Real estate agent, Realtor, Real Estate broker: they all do the same thing, right? Do they though, really? Most first time homebuyers and even novice sellers suffer from “title blur.” Knowing what each one does gives you a better chance of hiring the right person for the job.
The key difference between agents, Realtors, and brokers is a matter of education. All types must earn a real estate license via a minimum number of classes and of course passing the subsequent test. Brokers, however, have taken additional courses beyond what is required of agents/Realtors and passed another exam specifically to be licenses as a broker. Brokers can, just like agents/Realtors, work alone or they can have agents/Realtors work for them. And just to make sure it is clear: Realtors are real estate agents that are members of the National Association of REALTORS which indicates that they are held to the standards of the association and its code of ethics.
The lowdown on the broker vs. agent showdown
So now that titles are clearer, who should you work with, where do you find them, and why should you work with them? In complex, high demand-low supply markets like New York City, brokers are your best bet. What a broker offers you is a unique level of service. While most transactions are completed without more than your standard fanfare, working with a broker offers the ability to “manage up” any issues that might arise between you and your agent or during your real estate transaction. In complex real estate sales processes, working with a stand-alone Realtor leaves you little recourse should there be any issues. Of course this could sound like you are taking a more “prevent rather than treat” type of approach, but in hot markets where who you are working with (or really, who is working for you) matters it never hurts to be cautious rather than reactionary.
Where for art thou, top broker?
Top brokers and their agents are easy to spot…if you look in the right places. In New York, for example, buyers and sellers often hire the brokers and their agents who have had successes in their building. While level of success is undoubtedly a qualifier, it’s important to take a hard look at whether the broker and their agents are the right fit for you. The way to know this is to know where to find your top broker and their agents and how to work with them.
Trust is the foundation of the agent-seller relationship. Brokers and their agents will look to build your trust in them and their competency from the start, but referrals are a great way to start with some built-in trust. Family, friends, and coworkers are great resources and help establish a foundation of trust. If an agent has brought someone you know and trust success, the expectation that they will do the same for you because you trust them to do the same for you is automatic.
Success speaks for itself
You wouldn’t let someone who hasn’t sold a property in your neighborhood in the last year sell your property, right? Again trust comes into play. If the agent you work with has demonstrated success in your building, neighborhood, and for your type of property then you have more motivation to trust in their capability to take on your listing and be successful once again.
Know the ins and outs of working with your broker/agent
Having a solid relationship with your agent is key to a smooth process. Process being the operative word, your end goal at the day is to complete a transaction to your satisfaction. While the broker and agent work for you it is important to keep in mind that the relationship is a business one.
Committing your property to one broker is a big deal so don’t enter into the transaction lightly. Just as you would shop around for the best deal on a new TV, washer/dryer combo, or new car, so should you on broker’s fees. While a broker may make it sound as though their fees are set in stone there is no harm in negotiating. In a hot market like New York City properties worth selling to brokers and agents can be used as leverage to get brokers to bring down their fees. The potential to move your property fast is alone a motivator for brokers to offer competitive discounts. However, if your property is likely to see high traffic, like at open houses, then the potential new customers are a benefit to the broker that helps them recoup on any discount they give you for your business. You simply don’t get what you don’t ask for and lower fees are something you should be asking for.
Demand open, communication
Communication is key in any relationship. While your broker is obligated to you as their client, being clear about expectations is something to establish from the outset. It should be clearly outlined in your listing agreement, but just in case, make sure there is an obligation of disclosure on offers from your broker. Since your relationship is a commission-based one, it is important that you ensure your broker is staying honest to you and the process and bringing you every offer–no matter how low or unacceptable. Additionally, keep in mind that brokers can make double commission if they bring one of their own buyers to the table–not necessarily something you should be wary, but keep your eyes and ears peeled in situations like this because at the end of the day the broker should be working in your best interest.
Your property, your rules
Good brokers, with their extensive education, and trusted partners–i.e. your agent–can be the difference between a smooth transaction and a lousy experience. What a top broker in a complex market like New York City brings you should be the former so long as you go about finding the right partner from the outset.
If you are buying or selling a house and are looking to hire a successful real estate agent to help you through the process, take a look at AgentHarvest's list of top-ranking local Realtors in your area. We found these agents by examining their sales track records, awards, rankings, client testimonials and by conducting personal interviews.