The nature of the real estate industry is not well known especially as many people only consider this very few times in their lives. For this reason, it is advisable to seek professional support when carrying out transactions in the property market. Some individuals may argue that it is better to sell, buy or rent a property without the use of an agent or broker which may seem reasonable considering that you may be able to save some money on the agent’s commission or fees. However, one needs to consider the pros and cons of the entire process before making a decision to either get an agent or transact directly. It is important to carry out some market research to understand the basic industry terms and identify the best way to find the perfect property broker for you. Buying or selling a home is a very important step, requiring a serious and thoughtful approach. In order to conclude a beneficial agreement, the seller should first of all select a competent real estate agent, because this is the person to establish the value of the object, develop an advertising strategy, and negotiate on pricing and other conditions.

First off, you have to know the difference between a Realtor®, real estate agent and a real estate broker.

Who is a Realtor®?

A Realtor® is a registered trademark term used by the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) and other similar national associations, to refer to a licensed and paying agent or broker. These Realtors® are bound by the strict regulations and code of ethics of the NAR and a violation of these rules may have significant consequences. Similar terms apply across Europe and other parts of the world to refer to such select groups who meet the set criteria and subscribe to the regulations.

Who is a real estate agent?

A real estate agent is the most popular expression used in this industry as it refers to an individual who has obtained enough training and passed a licensing exam at a state level. Agents are basically licensed salespeople who have to work for a broker.

Who is a real estate broker?

A real estate broker is one who has a higher level of education and knowledge about real estate. Brokers are required to obtain a university or college degree and take a minimum number of higher education level courses in real estate. After completing these courses, they can then attempt the broker’s exam and if they succeed at this they are then able to own their own businesses. Due to these higher regulations and the difficulty of the broker’s exam, a broker is held in more regard than an agent and is therefore expected to have more knowledge about the industry. Although brokers are able to own their own real estate agencies, it is common for brokers to choose to work for other brokers or such companies as broker associates. This gives them the platform of a larger organization to gain experience and have a wider reach.

Knowing the type of agent that you would need depends on the activities they are expected to execute. For instance, some realtors have a specialization and work only either as a buyer’s or seller’s agent. In such cases, a seller’s agent is either a real estate agent or broker who represents the seller in a transaction. The realtor fulfilling this role is sometimes referred to as listing agent. Similarly, a buyer’s agent represents the buyer in any given transaction. Although some realtors can choose to exclusively handle either side of the transaction, it is possible for the same agent to carry out both roles. Having the same realtor as a listing agent and buying agent is possible in different transactions but there are exceptions when the same brokerage firm can offer to a dual agency agreement and represent both parties in one transaction.

Now that we have clarified the basic terms, we can move to more details on how to choose an agency to sell your real estate or help you to buy a property.

Qualities of a good real estate broker

When choosing a realtor to represent your interests in the market, there are some things that should be important on your mental or physical checklist. Just like any other relationship, trust, honesty, ethics, values and communication play significant roles in the success of the partnership. It is therefore necessary to find an agent who possesses the qualities which you hold in high regard, this ensures a smoother working relationship. Some of these qualities are:

Integrity and values of the agent

The integrity and values of the real estate broker are important in building a good reputation within the industry. This determines if an agent would get good references from their previous clients as this is very important to new clients. Referrals and testimonials carry a great deal of value in the real estate industry as new clients are inclined to work with brokers who have a track record of honesty and trustworthiness, which can only be confirmed from previous clients. Additionally, a realtor’s work ethic and management ability will also be considered by potential clients.

Communication channels of the broker

Communication is key in any partnership including that of a client and their real estate broker. This is paramount because the purchasing or selling process of any property can take many interesting turns with ups and downs. The process may even extend several months meaning that both parties have to maintain seamless interactions for the entire duration. The process of buying or selling a property is inherently stressful and this can only be made easier when the agent is able to explain the steps, turn of events and industry jargon to the client. Good communication between the client and the property broker helps to save time especially as there may be some ideas that either party has but they may not be right for the market or may not succeed in the specific situation. If they are unable to communicate effectively and listen properly, there may be misunderstandings which can lead to loss of opportunities and resources. It is also important to establish the most convenient communication channel for the client and realtor as it would be counter-productive for the broker to send several emails to a client who does not check their mailbox frequently.

