A real estate agent is simply a salesperson, much like the movie/stage play ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ portrays. Agents have no allegiance to anyone but their own bottom line, so there may come situations where they are presented with the option to gain money through the misfortunes of their client (i.e. asking sellers to lower their listing price for a quick sell to meet monthly quotas).
Don’t assume an agent has your best interests in mind.
Agents are working on commission from closed sales, and as such will do whatever it takes to make the biggest deal. This means buyers should never tell an agent how high a price they’re willing to pay for a home-make sure to give agents the lowest offer the seller might consider before anything else, and stick to that amount. Otherwise you can put yourself in a situation where the seller was at first willing to accept a lower offer, but the agent advises them to play hardball.
Use agents for what they’re good at.
Realtors excel at finding properties for buyers that match specific criteria (i.e. communities near schools, houses in a certain price range, etc.) Aside from this, avoid giving the realtor too much influence over your housing situation-do not let them choose your property attorney, and in general just allow them to unlock the front door for you when touring a house (as a buyer).
Use a successful, full-time agent.
The best way to measure an agent’s success as a seller is to check their current listings. Agents with many listings are an ideal choice to become a client of, as they will most likely be closing several houses a week. Part-time and less-successful realtors will have few homes listed, and will otherwise not give you as much attention or expertise as the full-time agents will.
Avoid the ‘tricks’ of shady agents.
Some agents will betray themselves as unprofessional when creating a house listing. Agents who use overly superlative language when describing a home should be avoided. Also the ‘insider agent tips’ like saying “Another buyer is interested in this so you should make an offer today!” should send red flags to any buyer as well. Remember that agents are first and foremost working to close the sale, and not trying to ‘help you out’ with useful info.
Be aware of signs your agent is working against you.
A real estate agent that continually shows you homes that are several thousands of dollars higher than your specified price range is clearly trying to earn extra commissions by closing a higher sale. On the same token, an agent that says there are ‘zero’ homes in the area at the price you are looking for could be guilty of a similar ulterior motive-try searching for homes by yourself to confirm or deny the agent’s claims.
Do not pay an agent up front.
Agents should never be paid any money up front. They only get paid when they close a sale for a seller and/or a buyer. If an agent asks you for money before completing any sale, fire them and find a real agent.
Do not sign up with an agent for more than 90 days.
As a seller, it makes sense to give agents a short leash in order to spur their efforts into finding a buyer. If you sign a 6 month contract with an agent, they can delay selling the home for a few months (forcing the seller to pay mortgage and interest in the meantime) before getting serious about selling the home. Limit their marketing efforts to 90 days to get them to give you 100% effort from day one.