This article is different from any one I’ve written before. It’s even different from articles where I’ve outlined the questions you should ask your agent. Why?
There have been developments in our industry that can potentially harm our reputation with the public, and can put prospective buyers and sellers in harm’s way. I consider the only solution to be an urgent education effort. So, here are the questions I feel you must ask your agent before trusting them with your sale or purchase of real estate.
1) Do you have your own individual real estate license? Every practicing real estate agent in Maryland has their own license with their name on it. It’s renewed every two years and we are each given a small pocket card version of it so that we can have it with us at all times. Ask your agent if they have their pocket card with them, and make sure that it’s still valid and that it bears their name. If they cannot show it to you, walk away. But, if they try to tell you that they operate under a “team license,” run away fast. No such thing exists.
2) Do you have your own individual membership in the Multiple Listing Service? You can find a lot of listing information online and with dozens of apps, but even the most comprehensive public access site only has about 1/3 of the information that the MLS does. If your agent is trying to tell you that all you need is an app, then they probably have not become a member of the MLS and that makes it very difficult for them to know everything they need to know about the property to fully represent your best interests. And if they don’t have the money to invest in the cooperative professional service that distinguishes our profession, how successful can they be?
3) Are you a Realtor? If you’ve watched “Modern Family,” then you’ve already seen a very funny explanation of why this is important. Realtors are professionals. We have a Code of Ethics that regulate how we treat each other and our clients. Anyone who thinks that is not important – or who thinks that its too expensive to become a Realtor – needs to find another job. And you need to find a more committed agent.
4) Will you accompany us on all our showings? The only correct answer to this question is ‘yes.’ However, if the answer to question number three is “no,” then the answer to number four will also be “no.” If an agent doesn’t have membership in their Realtor Association, they cannot obtain the computerized ID that is required to unlock our electronic lockboxes. Furthermore, if they truly abide by the rules and regulations, they will never hand you that ID and tell you to let yourself in. You must have an agent with you whenever you enter someone else’s home that is on the market – never mind what you see on HGTV. An agent must always be present.
As a prospective buyer or seller, you need to take these questions to heart, and ask them of every agent you talk with. Protect yourself, and make sure you entrust your transaction to an agent who knows not just what they are doing, but more importantly, how it should be done.