Buying and selling a home is often the biggest financial decision an individual will make, so choosing the right realtor can be critical. And yet, according to the National Association of Realtors, 52 percent of first-time homebuyers find a realtor through a friend, and two-thirds contact only one agent before proceeding with their real estate transactions.

“Selling or buying a house is a significant financial and emotional experience, so selecting the right realtor can make this a valuable and exciting event,” said Susan Kellam, relocation expert with Reinhart Realtors. “One of the most important factors in selecting a realtor is your “gut” feeling when you meet. There is no ‘One Realtor Fits All.’ The importance of a good match cannot be overlooked.”

Questions to Ask a Realtor
Kellam suggested that a client ask the following questions of a potential realtor:

  • Is the realtor a full-time sales associate?
  • How well does the realtor know the specific local market in which the property is located (seller) or in which the client wishes to explore (buyer)?
  • What is the realtor’s history of sales within specific neighborhoods?
  • How frequently will the realtor communicate?
  • Will the realtor provide testimonials from satisfied clients?

Communication is vital in building trust between the client and realtor. If the realtor does not call, text, or email promptly, this can be a red flag.

“Ongoing communication from the realtor via phone or email (whichever method is preferable for the client) is critical. If the client experiences little or no communication from the realtor, then this is an area of concern. The realtor may be too busy and/or not be invested in working with the client,” Kellam explained.

Team Players
Julie Picknell, a realtor with Reinhart Realtors who works in Ann Arbor and surrounding communities, feels that a client should meet with a potential realtor in person to answer any questions about the process.

“Any time I see somebody having severe buyer’s or seller’s remorse, it is always because there are unanswered questions,” she said. “I think any question or concern that you have about the entire process of purchasing or selling a home should be written down. I would want a real estate agent that sits down with me and answers my questions.”

Picknell, who works with a team, stated that it is important for the client to understand how the team operates. If various members have different functions, the client needs to know those team members and their roles.

Don’t Overlook the Open House
As a seller, it is important to know how a real estate agent plans to market your house. Many clients and realtors rely too heavily on internet searches to buy and sell houses. But Picknell would caution against an agent who claims that open houses do not work. In her experience, 90 percent of homes sold in spring sell due to an open house.

“I think you are inviting people in to see what is beautiful about the home, to see the home with lights on come to life. I invite all the neighbors. I want people to walk in and see the house in all its glory.”

Picknell creates a party atmosphere at the open house, with seasonally themed décor, snacks, gift bags, and activities.

“When someone walks into a party, they are looking at everything that’s right.”

Spring Market 2020
A robust economic climate paired with low interest rates will likely create a strong real estate market for the spring of 2020.

“I definitely think the spring market will be earlier unless we have a terrible February,” Picknell predicted. “By the time leaves are on the trees, it is the summer market. I believe February, March, and April will be quite busy. It’s going to be shorter and not as frenzied, but I think it’s going to be strong.”

“You need an agent who’s going to be honest with you, someone who will walk you through your home and tell you what you need to do to get it market-ready for the buyer. It has to be perfection, move-in ready. You need to have it staged well. Homes that don’t sell during the spring market are going to sell for considerably less.”

Picknell observed that even among millennials, buying a home is an emotional purchase. “There’s more psychology involved with real estate than sales,” she noted. “People buy with their hearts.”