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Relocation: Finding the Right Real Estate Agent to Help You

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The Right Way to Find the Right Real Estate Agent

So you are planning a relocation to another part of the state, or perhaps across the country. Well, you will need some help finding the right real estate agent to help you find the perfect home in your new location, especially if you are house hunting before you move.


Here are some suggestions on finding that right real estate agent to help you with your relocation to your new home. Since you are

 leaving an area you know and moving to an area you probably do not, having an agent you can trust to help you find your new home is critical. You will have lots to worry about and coordinate with your move, and working with an agent who does not understand your issues, nor care, is not going to be helpful. 

I strongly recommend working with an agent who is also a Realtor, not someone who is not. A Realtor is a real estate professional who is a member in good standing of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and, thereby, adheres to a Code of Ethics. Not all agents are Realtors, although many people use the terms interchangeably. 

If you can, use someone who has been referred to you by someone you know and trust. If you don't have a referral, I recommend first checking the Council of Residential Specialists (CRS) database for someone in the area you are moving too. Why? Well, agents with the CRS designation (only about 4% of all Realtors have this certification) have to take a series of advanced courses (most are 2-day) on a range of topics relevant to the real estate profession (e.g., seller and buyer strategies, technology, working with referrals, financial issues, marketing, etc.) They must also meet fairly rigorous production requirements during a given period in order to be certified. So not only do you know they have significant education but they have experience in handling a number of transactions. Individuals with the GRI designation are also strong professionals. Do not make your decision, however, based only on the certification or on the name of the brokerage the Realtor works for.

 If you do not have a recommendation or referral (probably true in most cases), do some research on the Realtor you are interested in to find out what you can about them - look at their website, find out what professional certifications they have, what services they can offer you, and make sure they work in the area(s) you are interested in or moving to. 

The next step is to conduct a phone interview with the person you are interested in (If you leave a voice mail about why you are calling and it takes a long time for the agent to return the call, i.e., the next day or worse, I'd be very concerned about their responsiveness, which is not a good sign for the future). Ask them to tell you what relocation experience they have, either personally and/or in handling buyers moving to their area. If they haven't moved some distance themselves, at least they should have had experience with relocating buyers. If not, it may be difficult for them to understand your issues and effectively work with and assist you. 

It is important to feel a level of comfort in speaking with the person you are interviewing, and a personal chemistry, but that's not all. Do you feel that they are truly interested in helping you? How do you know? What are the specific services they provide relocating buyers? How well do they know the community (ies) you are interested in? What can they tell you about the community as well as the state of the market there - is it a buyer's or a seller's market? Do they offer a customized relocation package? Are they willing to screen properties for you, based on your criteria, not just set you up on a website (while it is important that you have access to on-line properties in the area you are moving to, you don't know the area and your agent should help you screen properties as s/he learns more about what you want and need). You should also find out if this agent can also provide you with resources to do your own research (e.g., schools, crime).

It is important to understand an agent's responsiveness to you, and the ability and willingness to help you late at night, on the weekend, etc. Since you aren't local and may be in a different time zone, much of the communication will be by telephone, email and fax. Questions will arise that need quick answers, and problems will occur, so you must be able to get in touch with your agent quickly, and he or she needs to respond fast. Do they get emails forwarded to their cell phone? Can they provide you with all the numbers to reach them quickly if you need to (believe it or not, some agents do not give out their cell phone numbers and expect you to leave voice mail in their office - how often do they check?). What about email - just because they have an address does not mean they use it, and I know this from personal experience. You both need to agree on the most effective means to communicate and what works best for you. 

In all likelihood you will be making a house hunting trip in advance of your actual move. Find out how your agent will handle that. Will the agent set up an effective and substantial tour of homes and neighborhoods for you to see before you arrive? Will your agent show you properties you want to see, as well as those that they feel, based on their knowledge, are important for you to see as well? Is an itinerary provided in advance? Will you be kept posted on any changes (e.g, the home you fell in love with on-line and planned to see now has an accepted offer)? Is the agent comfortable and willing to make last minute changes based on your schedule, changes in the housing that is available, ruling out areas you find you don't like, etc. so you don't waste time? 

These are the most important issues you should consider as you are searching for the right real estate agent to assist you with your relocation. Don't make a hasty decision - your relocation is too important, and the right agent can really make a difference.