Perhaps the most important decision you will make in the process of selecting and buying your dream home will be the Crested Butte real estate agent you choose. There are lots of real estate agents in every market, and like everything else, the 80/20 rule applies here as well (80 percent of the agents transact 20 percent of the sales, and conversely, the top 20 percent of the agents are involved in 80 percent of the transactions). Many Crested Butte real estate agents are part- time and may not be as focused on your real estate search as you would like. Some agents have another job, because their current business is light or they cannot support their lifestyle as a full-time agent. You will want to find out more about your potential real estate agent before you hire them to represent you. What you’re looking for, of course, is someone in that rarified 20 percent, someone with the experience and commitment to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.
The good news is the Internet is a great resource and can provide quite a bit of insight. Use Google to search for Crested Butte real estate agents or if you have identified a few agents, google their names, and the names of their brokerages. If you are looking for a luxury mountain home, it makes sense to find a real estate agent that also has similar luxury listings that are in the same price range, and who has represented other buyers with similar luxury transactions. You might go to www.realtor.com and search for homes for sale — first select your mountain town, then enter the minimum and maximum dollar amount of your budget, then click Search. The listings that match your criteria will come up, and the agent’s name and brokerage will be shown at the bottom of each listing. It is a good idea to identify a few of these agents and add them as potential candidates.
Real Estate Agent Referral
Ask family members or friends if they know of a competent real estate agent in. Contact a real estate agent you already know where you live now. Real estate agents work on referral basis, and it is not uncommon for one real estate agent to refer you to another real estate agent and receive a referral fee (real estate agents are not permitted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to pay referral fees to anyone but other licensed real estate agents). You should first ask your hometown agent if he/she knows another agent in Crested Butte. If yes, great. If not, then you should keep looking, because they don’t know any more than you and may not be as diligent. If you go this route, make sure that your referring agent does their homework because you are relying on them to select the best agent for you (and they will be compensated when you close, usually 10-25 percent of the net commissions to the agent). Most agents are happy to pay this referral fee because it is new business, and if an agent in another market is influential and can refer additional business down the road, then it is a win-win.
Real Estate Agent Interview
Just as when selecting any product or service, it is a good idea to meet with the agent and ask some qualifying questions to get a feel for the agent’s background, business acumen, level of market knowledge, areas of expertise, the systems they have in place, and their ability to provide the level of service you expect (the successful agents will all be busy). Real estate agents are independent agents and paid 100 percent commissions, but only when a property closes. Most every real estate agent will be interested to represent you, especially if you are a serious buyer. You will find the best real estate agents will also be qualifying you as a bona fide buyer. They will ask you some qualifying questions, and if there is a fit, will ask you to sign a Buyer Agency Agreement — this is very similar to a Listing Agreement for a client who is selling a home. The best agents are focused on your satisfaction as a client, not on the amount of their commission. If you are a satisfied client, your willingness to refer future business is paramount to the success of the agent, and so on, and so on.
Specifics About the Market
Not the stock market, not the commodities market, and not the fish market — a good real estate agent should know about their real estate market and the market for the homes that are similar to your criteria. For example: Are prices up or down? Is the volume of transactions increasing or decreasing? What is the average days-on-market, and average price per square foot? Is it a buyer’s or seller’s market? What does land cost and what does it cost to build a home (ballpark ranges)? Can they recall any specific homes and details off the top of their head that recently sold that meet your criteria?
Ask your prospective agent for an example of their work in determining value for a specific home, and whether they routinely prepare a Crested Butte real estate market analysis.
Real Estate Agent References
Ask to talk with recent clients. Ask agents to provide a list of referrals and call the agent’s past clients. Ask them how the agent was to work with. Did they follow-up? Were they detail-oriented? How did they communicate? Did they add value, and if so, how? Would you use them again, and have you referred them to someone else? As well, get a list of the properties the agent has listed and sold in the past twelve to eighteen months. Are the properties on the list similar (price, quality, location, etc.) to the homes you will be looking at? You want an agent who has the experience and expertise to represent you and your interests.
Key Criteria for Selecting Your Crested Butte Real Estate Agent
Pick a winner
As said, all real estate agents are not created equal, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder… but I think it is a safe bet that you will be best represented by an agent who has been and is currently successful. Many agents will say they “have been selling real estate in Timbuktu for twenty-nine years” or the equivalent. This does not mean they have done any business, or have successfully represented their clients, or are qualified. It only means that they pay their annual dues and are still breathing. Do your homework. It is not hard to search the Internet and find out about an agent you are considering. Real estate agents want to be found — if you google their name, city and “real estate” and little or nothing comes up, your spider sense should be tingling…
Trust and Confidentiality
A recent poll of affluent clients by Coldwell Banker showed trust and confidentiality were the most important criteria to respondents when working with an agent — and so it is with most every buyer. It is important for you to share your buying motivation and financial situation with your agent so the agent can best represent your interests. You will want to have a Buyer Agency Agreement in place with your agent/brokerage, because this document guarantees you their agency duties, including confidentiality and fiduciary obligations. It also spells out their responsibilities and your responsibilities. When I was a buyer, I asked my real estate agent to prepare a Buyer Agency Agreement; I wanted to ensure that my agent was working for me, and my interests.
