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Monday, April 02, 2012

Reader Question: How do I Choose a Realtor?

Pink House on Staples

A reader wrote in wondering how to find a realtor who knows this specific area well. What questions should a client ask when choosing a realtor? Recommendations for specific realtors are also welcome.

48 comments:

*the* inimitable poo said...

we had Ken Johnson from dcrealestate.com (also the guy behind dcmud.blogspot.com) to sell our house off 3rd and I. he's VERY knowledgeable about the area, and.... we had two offers after the first opening, one of which we accepted. he also helped us buy our new house farther up toward catholic university. i would definitely use him should we choose to move again.

Leigh said...

I would recommend Ken Rub. He helped me find my house in Trinidad and was a really great person to work with. http://www.stagesrealtors-dc.com/view_agent.asp?AGENTID=20

tonysmallframe said...

Are they looking to buy or sell? We just bought last month using Stuart Gavin from redfin. I'm not sure if he is an expert on the area, but he was able to show us the house we wantedright away, and we got aa % back of his comission at closing. Some houses around here you can get you $4-5000 back, so that's a pretty nice return if you can do some of the research yourself,

Josh on Orren St said...

I used Greg Masucci for my place on Orren Street after friends of ours used him for their place on Morse St. He knows the area well and fought tooth and nail for our interests so I would def suggest speaking to him.
greg@RealSmartRES.com
202-243-7700

Anonymous said...

Learn from my mistake: Definitely meet with (or at least speak to) three or more realtors. We went with a major Hill realtor with decades of experience and dozens of glowing recommendations but didn't really interview him and we didn't talk with anyone else. He couldn't tell us anything we didn't already know and wasn't particularly helpful in purchasing process.

However, he was a friendly, chatty, and genuinely nice guy. My impression was that he would be the perfect agent for someone who didn't have any homebuying experience and wasn't comfortable looking at real estate websites. So he probably earned the recommendations, but they just weren't from people like us.

As with many hiring or purchasing decisions, don't simply look for a good agent. Look for an agent who will be good for you.

SustainableDC said...

I would recommend Pam Wye, she is a real bulldog and makes the whole, stressful process of buying or selling a home run smoothly. She makes sure all the "i's" are dotted and the "t's" are crossed. She was born and raised on the hill and works with all price ranges. http://www.pamelawye.com/

Jordan said...

I would strongly recommend Jon Steele at Long and Foster. Very trustworthy, honest guy and great knowledge of the area and very professional.

http://jonathansteele.lnfre.com/

Anonymous said...

I would endorse Jason Martin of Keller/Williams, he lives in the area and was great to work with, everything throughout the buying process and transaction was very smooth.

Chinaski said...

Second the recommendation for Jason Martin. We were first time buyers, and he really made the process very easy. Great guy.

Trinidaddy said...

99% of realtors are full of shit. Having said that, I'd highly recommend doing your own research on the intarwebs and then using Redfin for buying a house. The 1.5% back at closing really helps. Someone mentioned Stuart Gavan from there - he's great!

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Myers has helped us and several other friends get into houses in the neighborhood. She's GREAT -- especially for first time homebuyers. Also, her office is above the Daily Rider on H Street. She's committed to our neighborhood big time.

http://jennifermyers.com/

DC20002 said...

Completely agree with Trinidaddy. I've yet to meet a realtor that wasn't either completely clueless or just full of shit.
Like most everything in life, if you want something done right, do it yourself. There are countless websites out there that will tell you everything you need to know that is useful when choosing your house.
All you need an agent for is to unlock the doors to the propery you are interested in viewing. That is all.
When choosing my agents, the only thing I look for is tardiness and the ability to follow orders. Nothing else.

Anonymous said...

I live on the nicer "hill" part of H St, so I just use whoever Sothebys sends.

Anonymous said...

I also feel that most agents are clueless, full of shit and only want to push you into a home. Don't lose sight of the fact that if they don't sell you a home they don't get paid. Cut the agent out and capture the commission in the contract for your own pocket. From the commission cut you can easily cover the cost of a licensed attorney who will guide you through the process...a professional that actually had to graduate from high school to secure his/her licences (unlike a real estate agent). This is what I did and it worked out great!