Knowledge of the real estate industry

Knowledge of the local market, expertise and experience is one of the top things to look out for in a real estate agent. As with every industry, experts are expected to have in-depth knowledge of the sector with some level of experience. The real estate industry is a particularly regional sector so realtors in one city or town may not be experts in the entire industry in the country or on an international level but they should be specialists, adept at the property market in which they function. This is why it is important to find a realtor who is a professional in the specific city within which you would like to buy or sell a property. Some of the knowledge about the industry can be obtained through educational qualifications but a buyer or seller must ensure that they engage a licensed and certified broker to carry out the required tasks. 

A good agent should know about all current offers for sale in the area. The client has the right to ask the agent about his recent transactions and some details of these transactions. Thus, the seller will be able to see whether the agent really knows his business and can tell about all the opportunities of the market. Even if there is complete trust between the agent and the client, it may be interesting for the seller to visit the real estate portals from time to time. It is useful to put yourself in buyer's shoes and compare your object with other similar offers on the market. If there are possible shortcomings of the announcement, the agent shall make the necessary adjustments.

Interest in the client

A good agent knows that as a representative of the principal, the interests and concerns of the client are top priority. In order to find out these interests and concerns, the real estate broker has to ask specific questions and listen to the client. A realtor with a genuine interest in the client will provide timely responses to questions or queries. Such a broker will also be intuitive and adapt their strategy or approach based on the reaction of their client. This level of responsiveness in a realtor is indeed valuable and it is usually and indication of a realtor's passion for the role. The highly interactive nature of the industry places emphasis on the tenacity and proactivity of the realtor as they would need to find new leads and carry out some hard-selling strategies. This usually translates to a level of dedication to the role which is typically obtained from a full-time realtor. The knowledge and experience of the property broker is very important as there may be some required documents, processes and even steps to obtain a loan that the agent can help with.

Advertising strategy of the agency

Of course, advertising is one of the important moments for making a good deal, especially given the capabilities of modern technologies. The agent should have a developed advertising strategy for the sale of each property. A good agent must skillfully use all possible modern information tools:

A professional website of good quality, which is updated on an ongoing basis 

Photos of good quality, made by a professional photographer and giving a complete picture of the object

The object should be advertised not only on the website of the real estate agency, but also on the major portals, where, as a rule, buyers are looking for properties

The agent must accompany the ad with an exhaustive description of the object with detailed information on the layout, area, and year of construction, as well as the peculiarities of the property and its strengths

It is an advantage if the agent uses social media, as well as profile groups and forums

Where to find a suitable real estate agent

Online real estate portals

These are a good resource to find suitable real estate brokers. This is because in recent years, technologically savvy realtors have taken an interest in using online property portals to list their properties. Listing properties on online portals forms part of a digital marketing plan ensuring that your properties for sale or rent will be seen by a large number of clients thus increasing the possibility of a shorter sale period.

Referrals from clients

Referrals have been a source of follow-up business for many years as people tend to inform others about services they enjoyed or experiences that made a great impact on them. This has also been true for the real estate industry as word of mouth is still a useful method in finding an agent. This is more effective when the reference is obtained from people who recently carried out the same process. For instance, if you are looking for a realtor to sell your house, it may not be beneficial to obtain a referral from an individual who bought a house 30 years ago as they may not be up to date with the modern services or even know real estate agencies that are still in business. Ensure that you obtain references from reliable and current source not just based on sentiment or old experiences. Additionally, you do not need to choose a realtor to represent you simply because you have a personal relationship with them be it family ties or friendships. Consider the qualities of a good property broker highlighted above before choosing anyone to represent you.

Location of the real estate agent

Just like with any shopping plan, you can choose to search for the nearest real estate agency and walk into the office of that agency. This is especially easy as there are so many agencies on several streets. This however does not guarantee that you will get the best real estate broker depending on your needs but it is a sure way to get a realtor in a short time. Another point to consider is the region where you are interested in moving to, if you would like a different town, city or country, then choosing the nearest realtor may not be in your best interest as property agencies tend to focus on specific regions. It is therefore important to find an agency that functions within your destination area.