Many states require that agents give buyers and sellers an agency disclosure form to sign defining the various agency relationships. You should read this disclosure as well as the terms in the buyer agency agreement. You will find the majority of successful real estate agents will have many listings in their mountain town. There may be a home that they have listed for sale (and have a listing agreement with the seller) that fits your criteria perfectly and that home may end up on your final list, and may be selected as the home you really want to put an offer on and buy. In most states, the agent will be permitted to provide dual agency, and this will be set forth in the Buyer Agency Agreement and the Seller Listing Agreement. In this case, the agent will facilitate purchase transactions without being an advocate or agent for either party. If the seller and buyer are working with the same agent, the agent will continue to protect the confidentiality of both clients. The agent is required to treat both buyer and seller with fairness and honesty, and this is another example where selecting an experienced agent is a plus. A tenured real estate agent will have the skill to lead both parties to a successful and satisfied closed transaction.
Ask how the agent will communicate with you. The best response from the agent will be, “How would you like me to communicate with you, Mr. Buyer?” If you are considering a mountain home and you live in Texas, then you will not likely be in the mountain town throughout most of the search, offer/negotiation, or throughout the contract contingency stages, so it will be tough to meet face to face regularly. Would you prefer a weekly phone call update, descriptive voicemail messages, text messages or email updates? If there is an urgent issue, sometimes a short, descriptive text message and “can you call me” is best.
It is frustrating when calls get missed, dropped, or it takes hours to get a notification on a smartphone. When there are record numbers of visitors in town and everyone is posting a photo to Facebook and clogging up the cellular bandwidth, things get weird. While business is done at the speed of light and expectations are for immediate response, many mountain towns have poor cell coverage and it is not uncommon for remote homes to be out of cell range. A good real estate agent will be busy during peak times of the year, and will have many clients who are buyers and sellers in various stages of a transaction. If you leave a voicemail, it is better to be short and to the point with your question or issue (instead of just saying “please call me”). This way, the agent may be able to do some research and call back and with an answer. I try to reply as soon as possible, and at a minimum provide confirmation that I have received the message.
Communication is important when there are issues. You will be relying on your agent to be accessible and responsive during crunch time. He or she is also your eyes and ears, and may need to call on his or her stable of local resources to deal with issues.
Note, as a buyer, if you are not happy with the service you are receiving from a real estate agent, you should talk with them about it. Believe me, real estate agents have thick skin and want to please their clients. Every agent is different, and so is every buyer, so tell them in “plain Texas talk” what needs to change. If they can’t or won’t change, then fire them. But provide the agent the courtesy of letting them know up front. A good agent will ask you to sever your current agent relationship before you decide to start working with a different agent (it is also okay for you to tell agent #2 to call agent #1 and let them know; I have made many of these calls).
Look up the Licensing
Isn’t Everyone Who Sells Real Estate a Realtor®? The answer is no. All real estate licensees are not the same. Only real estate licensees who are members of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) are properly called REALTORS®. (The reason you often see “REALTOR” in upper case is to emphasize that distinction.) REALTORS® subscribe to a strict code of ethics and are expected to maintain a higher level of knowledge of the process of buying and selling real estate. Check with your state’s regulatory body to find out if the person is licensed and if there have been any disciplinary actions or complaints.
You want to work with an agent who is a realtor®. To look up licensing visit: NAR — http://www.realtor.org. In Colorado you can visit the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), Division of Real Estate at www.colorado.gov
An excellent agent is an important asset to you when buying a second home in your mountain town. They should have experience, a network of experts (attorneys, title companies, contractors, surveyors, lenders, architects, etc.) and should be able to guide you through the complexities of the buying process.
How can I help you? I have over 30 years of sales and marketing experience and am a top real estate agent in the mountain town of Crested Butte, Colorado representing affluent clients who are buying and selling their dream homes and ranch properties in the mountains. To see featured properties or search the MLS – visit chriskopf.com. How is the Crested Butte Real Estate Market doing? Click here to see my monthly Crested Butte Real Estate Market Reports. I appreciate the opportunity to earn your business and be your Crested Butte Real Estate Agent when buying a vacation home in your mountain dream town.
Chris Kopf, Coldwell Banker Bighorn Realty
Previews® Property Specialist