If you're thinking about buying or selling a home, one of the first things you'll need to have down is your partner in crime: your real estate agent. There are a lot of real estate professionals out there today. Chances are you may already know one from within your own social circle or have received referrals from neighbors, friends, and family members. For those of you starting from scratch, online tools are also available and can provide extensive background to help you find your perfect match. For example, Trulia's Find an Agent Directory to help you find highly-recommended agents who know your target neighborhood and has a special skill set (e.g., relocation specialists, speaks a foreign language, etc.).
No matter how you decide to search for your agent, you'll need to know what to ask them before you began your journey together. You are going to be spending a lot of time with your agent so his or her style had better be compatible with yours. Do you need someone easygoing or someone aggressive? Personally, I am a self-proclaimed overachiever and I like working with someone similar, as long as that agent has an easygoing personality and a great sense of humor. But you say, "I may not like him, but he is a real bulldog and will fight for a deal." You know what? If you don't like this agent, then chances are no one else will either.
Here are 10 questions that you ask your real estate agent or broker before you hire them to help you with your home search:
- What percentage of your clients are buyers (vs. sellers)?
- In which neighborhoods do you primarily work?
- Will I be working with you directly or handed off to anyone else other than you? In other words, will you handle all aspects of my transaction or will you delegate some tasks to a sales associate or administrative assistant? A knowledgeable assistant can be invaluable, but you want to make sure you can connect with your agent regularly.
- Do you work full-time or part-time as a real estate agent?
- How many homes have you closed in my neighborhood?
- How many other buyers are you representing now? How many sellers? Hint: the busiest agents often are the most efficient.
- Is your license in good standing? You should check an agent's certification yourself with your state's Department of Real Estate. Many states provide this information online. For example, in California residents may check at http://www2.dre.ca.gov/PublicASP/pplinfo.asp.
- How many years of education and experience do you have? Experience and continuing education typically make for better agents. (And it doesn't hurt to ask if they own their own home. A new Trulia Trends study shows that 85 percent of brokers and agents are homeowners.)
- Are you also a broker and/or a Realtor or an agent?
- Can you provide me with the names and phone numbers of past clients who have agreed to be references? Insights from past customers can help you learn more about an agent and give you a greater comfort level.
If the agents check off this list then you're on the right track. But one word of caution is this: Do not pick someone so close to you that you can't have a serious "straight talk" business conversation. You need someone with whom you are not uncomfortable disagreeing. And keep in mind that this person will at some point become quite intimate with your entire financial picture.
So choose the most qualified person for the job that you think you'll work well with. The ideal person for you is an experienced professional who knows your market, acts in an ethical manner, answers all of your questions, addresses your concerns and, most important, will listen to you and be your teammate throughout the entire process.
Picking a real estate pro is a very key decision in the home-buying or selling process and I want to see you do it right. There are so many great real estate professionals out there willing to work hard for you, so consider the advice above as you make your selection.
Avg. listing price: $1,230,880 Median household income: $110,929 Pct. households $200,000+ income: 30.3% As of 2010, the median income of households in San Carlos was more than double the U.S. median of $51,914. Over 30% of households in San Carlos earned more than $200,000 per year, more than five times the national rate of 5.4%. San Carlos is one of the most expensive housing markets in the San Francisco metropolitan area. Over a twelve month period, ending in October, it had the nation’s highest median home price per square foot at $473 among all homes listed, according to Trulia. In San Francisco, the median age of home inventory was just 45 days as of the third quarter of 2012, according to Realtor.com, lower than in all but seven markets. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Avg. listing price: $1,232,167 Median household income: $74,489 Pct. households $200,000+ income: 18.7% Carmel-by-the-Sea, a small coastal city in California, is well-known for its former mayor, actor Clint Eastwood. Currently, the average four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in the city lists for more than four times the nationwide average listing price of $292,152. With nearly 19% of households earning more than $200,000 in 2010, many families and individuals in the small town can afford expensive properties. One house, despite being not much larger than 2,000 square feet, is currently listed for nearly $4.5 million. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Avg. listing price: $1,238,208 Median household income: $91,082 Pct. households $200,000+ income: 14.7% Kailua is one of just two cities on this list not located in California. The O’ahu Island city is 12 miles northeast of Honolulu, which had a vacancy rate of 2.7% — better than most areas but considerably worse than the other areas on the list. As of October, the median price per square foot for a home in the Honolulu area was $398, more than in any other metro except for San Francisco. According to Trulia, a 0.75 acres plot of land, which includes 128 feet of beachfront, is currently for sale for $16 million in Kailua. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Avg. listing price: $1,312,250 Median household income: $146,069 Pct. households $200,000+ income: 53.0% The average listing price for a four-bedroom home in Rye is more than $1,300,000, or more-than $1 million above the U.S. average. Employees in the often high-paying finance and insurance industries accounted for a 27.8% of employed population in Rye in 2010, well above the 7% average rate nationwide. As of 2010, 53% of households earned more than $200,000 annually, more than any other expensive city, and nearly 10 times the national rate of 5.4%. Additionally, just 1.3% of households lived below the poverty line versus 13.8% nationwide. Among the properties available for sale are a five-bedroom, 7,446 square feet waterfront home for $12.9 million and a 34.2 acre plot of land for $19 million. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Avg. listing price: $1,444,214 Median household income: $120,971 Pct. households $200,000+ income: 37.5% Los Gatos is one of several cities near San Jose on this list. Like these cities, Los Gatos likely benefits from the overall boom in the San Jose real estate market, which currently has the lowest vacancy rate of all metro areas surveyed by Trulia at just 1%. Currently, a number of unique properties are available in the city, including an 11,000 square feet property with an eight stall horse barn and a garage that fits 12 cars listed at slightly under $13 million. Also for sale is the former home of Apple Inc.’s co-founder Steve Wozniack. It is currently listed for $4.5 million. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Avg. listing price: $1,495,364 Median household income: $120,670 Pct. households $200,000+ income: 39.3% In Palo Alto, 48.7% of adults have a graduate or professional degree — well more than four times the national rate of 10.3%. The city’s proximity to Stanford University, one of the top universities in the nation, may be partly the reason behind the city’s highly educated population. Among the companies headquartered in the city are Hewlett-Packard and Tesla Motors. The city is a large employer of highly skilled employees, as 25.3% of its workers are employed in professional, scientific and management occupations, well above the 10.4% of workers nationwide. Perhaps the most famous resident of Palo Alto is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Avg. listing price: $1,506,909 Median household income: $107,860 Pct. households $200,000+ income: 34.9% Menlo Park is one of just four cities where the average listing price for a four-bedroom home exceeds $1.5 million. As of 2010, the median income in the city was slightly below $108,000. However, the recent Facebook IPO has been a windfall to the area. In June, real estate listing service Zillow reported that the “proportion of million-dollar listings” in Menlo Park — where Facebook is headquartered — rose by 87% between the company’s IPO filing and its first day as a public company. Among the houses available in Menlo Park are a five-bedroom home with a gym, theater area and wine cellar, which is listed for $4.6 million, and a six-bedroom 5,200 square feet home that’s listed for slightly under $5 million. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Avg. listing price: $1,582,434 Median household income: $145,023 Pct. households $200,000+ income: 43.1% Though home prices in the nearby San Jose metro area fell by 25.1% peak-to-trough, Saratoga is yet another example of how the Silicon Valley housing market has recovered. Currently, the median price per square foot for homes in San Jose is $337, according to Trulia, more than all housing markets except San Francisco and Honolulu. Prices for many homes in the area have skyrocketed, according to listings on Zillow. A home currently listed for nearly $10 million last sold for just over $2.1 million in 2000, while a home listed for $14.9 million last sold in 1994 for just over $1 million. As of 2010, 43.1% of Saratoga households earned more than $200,000 per year, while 40.9% of adult residents had a graduate degree, versus 10.3% nationwide. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Avg. listing price: $1,658,000 Median household income: $107,007 Pct. households $200,000+ income: 37.6% Outside of Northern California, Newport Beach is the most expensive city to buy a home. Home prices are so high in the city that in 2009 legendary bond investor Bill Gross bought a nine-bedroom, 11,000 square feet home for $23 million — and then tore it down. In 2011, Gross listed the empty plot of land for $26.5 million. Orange County as a whole has a vacancy rate of just 1.5%, among the ten lowest in the nation. Despite a 32.7% drop in home prices from peak to trough during the recession, Orange County’s median price per square foot is $265. This trails only the Honolulu, New York, San Francisco and San Jose metro areas. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
Avg. listing price: $1,706,688 Median household income: $149,964 Pct. households $200,000+ income: 43.6% In Los Altos, the average four-bedroom, two-bathroom home lists for nearly $50,000 more than any other city in the nation. According to Coldwell Banker, for that price a buyer could purchase 28 similar homes in Redford, Mich., the nation’s cheapest housing market. In Redford, the average home lists for just $60,490. Currently, asking prices in the San Jose metro area have risen 12.7% year-over-year, according to Trulia. This is more than nearly every other metro area in the country. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
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