Some real estate agents may not like me posing this question as a title, but only a few, if any. Those of us with experience know that this is a fundamental question that is asked of professionals every day. Have you seen the phone commercial of the patient talking to his surgeon (just reinstated, but not officially), whose nurse describes him as “okay,” and who says he’s nervous about doing the surgery but “we’ll figure it out”? This is not a surgeon you want to trust. You and I have the same concern as the patient facing surgery, when we need the services of a doctor, lawyer or any other professional. Even if we aren’t saying it aloud, we are thinking the whole time, “Can I trust this person?”
In the mid 1980s, I was a REALTOR® for a few years and did not take the profession up again until around 2005. When I started again after 25 years, I was shocked at all the new laws and regulations that were in place governing our work. I saw them as cumbersome, tedious and unnecessary. When I analyzed them more, I realized there were two very good reasons for these new laws and regulations: they were consumer oriented, designed to protect buyers and sellers, and they would keep agents more honest, or at least better weed out any who were not.
We don’t live in a perfect world, and there will always be those in every profession who are dishonest. We see this in the news regularly: a doctor, lawyer, school teacher, minister betrays the trust of those who should be able to trust them. And this is no different in real estate; however, it might be argued that there has never been a time when the public was more protected, at least as to legislation in place to protect consumers.
Practically, let me suggest five confidence builders available to you in selecting and working with a real estate agent you can trust. None of these is a sure thing, but may help or be of use.
- Laws and regulations. I’ve already mentioned these. Add to this that agents must complete education requirements to be licensed and are required to complete continuing education.
- Professional associations and advanced education. There are a number of associations with ethical standards to which agents subscribe. Some agents also elect to take additional non-required courses and meet performance standards in order to achieve special professional designations.
- References. Why not ask an agent if any of his or her recent clients would be willing to discuss his or her experience?
- Referrals. You have family, friends, work and social connections that have had a good experience with an agent and enthusiastically recommend him or her. In some ways, this to me is the most important. Trust can’t be legislated or guaranteed just because someone is a member of an association or has an educational designation, but a good reputation for honesty, caring about your situation, acting responsibly, working hard and smart, concern for your best interests…these are of great importance when someone you respect has experience from an agent and refers that person to you.
- You. You have the advantage of having access to more information about real estate and all that is going on in the industry and how everything works than at any other time in history. You watch television, read articles, watch videos, etc. Granted, there can be misleading information on the web, but you can, over time, become a very educated and knowledgeable consumer. You can learn important questions to ask. You can discuss ideas with others. You can interview multiple agents and find a fit that seems wise and comfortable for you.
Legendary College of William & Mary football coach and professional speaker Lou Holtz says there are three questions people are always asking: “Can I trust you?” “Are you committed?” and “Do you care about me?” I’m glad to be part of an industry where I think most of us are doing our best every day to answer “Yes” to all of these questions.