Not that many years ago (ok, a bit longer than that), my husband and I had that same question. We were ready to put our monthly rent funds into something more permanent, lining our own pockets instead of the landlord’s. Though I’d entertained becoming an agent for many years, I didn’t have a notion of how to CHOOSE one to help us on our search.

We were looking for small acreage properties, and since I was already tech savvy (yes the internet worked back then!), I went wild looking up properties in our price range and area. I did reach out to some agents via those slicky property websites. More often than not, I didn’t get an answer, or at least one within the same 24 hour period in which I quested. Being tech savvy, I wanted my answers NOW, so those agents didn’t get my business.

Using the shiny new internet, I then searched for websites of brokerages near the areas I was searching. I’m a face person; meaning, if you have a nice, honest seeming face, I wanted to know more about you. I also was fairly anti-corporate; having worked in IT for many at this point in time made me a bit wary of the ‘branding’ and tactics.

I found a website for a seemingly low key, independent brokerage. There was a picture of a family of 5, all smiling and happy, with cute little kidlets. Clicking the “About Us” choice, I saw a list of agents that worked in that office. I simply chose the first face that looked like a person I’d like to work with, and called to speak to her. “Cathy” was very pleasant, and as I explained to her what I was looking for, and that I was looking at these internet sites and would likely tell her what I wanted to see, she happily agreed.

Being a horseperson, when I look at properties I generally walk the fencelines and go to the barn first. When we all met for the first time at the first property, it was October. Lots of rain, and long grass. Cathy showed up in a lovely outfit and high heels. I mentioned kindly that we’d go out to the fields first, and she could wait for us. She perkily said she’d come on out with us. Wet, grass seed laden feet later, she was still perky, but I gather she’d learned a lesson. Boots of some sort or another were the next meetings’ choice of footwear for Cathy.

We did eventually put an offer on a place, and I recall she was helpful and the process didn’t seem too crazy, even though I called her a bunch to check up on how things were. All was well in the end.

We DID, however, hire a horse properties expert to SELL that property. I knew enough by then to see how much of a difference it could make. She was awesome; dealt smoothly with all my detailed requests and a horseperson bought the property. I used the ‘face’ tactic again, when a friend-referred agent turned out to be less than reliable. My ‘face’ agent, however, WAS a horseperson as well, this time.

The point to that story is that we didn’t really focus on someone ‘horsey’ to help us at first. That decision didn’t cause us a problem that I know of, since I didn’t at that time know all the things that acreage properties can offer as issues. I’m not sure she’d have understood them, either. My ‘face’ tactic worked that time. Later I found out the broker was not all smiles as his family picture made him seem, but it didn’t affect our transaction.

I still use the ‘face’ tactic in other places, but I now know to meet that person first, see how I feel in their ‘aura’, their airspace, while talking with them. I don’t need a rocket scientist usually, but I do want someone who is genuine, not too flashy, and knows something about the subject matter at hand. I can tell fairly fast if I will not like working with someone, whether impressive credentials come with or not.

A real estate transaction can last from 3-12 months, depending on your property and the market, even if you’re a Buyer. If you have ‘the willies’ around your agent, chances are your needs won’t be met because you may be too worried about rocking the boat. Real estate agents are people, too, and the good ones are in YOUR corner at all times. We should be giving you sound advice based on market and our previous knowledge, though, not just a ‘yes man’. I wish our first agent had pointing out the drainage issues with that house that my starry-eyed love of it’s barn overlooked.

Make sure you interview (meaning, go have a cup of coffee with) a couple agents before deciding who’s going on this roller coaster ride with you. Friends are great, but keep in mind that sometimes the ups and downs of the transaction may ding that relationship. And even though your friend used an agent they were happy with, you may feel differently about that agent’s style. A friendly local agent is great, but you have to decide if they have the business acumen to get the job done. Check them out over coffee, too. Be upfront, and say you’re checking out a couple agents before you decide. This can give you yet another indicator of how that relationship can go. It’s a bit like dating; you don’t necessarily leap at the first offer, right? Only you know if it’s right. It’s your investment; make it your clear decision on who will help you buy or sell that investment.

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