The following article is written by a homeowner, David J of San Diego, CA

The “Right” Real Estate Agent

It seems that everybody knows at least one real estate agent. Shake a tree in a thriving city like San Diego and ten fall out, and most know what they are doing. But even a good agent is not necessarily the “right” one for your circumstance and I’ll offer a personal experience as an illustration.

A number of years ago we were looking for a larger house to accommodate a growing family and since we loved our neighborhood, we confined our search there. We went to an open house that did not impress us, but the mother daughter real estate team hosting the event did and soon they were representing us as buyer’s agents.

They were terrific. They showed us a number of houses that fit our search profile well, negotiated a good deal for the one we chose, and closed the deal on our behalf quickly and efficiently. We spent seven happy years there before we moved on.
Several years after that purchase we decided to sell a rental house we had purchased as an investment, and naturally chose the mother-daughter team to sell the home. It was only about four miles from the home they had sold us but the neighborhood demographic in both age and ethnic terms was different.

And so they struggled. We had a three-month contract with the agents and in that time, they brought us one serious offer. It was several thousand beneath our asking price, and the home inspection that proceeded during escrow revealed a number of problems that the buyers demanded we fix. As the repairs amounted to thousands of dollars, we declined to make them and the deal fell apart. And then so did our relationship with our agents, and we did not renew it.

While our investment house remained empty, we retained a contractor to bring the house back into top shape. It cost us $10,000 and took two months but we were pleased with the house and confident in the results. At that point we once again looked for a real estate agent to sell the house, but with a dramatically different objective in mind. Rather than seeking an agent who looked like us, we looked for one who would identify with the minorities who were buying homes in the area.

The one we chose was an enthusiastic Vietnamese gentleman who had come to Camp Pendleton in North San Diego County thirteen years earlier as a refugee in the aftermath of the 1975 fall of Saigon. He had hit the ground running in America and he told us he had no intention of slowing down.

He was making deals and selling homes, and he told us he would sell ours quickly. He guided us through staging the house, and recommended that we price it $22,000 above the asking price from our failed sale. That would constitute a 120% return from our renovation (home run) and a 25% increase over our previous asking price (grand slam home run).

We settled back and crossed our fingers that we would not be paying the mortgage on a vacant house for much longer. No worries. Our new agent got us a full price offer within hours of the home hitting the market from a young Hispanic couple with a baby, and it closed escrow within 60 days. Lesson learned.

The lesson is that there is a “right” or “best” agent for your transaction, and you probably don’t know that agent. Personality matters as good relationships between agents are as important as those with buyers and sellers. Knowledge of the area means a fair price if you are selling and a good deal if you are buying. Specific knowledge of the construction characteristics of houses in your target area means quickly distinguishing lemons from gems. You want that expertise on your side even if it means passing on your aunt and uncle who are that past their prime real estate team your parents want you to use.

Where to find them? I recommend using a service that has advanced metrics and screening techniques to drill down and find agents neighborhood by neighborhood that are getting good results and getting them quickly. My current favorite is Top Agent Connection with their advanced use of social media marketing and their data base of tens of thousands of agents. With the help they offer at no cost to you (the real estate agent pays them), you can save time and make money by avoiding the mistakes we often made in pre-digital days.