Anonymous said...

I disagree. A seasoned home buyer may not need a realtor, but I think a new buyer definitely does. They help you understand the home buying process and its a comfort I think that is worth it.

My only recommendation is understand they want to help you buy a house because they make money. Just because your realtor says some repair is "no big deal" doesn't mean that is the case. These are 100 year old home. They can take thousands upon thousands to fix up properly. Its easy to say, "Just knock out that wall" before you find out it is a support wall that carries water and electrical and that electrical has never been upgraded.

Morse St said...

I can't recommend Ron Sitrin of Long & Foster highly enough. Without Ron, we never would have ended up in our dream home at the price we did...before it even went on the market. Ron is highly knowledgable about the area and is frequently tapped to speak about DC real estate trends with NPR. We felt like we were his only client and he didn't even make us sign an agreement until we put in our first offer. He answered our calls at all hours of the day or night, ruthlessly sought down potential houses, scheduled house visits at the drop of a hat, and even helped us find a mortgage lender who was reliable and fast enough to turn our loan around in under a month. I would not hesitate to use him again: http://www.ronsitrin.com/

Anonymous said...

If I were a seller, I would not accept your taking a cut of my profits instead of your realtor. If you want to take a precentage of that to cover your closing cost, I would expect that to be part of your initial offer. But, if I see that you are wanting 3 percent because you didn't have to use a realtor, then I would counter that very quickly.

Anonymous said...

Agree with anon 1:18.

I've purchased 2 homes in the last 10 years. Got burned badly on my first one. Lesson learned. My 2nd home I vigorously did the research on my own and took my time to find the right home while completely ignoring everything that came out of my agent's mouth. What a huge difference that made.

Next time, I will just hire an attorney to do the paper work etc. and completely cut out the agent altogether. I simply don't see the justification for using one - first time home buyer or not.

Anonymous said...

I bought my first home two years ago and I'll tell you this: my real estate agent was next to useless. Well, not completely useless - somebody still has to unlock the doors to show you the property. But apart from that, the drivel that came out of her mouth('Oh that area is HOT!!', 'that's such an up and coming area, i have had so many people interested, I think you should jump on it!', 'There are MULTIPLE offers on the table!!') was not only useless, it became downright annoying. As a result, I really like the Redfin business model(I dumped my realtor and went with them eventually) - you do your own research, decide what you want to offer, they draw up the contract and you just sign. They just show up to closing. There's something inherently satsifying and rewarding about doing some of the legwork yourself. Seriously, do you need them to tell you about a neighborhood? Just go walk around and figure it out! Talk to people, peruse listservs, drive around! I just didn't need any hand holding or the realtor sending me listings - with the Internet and MLS accessible almost in real time, who needs that?? I agree with the other posters - get a good lawyer and just do the work yourself. Now if your situation is super-complicated or exotic(multiple contingencies, other hoops to jump through), maybe a realtor would make sense. Otherwise, they're overrated and useless.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all those who highlighted the inherent conflict of interest in how realtors are paid. The higher the house sale price, the more they will be paid... end of story. There is absolutely no incentive for a realtor to bring the price down for you, so it pays to do your own research. I was totally burned when I first bought my house 6+ years ago, and I will be much better prepared next time.

Anonymous said...

I must reinforce what the vast majority of posters here are saying - real estate agents are not only largely inept, but can also be outright dangerous to your financial well being. The commission pay structure encourages them to push you into a house/out of a house...as fast as possible. On a $500,000 sale the selling and purchashing agent will make a combined average of $30,000, which they split between themselves. For doing what...not much aside from opening a few locked doors and driving around in a car that is designed to impress. No wonder every moron out there holds a real estate license. Please be careful and try it on your own. Redfin is great and there are pleanty of qualified attorneys that will help you prepare a contract, review the title, etc. and not charge anywhere near the commission cut an agent pockets.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:16

Why would you oppose a buyer taking a 3% cut of your profits but you would freely give it up to an agent? Are you an agent yourself trying to protect your own? The Purchaser's agent does nothing for you except brings you a legitimate purchaser. Why would you care who presents you a vaid offer on your home? I don't understand. You would give me a few measly dollars towards my closing cost instead? Gee...thanks but no thanks. I'll take a 2% reduction in the sales price in lieu of the 3% commission you would give to an agent or otherwise take my hard earned money elsewhere.

