I think that giving advice on choosing a Realtor is extremely difficult. A person can look great on paper, have all the designations in the world, done multi-millions in sales, and still not be a great choice for you. A great way to choose a Realtor is by word-of-mouth or referrals from friends and family. This is the #1 way people find me, and it is also probably the most reliable way to find someone good. If you are moving to a new area, don’t have many recent-home-buyer friends, or just plain don’t trust the referrals that you’ve been getting, I think the next best thing to do is find someone who you know, who is a Realtor, and ask them for their referrals or recommendations. Like Montague, Miller (my company) many real estate companies have great internal referral networks set up, that keep us in touch with strong companies all over the nation. MM&Co specifically, is in a network called Leading Real Estate Companies of the World– a network with the following mantra;
The mission of Leading Real Estate Companies of the WorldTM is to operate a network of the finest independent real estate companies who represent the gold standard of service while generating referral, real estate and corporate relocation business for the financial and strategic benefit of its subsidiaries, affiliates, clients and partners.
This type of company is capable of matching my clients here with strong Realtors in other parts of the country, where I may not know anyone trustworthy to refer them to. This company will take all of the contact information that I give them about a client, and will learn through me your desired timeline for a move, what you are looking for, and a little more about your personality, and will then match you up with two Realtors in your destination city. From this point you get the benefit of competition- both Realtors will be in contact with you and will explain themselves and their services, and you then have the choice of who best matches your style and needs. A small disclaimer in the hopes to promote transparency in my business; this DOES benefit me, as I would eventually receive a “referral fee” for sending business through this network. However, if I didn’t believe it wasn’t a huge benefit to my clients and friends I wouldn’t recommend it. It gives clients who would otherwise fish through a phone book or go with the first name they Googled online, an unbiased, professional referral and it also gives them the benefit of competition between the two.
If you’d rather do some Googling or phone book searching, I think the next best thing to look at is someone’s designations. While designations aren’t everything, and plenty of not-so-great Realtors have access to them, they often show a desire to continued education in the real estate market, and they show that an individual is most likely in this business full time. Speaking of full-time, I believe you do need a full-time agent representing you, and not one who just sells houses “in their free time” or during the off-season from their other sales job. This person may turn out to be an incredible Realtor, but more often than not they are “out of the loop,” not up-to-date with the current market information and statistics, or they are just rusty on their real estate skills in general.
As for designations, I don’t think it is especially important upon first glance for the average consumer to understand what they each mean, but more important to choose someone who is making an honest effort to attain them and the additional training and education they require. The list of real estate designations is lengthy, with some designations requiring education only, others based mainly upon sales production, and some a combination of the two.
I currently hold the GRI designation (Graduate of the Realtor Institute) which is a series of twelve 1-day courses on everything from ethics and agency, to business development and sales. This designation is especially time consuming and is difficult to schedule and complete, as most of the twelve courses are only offered once a year at our local real estate board.
I also hold the e-Pro designation, which for me was an almost laughable achievement. This is an online course that, if broken into small segments, should take people 6-8 weeks to complete. I completed the e-Pro course in 3 hours and felt that I got little, if anything, out of it. It is just one of NAR’s little gemstones of useless knowledge. For me, the e-Pro designation is fairly unremarkable, but for agents who weren’t particularly computer savvy, it could bring them an infinite amount of helpful information. A designation means different things to different people.
I am also en route to achieving my ABR, which stands for Accredited Buyer Representative and is education and production based. It has been really worthwhile and really beats in an understanding of how careful you must be to protect home buyers and all of the extra steps, precautions, and initiatives you must take to make sure that their purchase will be a worthwhile one and that they will get exactly what they want and have bargained for.
Without any of these, a Realtor may still be great, but if you are choosing blindly or without any solid recommendations, I think this could be a good place to start. Beyond that, I always recommend meeting at least two different Realtors. Look for who will be the best match for you personality-wise and almost more importantly, communication-wise. The main thing a buyer needs from his/her Realtor is information, so choose the person who you believe will have the most of it at hand and who will present it to you in a way you will appreciate.