When you’re preparing to buy or sell a home, choosing the right real estate agent is the most important first step. A good agent can make a daunting process seamless by sharing their expertise, access, and connections. Kelly Ecklund, of Dascoulias Realty in Great Falls, believes that investing the effort to create a well-matched team at the start is worth it. “Interview agents. Find out who you connect with and who you feel you can form a trusting relationship with before engaging their services,” is her sage advice from over 13 years’ experience in multiple markets.
Finding an advocate who is focused on your interests and understands your needs can mean the difference between an outcome you love versus one you regret, and knowing some key questions to ask potential candidates will position you for success.
1. How long have you been in real estate, and what’s your experience in this market?
Experience is everything, and particularly when it comes to real estate. Accomplished agents know the market, the comps, the listings, and perhaps most important, how to deal with critical details, such as contract writing. Ecklund asks, “Do you want your agent to be writing their first contract, or do you want to know that they’ve written lots of them?”
Every sale is unique, and there’s something to be learned from each encounter. A skilled agent knows how to manage expectations and when to reach for what’s attainable. It’s their job to distill what a client shares and to know what to bring to the table. There’s no teacher like experience when it comes to artful negotiation, and someone who understands the nuances of real estate deals is critical to your end game.
2. Is this your full-time business, and how available are you to your clients?
“Look for an agent who does one thing very, very well,” advises Ecklund. In Montana’s market, lots of people dabble in real estate. You want to work with someone who is fully immersed, well connected, and constantly searching the markets—someone for whom this is a full-time, everyday endeavor. Equally pertinent is whether they’ll be the one contact who takes your calls, answers your emails, and accompanies you to showings.
Availability is the core from which successful transactions are created. Ecklund explains, “I’ve been to multiple open houses where I see the same people, alone, time after time, because their agent doesn’t work weekends. It shouldn’t have to be that way.” An agent needs to be there when business is happening, because for you it’s an all-consuming endeavor, not confined to convenient hours.
3. Do you typically work with buyers or sellers?
Some agents primarily work with either buyers or sellers and it’s crucial that you employ one who’s experienced in whichever you’re considering. Even better is to find someone who is well-versed in both. That person can best negotiate on your behalf, because proficiency in all aspects of a sale equates to readiness for whatever may come.
Ecklund’s experience spans both buying and selling, and she warns of one caveat: “There’s a difference between being experienced at both and doing both at one time, within one deal.” An agent attempting to represent two different sides cannot prioritize the needs of one or adequately serve either.
4. Do you require pre-approval and what is your preferred price range?
Pre-approval is always advantageous to the customer. It protects the seller from fielding discouraging, empty offers, and it shields the buyer from heartache. With pre-approval in hand, you can rest assured that you’ll only be looking at homes that suit both your dreams and your wallet.
To further guard against disappointment, ask about the agent’s preferred price range, because their enthusiasm is directly tied to your success. While there are those who sign clients and then forget about them when something else piques their interest, a committed representative will be all in, no matter where you fall on the price spectrum. “Every client is equally important,” asserts Ecklund. “Your investment, no matter the amount, is as big to you as someone else’s is to them. An agent owes it to the client to be honest if there is a range they prefer.”
5. Do you have a team of professionals at the ready for anything that might come up?
Ask the agent how they handle routine things such as inspections and repairs, as well as anything unexpected that could potentially stall a deal. Ecklund emphasizes, “The number of ‘firsts’ you encounter, no matter how many years you’ve been an agent, is extraordinary. Someone with a solid network of professionals to turn to will be able to navigate any bumps in the road with ease, taking that pressure off of the client.” There are lots of names in the book, so knowing someone who’s been around enough blocks to have a built-in list of the best is priceless.
The bottom line:
In the end, these questions boil down to seeking an advocate who is willing to put time and energy into building relationships. Because connection comes naturally to Ecklund, it makes sense to her that everything else begins with the trust a client places in her as she facilitates one of the biggest investments of their lives. She believes that the most effective agents thrive on getting to know clients, networking and negotiating, putting in the necessary hours of hard work, and aggressively pursuing deals, all with the goal of achieving the best possible outcomes for the people they serve.
If you’d like to find out more about how Kelly Ecklund can assist you with buying or selling, or how to locate the right agent for you and your venture, feel free to reach out to her at (406) 899-8140, Kelly@MontanaProperties.net, or visit her on the web at http://www.montanaproperties.net/.