Holly said...

I love my agent - KENN BLAGBURN - kenn@drconsultants.com. He helped me SO MUCH, even though I just bought a little fixer-upper in Trinidad. He didn't make a lot off my purchase, but STILL checks in with me with pointers and recommendations on my renovation! He is great - and he lives in Eckington, so very available for looking at places in the city last minute(or anywhere, really). HIGHLY recommended!

Anonymous said...

Anon 216,

The selling agent gets 6 percent. They split the money with the buying agent. You don't pay the buying agent directly, from my understanding. Granted, it all comes out the same at closing table.

Anonymous said...

4:08,

The original comment was saying to take the entire 3 percent commission. If you cut the seller a break by offering to take 2 percent instead of three, then that would weigh heavily in your favor.

But why should I pay you three percent just because? Like I said, I would counter that. I basically would say instead of three percent, take one percent and I bet you would.

Anonymous said...

Realtard:
A retarded realtor, aka all realtors.

The Realtard fooled me into paying $500k for a 1 bedroom condo in Miami in 2006, claiming that real estate "ALWAYS GOES UP!" The Realtard got a 6% commission off of that sale, for a total of $30k in his pocket. Here I sit in 2010, squatting in my pre-foreclosure condo which is now only worth $200k.

Anonymous said...

No offense, but the realtor made money and you lost money. So, umm.....whose retarted?

LCampbell said...

My husband and I went with Anne Savage and Nate Guggenheim when we bought a few years ago. It took a long time and six offers before we were under contract in our current house. They worked aggressively to get the price of our house as low as possible. They gave us as much time as their clients who whose budgets were many times ours.

The biggest advantage to having an agent is that you can get into the houses and see them. Many houses don't do open houses, without an agent you are really limited in your choices or are committing to buying a house sight unseen. Also, If you are just planning on paying asking for the house, fine, but most houses are priced with a little room to go down in negotiations. Many selling agents won't negotiate with individuals, and even if they will, they won't take you as seriously as an agent.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

JT Powell has sold me three homes in the H Street area over the years. He has also lived in the area for as long as I remember - i think he has his finger on the pulse of the H Street and Atlas. 202-465-2357

Anonymous said...

There are 2 agents in a transaction. The listing agent and the selling agent. That should tell you everything.

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Lisowski and Ty Voyles of Capitol Realty Team are phenomenal and specialize in the Hill. They even talked us out of a condo because they knew it wouldn't fit our lifestyle and then found us the perfect place. We purchased two properties through them and could not be happier. They are responsive, patient and truly experts on the Hill . Would never use another agency.

Www.capitolrealtyteam.com

202-548-4811
Jim@capitolrealtyteam.com
Ty@capitolrealtyteam.com

Kiki said...

Wow, this is a lot of information. I was actually the one asking the question to Inked.

While a good agent is a good agent, and the idea of the whole agent system aside, any more recommendations for selling agents?

Mose said...

Kiki: For selling agents, I would highly recommend Todd Bissey and Stan Bissey, who are a father and son who work as a team and specialize in the Hill area. They helped us to sell our house on the Hill in the summer of 2011. One uncommon skill that they bring to the table is that Stan is a former general contractor who is able to fix most minor issues in the house himself prior to listing. If the house needs more significant work, Stan has existing relationships with painters, plumbers, carpenters, etc., and can make all the arrangements for the work to be completed. That was a huge help for us, and they got our house in tip-top shape on fairly short notice before putting it on the market (and also landed a full price offer right out of the gate). We thought that they went the extra mile. Here are their numbers:

Todd Bissey: 202-841-7653
Stan Bissey: 202-841-1433

Good luck with selling your home!

