Real Estate Market

J.D. Power: How to find a real estate agent

One of the best ways to find a real estate agent is through a referral from a family member, friend, co-worker, professional or other person you trust -- who recently experienced a successful real estate transaction.

That may be lost on today's harried real estate agents.

Fewer then half of home buyers and sellers indicate their agent asked them to provide a referral or recommendation to a friend or family member, according to recent J.D. Power and Associates', "2010 Home Buyer/Seller Study".

"Positive recommendations are a critically important driver of new business for agents, and there is ample opportunity for improvement in this area," said Jim Howland, senior director of the real estate and construction practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

"Particularly during tough times in the real estate market, asking for referrals and recommendations should be considered an essential part of doing business," Howland added.

In its third year, the study measures customer satisfaction of home buyers and home sellers with the largest national real estate companies.

The study was conducted from April to May of 2010 and included more than 3,000 evaluations from respondents who bought or sold a home between March 2009 and April 2010.

On a scale of 1,000 (100 percent satisfied), overall satisfaction among home sellers declined by 40 points from an average 782 in 2009 to 742 in 2010. Sellers this year were less satisfied with real estate marketing and the variety of services offered.

Buyers were happier. Among buyers, overall satisfaction improved by 12 points from an average 791 in 2009 to 803 in 2010. Increased overall satisfaction came from buyers being more satisfied with agents and salespeople.

Because satisfaction often hinges on the acumen of the real estate agent or salesperson, J.D. Power also offered the following tips for buyers and sellers looking for the best representation.

• Find an agent specific to your needs. Given the time it can take to buy or sell a home, you'll wan to bond with your agent. If you've previously bought or sold a home, the right agent could be the one you worked with in the past. For first-time buyers, seeking recommendations from people you trust is critical. Using the Internet also can be a good starting point for research, particularly if you are moving far from your current location.

• Consider the additional services you'll need. You may also need a loan officer, lender, title/escrow company, inspectors, appraiser, home warranty agents, movers, storage services, contractors, and more. A full-service real estate company can take some of the legwork out of finding competent service companies.

• Sellers need marketing moguls. When looking for an agent zero in on the tools used to market the home. Examine an agent's approach to open houses, online marketing and signage. Ask which websites will carry your listing, how many photos can be included, and if there will be a virtual tour and other online features. Tools that assist prospective home buyers help attract attention to the listing.

• Buyers need to understand the full cost of homeownership before they buy. Buyers should have a housing budget and expect the agent to show homes in the appropriate price range. Agents should also explain all the fees associated with the transaction and, later, ownership. There are mortgage fees, title fees and appraisal fees, inspection fees, as well as ongoing expenses including insurance, taxes, homeowner association fees, maintenance and upkeep costs and others.

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