Why should I care who my real estate is any more than I care who my car salesman, or appliance salesman is? I mean, all an agent does for a buyer is take them around and show them some houses, right? And, all a listing agent does is take a few pictures, put it on MLS and put a sign in the yard, right? Unfortunately for many agents, yes.
But, those aren't the 'good' agents. What is a good agent? Well, as I began to think about this, it occurred to me that there is too much information to just 'jot' it down in one blog post.
I expect this to be a three part series.
First, what is a Realtor. Just because you have an agent, does not mean that you are being represented by a Realtor. Does the fact that an agent becomes a Realtor ensure they are a good agent? No, but it does show that they either take the profession seriously, or, at least, that the company that they associate with does. Some companies require each of their agents to become a Realtor.
Does the fact that your agent is not a Realtor mean that they are not a good agent? Not necessarily, but they don't have the same resources that a Realtor does and they have not agreed to adhere to the same code of ethics that a Realtor does.
What do I mean by resources? In Georgia, for instance, we have access to a separate set of contracts than a non-Realtor. And, when you read the contacts thoroughly, the GAR (Georgia Association of Realtors) contracts are written better than the non GAR contracts. They are more thorough, have less loopholes, are more clearly defined, and they protect all parties in the transaction much better than the non GAR forms.
'Most of the time' these uncertainties in a contract don't come into play. 'Most of the time' the parties know what they intended by the contract and fulfill their obligation. 'Most of the time' you get to the closing table and everyone could care less about what kind of contract was used. 'Most of the time'.
The problem is that 'some of the time' you have parties who don't see the contract the same way. Or, 'some of the time', one party has changed their mind and is looking for a loophole out of a contract. Or, 'some of the time', one party upsets the other party and a contract that was benefited from good faith from both parties now has none from either.
The contract issue may only exist in Georgia. I don't know, I have not practiced outside of Georgia. One thing is universal is that the NAR requires an ethics class with a core message of 'treat all parties honestly'. Now, unfortunately, just because a person agrees to adhere to this, does not mean that they will. Nor, does the fact that someone is not a NAR member mean that they will be unethical. However, at least a Realtor has been to the class and been taught the ethics of the business and possible missteps they could unintentionally take.
To be a Realtor, it is $350.50 a year for my chapter. Some agents don't think it is worth that much to be a Realtor. To me, less than 97 cents a day to protect and serve my clients better, is very much worth it. In my opinion, as a real estate agent, I can't only concern myself with what happens 'most of the time', I have to be worried about all the things that can, and do, happen 'some of the time'.
One thing that kind of ties into this theme. How often do they attend classes or training. The state of Georgia requires us to renew our license every four years. In that time, you have to have 24 hours of continuing education. Six hours per year. There are some agents who think that they have been doing this so long that they don't need to worry about training anymore. Unfortunately for them, the real estate market is ever changing, and you have to keep up with the times. So, if you call and your agent is in a 'class', or at a seminar, do not look at it as a bad thing. Look at is a commitment to continue to excel and improve in his/her profession.
Okay, that last part may have been gratuitous because I put a higher emphasis on training and learning than most agents. And, there are many classes that I sit through thinking, well this is a waste of time because I already knew all this. But, real estate really does change constantly. Not just contracts, but the way we market homes, the way we reach buyers for those homes, the way we interact with our sellers, the way we find homes for our buyers. If you have an agent that isn't keeping up with the times, you could possibly be leaving money on the table as a seller or missing out of the perfect house as a buyer.
So, I guess, the first qualification of being a good agent is that this person takes their profession seriously, and that it is a 'profession'. There is an old adage/joke "Do you know what they call the guy who graduates with the lowest GPA from Medical school?" Doctor. Well, at least they had medical school to weed out the people below him. I assure you that their is no similar process to weed out real estate agents. Unfortunately, you have do to do that for yourself.