Rayful Edmond said...

JT Powell needs to take me off his distribution list. He keeps sending me postcards of houses recently sold, often over a mile from my home.

Ella on M said...

I had great experience working with the Bisseys and I would recommend them in a heartbeat. JT Powell on the other hand, I didn’t have a good experience. He was very flakey and not good at returning calls. If I wanted to see a property that he didn’t like, he acted like it was the biggest inconvenience to him. I felt like he was showing me houses that were better for him and not for me. I got fed up with him after one of his attitude fits and got in touch with the Bisseys who were the listing agent on a house I wanted to see. They were both very kind and patient and I had a great experience. I ended up buying my house through them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with those comments saying agents are full of shit and btw, so re the loan officers. Long time homeowner and buying a second house, nothing has changed. All they are dying for is their comission, if you think otherwise, you are naive. Do your own due dilligence and use the agent to unlock the door for you so you can see the house. Never ask them for advice on the property value.

Anonymous said...

An excellent website is franklymls.com

It's considerably more accurate than Zillow and Redfin sometimes are.

Zillow and Redfin listings sometimes aren't updated when a house sells, price changes, etc.

And they don't try to sell you anything.

Having said that, what do you have to lose with an agent representing you as a buyer? You don't have to listen to him if you think he's wrong.

But they may have useful info, may know things about particular houses, etc. In particular, some houses have sold repeatedly over the years, for any number of reasons - terrible layout that's not immediately apparent, terrible neighbors, etc.

An agent can sometimes tell you the history behind a particular house or block that you can't get online.

From sellers viewpoint, a lot of agents won't work with a seller that doesn't have an agent. For every good For Sale By Owner person out there there is also a nutcase that is unrealistic in how things work, and so many agents just won't bother with them. That may seriously diminish the number of people that see your house.

Having said that,always good to remember they do have a vested financial interest.

Greg - Real Estate Guy said...

My name is Greg Masucci and I live and work on the Hill. I actually live in SoFlo (south of Florida and north of H St....we Realtors just can't help ourselves with the names). I have to say that those of you that think all Realtors are full of (fill in euphemism for poop here) simply may not have had a good one, but, that doesn't mean we are all bad. All professions have good and bad practitioners. Everyone thinks lawyers suck until one of them saves their ass or gets them a huge settlement. I (and other good agents) add plenty of value for my clients for many different reasons, but, the following would be near the top of the list:

1st I have over 20 years experience in buying, selling, and investing in real estate.

2nd I have PERSONALLY torn houses down to the studs and masonry and rebuilt them(and I have an awesome set of tools to prove it:). So, I know a thing or two about construction and renovation. In addition the inspectors we recommend average more then 5,000 inspections each and they really know their business and the housing product in our area .....they aren't just some rubber stamp on route to closing.

3rd I have actually been a mortgage lender (mainly just to get some insight into it for my clients)and probably closed 30+ loans myself. I've been able to use this insight into the mortgage process to help me guide my clients through it successfully (especially important when there are appraisal issues etc.)and make sure they get good rates and reputable lenders.

4th I have 'pioneered" neighborhoods here and in Chicago long before they were on most peoples radar screens and have wracked up over a $1,000,000 dollars in equity appreciation in my personal real estate portfolio in Chicago alone. I have a pretty well tuned "nose" for real estate. a nose that has been honed with countless hours of education in the classrooms and the streets, one deal at a a time.

5th One of the things I am most proud of is that I have not had a single client default or be foreclosed on...NOT ONE! I have always been mindful of people's actual budgets and not what some lender told them they could afford and I also all but insisted my clients take fixed money loans unless there was some real benefit to a more complicated (see more dangerous) loan product.

