I previously posted on David Leahear’s theory that real estate is local (though I may not agree with him on everything, on this one I think he is right). Joel Bruslem, on the Future of Real Estate Marketing blog asks, “How do you find the perfect Realtor online?” It’s a good question when you consider that at the end of the day, though we have known each other online for years, it was probably a personal reference that sealed the Realtor/Client relationship. Real estate is PERSONAL.
If it wasn’t there would be no need for Realtors. No two Realtors work the same and no two clients have the same needs. A first time buyer does not have the same needs or view of the exact same property that the investor with 1031 Exchange money that must be allocated by next week has.
Real estate is just one of the many industries that look nothing like it did prior to the Internet revolution. Information is much more available to the buyer and it is not unusual that a buyer knows more about an area than the agent does at any given moment. It isn’t feasible for a buyer’s agent to know about every listing in every neighborhood. Some buyer’s “stalk” a certain area constantly because that is where they want to live; others couldn’t care less if they live in Hawthorne or Multnomah Village as long as the house is right.
The Realtor’s role is managing the transaction and protecting from search to close (and after) depending on the buyer’s needs and providing the necessary tools to make that as smooth as possible and then becoming an expert in that transaction. You may find ads for “buyer’s agents” but you won’t find “first-time-buyer’s agent in North Portland for clients needing 100% financing and seller paid closing costs for property under $200,000.” We will and do work with these clients.
There are some agents that appear to dominate certain areas with listings because they have earned that position with years of experience. Successful agents on both the listing side and buyer’s side are the ones that successfully use the tools that are needed and leave the other ones alone. That comes in the form of experience, negotiation, attention to detail, process, and meeting the client’s needs. The only way you are going to find out if any particular agent is right for you is to talk to them.
The Internet can provide the introduction, email can establish a relationship but at some point, you’re going to have to talk and in the case of a buyer, get in a car together. As for referrals, ask for failures even. If they haven’t had a failure by some measure, they’re either lying or new. I’m not going to type mine out but if you ask as a serious potential client, I’ll share. I will say that I lost a friend over a real estate transaction.