HOW TO CHOOSE A REALTOR IN CHICAGO

How do you choose a Realtor (Real Estate Broker) in Chicago whether you are looking to buy or sell? What should you look for?

Real estate brokerages would love you to believe that it is difficult to become a Realtor. I’ve been in the business for 7 years and I can easily tell you, based on the experiences I have had with other agents, that almost anyone can enter this business. Whenever the barrier to entry is low, no matter what the field is, you are bound to attract…..idiots. The fact remains that many people in the real estate business, should NOT be in the real estate business. A Real estate broker is helping you with the purchase or the sale of one of your largest assets, if not THE largest asset you will own. So what should you look for when choosing an agent? How do you pick out the idiots from the heard so you know to avoid them?

An agent that Shuts Up:

An agent should not try to talk your ear off right away. Instead, they should shut up and listen to you. They should listen to your needs and your wants. They should ask you questions and just as important; they should know what questions to ask you. Your agent should not be there to SELL you, instead, they should be there to advise you (and sell your home if that is what you hired them to do).

An agent that is all-knowing:

Surely, an agent can’t know everything and any agent that says they do is a load of crap. What I mean by “all-knowing” is that your agent should UNDERSTAND all aspects of the business. They need to understand how mortgages work, from application through the underwriting process. They should understand the basics of real estate law and contract law. They should understand basic accounting so they can help you evaluate the financials of a condominium association. They do not need to be experts in these fields, but they need basic knowledge in all these fields.

In each transaction it is my job to act as a facilitator. I am here to make sure the attorney is doing things properly, to make sure the mortgage broker is doing things properly, to make sure the condo association is turning over the proper paperwork to my client, and to make sure the agent on the other side of the transaction is doing things properly. Your agent is likely not an attorney nor a mortgage broker, but they should strive to learn as much as they can about these topics. They need to be your advocate throughout the entire transaction.

Knowledge of the market

Real estate is extremely localized and in Chicago there are neighborhoods, within neighborhoods which influence everything from pricing to schools to the overall “feel” of the neighborhood. Your agent needs to know these neighborhoods like the back of their hand. If they don’t, then they should not be working in that neighborhood. They should be able to give you at least rough pricing off the top of their head. While specific pricing may require your agent to look up comparable sales; your agent should be able to at least give you a price range for sale or if you’re a buyer tell you if something is over priced off the top of their head. If they cannot, then they do not know the market well enough.

Not a side job

Your agent cannot be part time. I am sorry, but these agents just piss me off. Helping someone with such a large purchase or sale is NOT a part time gig. If you had $100,000 to invest would you go to a “part time” financial adviser? If you were sick would you go to a “part time” medical doctor? No you wouldn’t, so don’t go to a part time agent.

Your agent needs to be on time

Your agent needs to be on time. If your agent is constantly late, they don’t respect your time. But more importantly, if they can’t manage their time how can they manage anything else? Precision and details are important in this business. If you are buying a home for $500,000 do you want your agent to do things with precision?

An agent that discounts themselves

There was a trend a while back, which is thankfully going away, where agents would greatly discount commissions and kickback large amounts of their commissions to buyers. I will not name the services in this blog, but instead, all I will say is you get what you pay for. The most successful and knowledgeable agents in Chicago do not need to discount their services. Would you trust a doctor that advertised a $25 physical exam? I’m thinking not so much. Same is true with the real estate profession. By the same token, however, hold your agent to high standards. Understand that they are getting paid to represent you and you should expect nothing but the absolute best from your agent.

MY ADVICE TO FIRST TIME BUYERS IN CHICAGO

First Time Home Buyers always have a lot of questions. Listed below are some of the most common questions and concerns I hear working with home buyers in Chicago.

What Neighborhood in Chicago is the best investment?

Chicago is extremely diverse with so many different neighborhoods each offering their own “feel.” The old saying is real estate is “Location, Location, Location.” This saying continues to be very true, but not just for your pocket book. If you are buying a home to live in, then YOU need to enjoy the location. Try not to get too wrapped up in “How much will this area appreciate in the coming years” but instead focus on “What will I enjoy about this neighborhood while I liveĀ  here?” Many buyers don’t give themselves enough credit. The things in a neighborhood that you love or hate, are likely the same things that the next buyer will love or hate as well. Focus on what you will love about the neighborhood first and then focus on what appreciation you may see in the future. After all, if you don’t like the location, then are you really getting your money’s worth?

How much space do I really need in Chicago?

Do you want a two bedroom or a one bedroom? What is more important to you: Space or Quality? Sure, it is great to have both but if price remains the same quality will decrease as space increases. Many people may say “One Bedrooms are not good for resale” In some areas this may be true, but overall I do not find this to be the case. Instead, you need to ask yourself the question “OK, this is only a One Bedroom but what do I like about it over some of the Two Bedrooms I have seen?” Chances are the quality is better, the living room space may be larger, the view may be better. Are these things important to you?

Transportation

How close are you to Transportation? Do you use the CTA or no? While that six block walk to the red line may seem wonderful in the summer time, it will feel like hell in the winter time so keep that in mind. If you are the kind of person that doesn’t mind walking a mile to the train in the freezing cold then your options can be much broader. If you are like me a despise walking even two minutes in the cold then your options will need to be more constrained.

Stay within your means

You may love the amazing condo that is pushing your budget but what good is it if you can’t afford to furnish it properly or enjoy the wonderful restaurants and bars down the street. Be conservative with your budget. Sometimes you can spend less money on a purchase and then some money on great renovations or furnishings and end up with a place that is perfect for you.