In all, I am actually quite proud of my accomplishments in terms of the service I have provided for my clients and I can all but guarantee you that a good agent is worth a hell of a lot more than any rebate or other discount out there. In fact, many of the homes I have sold in Trinidad and elsewhere never even made it to the market because I have an intimate knowledge of my marketplace and all the players in it. I have saved my clients $10's of thousands of $$$ while you got your $4,000 in rebate. However, the most important thing I've done is to tell people NOT to buy a place because I felt like it may have structural issues etc. ...sometimes clients don't want to hear it because they love the house etc, but, you have to be honest with them and tell them that, although they may not see it (and may never), they would thank me for saving them from a potentially bad (possibly nightmarish) purchase if they could see it.

You need to ask yourself this:

"Do I really want to entrust the biggest purchase of my life to a discounter?"

Good agents don't work on a salary...why would they? This is a free market and if you want the talent that will get the job done right...they probably aren't working at Kmart.

I conduct my business with honesty, integrity, personal dedication and really, really, hard work and that is nothing to discount :)

BTW "Josh on Orren", who was kind enough to recommend me in the beginning of the comments stream (thanks Josh), listed my phone number wrong. It is actually 202-386-8866

Anonymous said...

When buying a house, I recommend anyone with a license who knows how to open a door on command.

lou said...

We looked at many, many, many houses with a Realtor before we discovered one we loved that was FSBO on Craigslist.

And I have a feeling that if we had to sell, we wouldn't use a Realtor because $20K commission, really?

burt said...

I wonder if it's possible to just get my own real estate license and become my own agent if I ever wanted to sell my house.

Most people who bought within the last 6 or 7 years, if they had to sell today, paying a realtor $20k in commission would most likely put them in the red or barely break even.

Greg - Real Estate Guy said...

You bought in the last 6 or 7 years some where on or near the Hill and $20k is going to put you at break even? I find that, in and of itself, pretty extraordinary...and not in a good way. I mean, even if you bought at the peak of the market in 2005-2006 those properties in the Hill area are still up a lot more than $20k generally speaking. Maybe your home is worth more than you think.

Also, the people that buy FSBO's are generally the ones looking for the deep discounts...that is precisely WHY they are shopping for FSBO's. Unfortunately for you, there is only one commission to "give up" and the buyer of your FSBO wants it ...guaranteed :)

So, this is why when you sell as a FSBO you generally (and NAR has lots of stats to back this up) get 10% or more less than when you sell with a Realtor. So, what I would ask is, "Why would you want to do all the work yourself, all the marketing, staging, design and repair plans yourself, risk making very big and very costly mistakes by your inexperience, and pay an extra 4% or more for the privilege". Doesn't seem like a great economic plan to me.

AndTobago said...

Real estate is not rocket science. Neither are houses, really. Around here, they're all old. Some may have structural issues but chances are, theyre not going anywhere anytime soon. Sorry, I just don't see any justification for someone representing you or 'fighting on your behalf' for 3% of the purchase price. Fighting for what? If you are the type of person who hires everyone to do everything and never lifts a finger yourself, then I guess you fit the bill for a typical real estate client. Me, I'm not buying it. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Greg, you sound like the typical agent. I doubt you did yourself any favors on this post. I am so glad Redfin came along to help disrupt the traditional real estate model because it's a joke.

Anonymous said...

Kevin Wood, at William Sawyer & Co. Worked much harder than others I'd worked with, and was very pro-H Street from the start. Definitely give him a call; he's great to work with. http://www.kevinjosephwood.com/

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons to use a real estate agent is that they have been in hundreds and hundreds of houses, many more than the average person will ever go into. They've been to hundreds of home inspections and gone through the purchasing process many times with clients. If you think you know more than they do after doing some internet research, go for it.

TK said...

Shelley Gold worked wonders for us. We were first time home buyers and she was patient and showed us way more homes than anyone in their right mind would. We found a great house around H Street and she was a great advocate for us on price, etc. Couldn't be happier, highly highly recommend her for anyone looking around H or DC in general.
http://www.shelleygold.com/

Anonymous said...

Check out Phil Dickson - he does a lot of open houses around here so he knows the area:

http://philipdickson.lnf.com/