Buying or selling real estate is a lengthy, involved process, even for the most seasoned homeowner or investor. In San Francisco, which stands as one of the hottest and most complex real estate markets in the country, it can be confusing and time-consuming.
For buyers, there are plenty of concerns. Will I be happy in a particular home in a specific location? Does the home match my lifestyle? Check every box on my wish list? Is the price right, or will it be a decision I later regret?
If an investor, the considerations are similar, albeit with slightly different goals. Is the house a solid investment? Is there potential for a significant return on what I put into it? In both cases—homeowner or investor—you're concerned with finding the right property for your needs.
Conversely, sellers have their own list of worries. Is my home attractive to the right class of prospective buyers? Is it priced appropriately and staged correctly? Does the marketing appeal to the right clientele and bring motivated buyers through the door?
Certainly, it's a lot to worry about. But real estate transactions are also incredibly exciting, from finding the perfect place to call home to cutting a highly lucrative deal. The process is even more rewarding if you work hand in hand with the right partner—the right real estate agent to help you seal the deal.
But how do you go about finding that ideal real estate agent? The one that offers the perfect blend of market insight, negotiating skill, and persistence? The one that ensures time's not wasted, needs are met, and the transaction successfully crosses the finish line?
Finding an excellent agent who works for you is not an overly difficult proposition. It does, however, require a bit of leg work on your end. Considering what's to be gained (or potentially lost) in a multi-million dollar Bay Area real estate transaction, it's well worth the effort.
Here are five tips for choosing a San Francisco real estate agent:
Real estate is a competitive business, most often reflected in the number of agents aiming to help you find or sell a home. While most agents would indeed be successful in securing your next house, you want an agent who can make that process as seamless and straightforward as possible.
A smooth transaction starts with knowing what you want and identifying a realtor whose expertise most closely mirrors your wish list.
Seeking out a high-end home in Pacific or Presidio Heights? They might seem similar, but an agent with specific neighborhood expertise can provide insight into why one location might be better than another.
Targeting Hayes Valley for potential investment opportunities? An agent with an analytical eye and a background in ROI, rent fluctuations, and value-add projects will bring you deals that make the most of your financial outlay.
Property type, price range, location, and specific structure of a deal are all factors that shape your real estate transaction. While many of the best agents wear multiple hats, every real estate transaction is unique—you being the distinctive characteristic. Make sure you know what's important to you and then partner with an agent who relates to those needs.
Word of mouth plays a massive role in real estate. Your personal and professional network could be the key to finding an outstanding agent you otherwise would not have known. But as with any friendly advice, take it with a grain of salt and realize it's just a first step towards finding the perfect agent for you.
Remember what we said about the uniqueness of each real estate transaction—what works for your friend or acquaintance may not be what works for you.
More telling in identifying the right San Francisco agent are the references you don't know. In speaking to individuals from an agent's client roster, you'll get a more unvarnished view.
Are they attentive to a client's needs? Do they listen to what a client has to say and then deliver upon those goals? Are they organized, and do they manage their time well, or are they always late and ill-prepared? Do they delegate much of the relationship to subordinates?
Also, take into account their digital footprint by vetting an agent's internet presence. Comb over an agent's online reviews and note any repeat compliments or complaints. This can reveal agent tendencies or quirks that could prove beneficial to your goals or might direct you to look elsewhere.
A friendly recommendation can undoubtedly be worthwhile. It might even lead to finding the right partnership for your house hunt or potential sale. To gather a complete picture, don't rely solely on those friendly referrals.
Figure out your needs, gather a list of potential agents that appear capable of helping you towards goals, and check out a few references. Now is the time to check those credentials.
While the baseline requirements to becoming a real estate agent in California are the same for all who endeavor to do so, not all agents who meet those standards are created equal.
Identify agents with a track record of success, those who've continued to expand their real estate and market knowledge, and who've built a broad network of contacts within the industry. That latter point can open you up to off-market homes or help you get into highly desirable communities. If you want to see how an agent mingles with clients, visit an open house they are hosting.
If you're selling, drive around your neighborhood, and those that are similar, and compare for-sale signs. Make a note of names that pop up regularly. Check if they consistently get top dollar for properties they've represented. Bonus points if they've had sustained success in your part of the city.
In addition, single out agents who are not just lauded by current or former clients, but who've also garnered the respect of their colleagues. Competitive as the industry may be, agents who've been recognized by their peers or singled out by vendors as great to work with stand out in a crowded field.
As your list of agents becomes narrower—typically, three candidates represent a solid final list—it's time to put on your interviewer's hat. It's your chance to get to know the individual you're trusting with a big part of your future and future finances.
Meet them in person and inquire about their credentials—how long they have been in the industry, their current number of clients, and if they have any specialties or qualities that set them apart from other agents.
Don't shy away from quizzing them on your specific situation. Buying or selling, you want to get a feel for how the agent plans to work with you to meet your goals. If you're buying property, inquire about the top neighborhoods, individual homes that might meet your needs, or if they would recommend something different. For sellers, ask about their marketing approach and get feedback on transaction histories in your neighborhood.
A great agent who believes in transparency will welcome your questions, even the tough inquiries. Expect them to have plenty of their own, too. Don't forget to get a list of references before your leave, preferably one that includes clients, peers, and any real estate vendors they've worked with.
Our final tip might seem obvious, but too many homeowners fail to go the extra mile in vetting their agent before working with them. Yes, referrals and recommendations help parse your list. Asking the right questions will narrow it down further. But you should also understand just how the agent or brokerage you’re targeting operates.
A realtor might advertise their expertise as being one location when, in reality, most of their transactions actually occur elsewhere. It might appear that you'll get lots of face time with the name on the marquee, but instead, you end up working with a junior agent. Furthermore, is the agent better equipped at the numbers side of the transaction, or do they have an eye for aesthetics and identifying stylish homes in hip, trendy neighborhoods?
In either case, those little details matter. While the entire relationship may prove successful without knowing those finer points, is that a chance worth taking? Once you decide on an agent, take one last look at your checklist and ensure you've covered your bases.
Ultimately, the extra leg work on your end will equip you for the relationship you're about to embark upon. Depending on the type of property you buy or sell and its location, the entire transaction process can take upwards of a year. You don't want to start that journey unprepared.
Ready to learn more about Pacific Heights real estate? Want to take a tour of stellar Hayes Valley homes for sale? Contact the Team Fit Agents today and let Lauren Quach and Anthony Booker guide you through some of San Francisco's most vibrant neighborhoods.
Can't find what you're looking for? Don't worry - we do the heavy lifting for you! We have access to off-market properties and homes that are coming soon (both fixer uppers and turn-key, and everything in between!), so please get in touch with us today to learn about these exclusive opportunities!