Digital marketing of the property broker

With the growth in social media marketing for real estate agents, social media seems to be a good resource to utilize when searching for a realtor. From platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and other similar social media apps, it is possible to identify realtors who operate within your area of interest. For example, on Instagram, you can use specific hashtags such as #rentinfrance or #realestatefrance to identify the brokers and property agencies that operate in the area. To get the best results, it is better to indicate the type of service that you are searching for – houses for sale, apartments for rent, or real estate agent - along with the location, city or country you are interested in. Similar searches can be carried out on Facebook, Google and other social media platforms.

Important questions to ask your realtor

Knowing the qualities you are looking for in a real estate broker and searching the internet or social media, asking within your network or simply walking into an agency can help to identify a few potential realtors. However, in order to find the ideal agent to work with you through the process or selling or buying a home, you have to interview a few realtors before settling for the one who would be make a perfect partner for you. The client should be convinced that his potential agent has a good reputation on the market and can be trusted.

Here are a few questions which are essential to help understand the real estate agent and decipher if they are the right fit for you.

  • Are you a licensed agent or broker? - Ensure that you confirm the license number of the realtor if you intend to work with them. Find out if the broker is a member of any real estate institute and find out the qualifications taken, if any. This also affirms their capabilities and knowledge of the property industry.

  • How many months or years of experience do you have in the industry? - Knowing the length of time the realtor has worked in the real estate industry will help to establish a sense of their knowledge of the market and the level of expertise.

  • What region, city or country do you focus on? - Local knowledge of the specific area that is relevant to you is important as the realtor serves as your resource person in the region.

  • What is your average rate of success per year? - This is to know the number of properties they list per year and how many are sold. It also helps to understand the possible time frame that would be required for your property to be sold.

  • Are you an exclusive buyer’s agent? - Some real estate brokers work only with property buyers so it is important to know this especially of you are looking to sell a property.

  • How many listings do you currently have? - Knowing the number of properties that the agent has to manage would help to establish the reputation of the broker but it may also point to the level of dedication which you would receive from the realtor.

  • How many agents would work on my account? - This is essential when working with a real estate agency as there may be more than one realtor within the team. It gives a picture of the quality of service to be expected.

  • What is your suggested marketing plan for the property? - If you are trying to sell a property, then it is important to know how the real estate broker would advertise the property. This can give an inclination of the competitive advantage of the realtor and how they would identify potential buyers.

  • How can we communicate? - Knowing the preferred communication channel and how often the realtor plans to communicate with you to give feedback on potential buyers and offers would be essential in the selling process. This is also key if you are a buyer or renter as you would know how often the realtor would present property options for you to consider.

  • What are your fees, terms and conditions? - As with any legal agreement, it is important to know the applicable charges for the service as well as the roles which you and the agent are expected to play. Knowledge of the rules under which the agreement is binding is very important especially if you intend to end the contract or choose a different real estate agent before the selling or buying process is concluded.

  • Can I get the contact details of your previous clients? - This is used to establish the reputation of the realtor and get some references from those who have worked with the broker.

The benefits of having the right real estate agent when buying or selling a property cannot be overstated and as such, knowing the qualities of a good property broker and how to find the right one for you is essential. Asking the right questions would help to quickly identify the realtor that fulfils the conditions which are important to you. Ensure that the reputation, values and plans of the real estate agent are realistic and align with your expectations. The real estate industry is already complicated so getting the right property broker will go a long way in helping to navigate the sector easily.

It is important to consider the agent's work experience on the market and feedback on sales contracts concluded with an active participation of this agent. Know the way the agent or agency advertises and presents similar properties on the market. You can also ask the agent to provide a list of his successful contracts for the last year, including contact information of the clients. One of the interesting questions may be the difference between the price announced by the agent and the final price of the transaction. The cost of the agent's services is undoubtedly an important factor, but it shall not be the main criterion of the search. The price of the agent's services shall be estimated depending on the time it will take to conclude an agreement, and the price for which the property will be sold.

Internationally, there are large organizations that unite realtors from different countries. They enable professionals to exchange experience and promote their services, the same time improving their skills and rising sales.

As well, there are international real estate portals that allow agents to advertise objects in different languages, gaining access to potential buyers around the world, which may be very useful for selling properties located by the sea or in other areas popular with foreigners. In addition to owners and agencies, specialists of various profiles register at such sites, providing technical support, repair services, or legal support.