house for the first time, you're going to change your mind about some things. You have the right to do that.

You need a realtor who gives you permission to change your mind.

6. Someone who gets you

If you and your realtor aren't on the same page, you're doomed before you begin. You have to feel like you can communicate with your realtor and he has to feel like he can communicate with you. If you're ever afraid to tell your realtor something (and vice versa), then that's a red flag.

7. Someone who helps you manage your expectations, but still shoots for the stars

A realtor whose first response is, "No, that's impossible," or, "No, you're never going to get that price," or, "No, they'll never agree to those terms," is not doing his job.

You're looking for someone whose response is, "Probably not, but it doesn't hurt to try." Or "Probably not and I'm hesitant to try it for this reason….. BUT, if you still really want to try, I'll go for it."

8. Someone respected among other realtors

Believe it or not, some realtors are flaky. Some are shady. Some have better people skills than others. You want someone with a reputation for being easy to work with. If the seller's realtor doesn't want to work with your realtor, it can hurt your chances of getting the house.

9. Someone who knows the neighborhoods where you are looking

In big cities where there are dozens of suburbs and pocket neighborhoods, it helps to have a realtor who has recently worked in your area. They understand the energy of the neighborhood, the schools, the neighborhood watch, and what homes are going for what price.

10. Someone who is an educator

You want a realtor who encourages your questions and teaches you things you never even thought to ask.

(This same attribute is essential in a mortgage broker, by the way.)

11. Someone with contacts

If your realtor ever pushes a certain provider on you, you should be suspicious about a kick back. But, it's incredibly helpful if your realtor has a good relationship with some excellent plumbers, inspectors, electricians, handy men, movers, cleaners etc.

A realtor is a great resource of potential clients for people who work on homes. Word of mouth is everything. So you can be reasonably sure these providers will do their best work for you so that your realtor will keep bringing them work.

In addition to all of the above, you just want to work with a realtor you like and respect. It's a big, stressful, fun deal to buy a house. You want someone by your side who's cool and has an awesome glamour shot on her business card.

Photo: Sky Eckstrom