Los Angeles real estate agents, like in any area of the country, come in many shapes, sizes and attitudes. In LA, some have even gained "celebrity" status with the advent of cable television: fast-talking, freewheeling "get-it-done" types with crisp attires and flashy modes of transportation.
Beyond the differences in style and approach, one characteristic that all realtors share is our reputation, which is something to be valued highly. It should always be taken into consideration as it is an extension of you, the client, and the qualities they possess should be a reflection of your true values.
Within any real estate community, the realtors know each other. And they know each other quite well. Swirling within the underbelly of the beast, there is a faction of our industry, region-wide, that is known to cut corners and undermine others; they will sell their mother to make a deal or will even offer "incentives" to get the attention of potential clients. These are "colleagues" that we must interact with every day because they want to either show their clients our listings or they have listings that our buyers want to see.
This less than reputable class of realtor tends to occupy a large cross-section of the profession's population. Which is the reason that I'm bringing this up to you, because as the general public, you need to be more discerning as to whom you choose to represent you. The reputation of your Realtor will either save you money, time, energy and stress -- or cause tremendous aggravation and potentially ruin a deal for you.
So, how can you tell which real estate agent is the right one for you? Here are my top five suggestions of questions to ask a realtor when you consider hiring them:
#1 - Do you have a good reputation within the realtor community?
You'll be able to tell by the way they either deflect the answer or directly respond as to whether or not they feel they treat their fellow agents with dignity and respect. If they offer you recommendations of other agents to call in the area, it is a great sign and skip question two.
#2 - Do you have three recommendations of agents I could call to follow up on that?
If not, it will be interesting to see how they field this question and what answer they give you. If they give you some names, do call those agents. However, when you do so, don't give your property address or they may pitch you for the listing.
#3 - Have you ever been brought before your local board for an ethics violation?
This is not public information but, from their response, you'll know.
#4 - Who is your chief competitor in this area and what do you think of them?
How they answer this will tell you about how gracious your agent can be when it comes to speaking about their competitors -- who, remember, are the people with whom they'll likely have to work in order to close your deal.
#5 - Can you give me a print out of your average days on market for your listings over the past six months?
This speaks directly to the sort of guidance your agent gives sellers when listing their homes. If their properties have a high number of Days on Market (DOM) relative to the average in your area, you may have a real estate agent that will tell you what you want to hear as opposed to what you need to hear in order to make a sound business decision.
Any realtor community is filled with personality and opinion. As with any culture, the better you understand it, the better prepared you will be to navigate your way toward success in that environment. Having an agent with a good reputation is the best compass I can recommend and a tremendously tangible and intangible asset.
And while I admit that there's a large population out there that conduct business in less-than-ideal ways, it's also true that there are a host of reputable and accomplished real estate agents (check out my firm's website for examples) out there who will guide you through the process with ease, efficiency, compassion and professionalism. Finding a realtor is one of the exciting aspects of this industry so take your time, ask the right questions, and choose the one with the best reputation.