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How to Pick A Realtor With ZERO referrals or first hand knowledge?
Old 04-17-2018, 07:29 PM   #1
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How to Pick A Realtor With ZERO referrals or first hand knowledge?

I’ve done a bunch of searches online and every one says get referrals from family, friends, co-workers and then get references. But we don’t know a soul in the intended relocation metro area 750 miles away, so no referrals. Any suggestions?

All I know to do is call the larger real estate offices in Raleigh-Durham, tell them what we’re looking for, and see who they offer up. From there we’d ask them some questions (good questions to ask are easy to find online), ask for references and do some research on our own, and narrow it to one or two and proceed.

When I was working it was easier as co-workers at the new location were always there to help, and Megacorp had relo peeps that knew good realtors in most of the their (75) locations. Now retired, we don’t have that handy resource when relocating.
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Old 04-17-2018, 07:38 PM   #2
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It sounds like you are looking for a buyer-agent in the new area? Not a seller.

I'd probably start with following:

Look up listings on Zillow in the approx area and price range as you want to move to. Prune out the lame listings, and get the ones that look good, and make a list of agents that look like they know what they're doing (good staging, well written copy, etc.). You can usually link directly to their profiles, offices, etc., and do some additional work from there.

Once you're visiting the new area, plan an afternoon visiting a few open houses. The whole point of an open house (for a realtor) is less about selling that house than it is making an impression and attracting new buying clients ("oh don't like this one? I've got a dozen more even better I can show you!"). See if you find one you click with after doing the initial online checking.
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Old 04-17-2018, 07:38 PM   #3
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There are at least a couple here from that area, aren't there? I left in 2000. I wasn't impressed with any realtor on the buy or sell side until my final sale. <sending realtor info via PM, probably not appropriate to include here I guess?>
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Old 04-17-2018, 07:53 PM   #4
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Do you have a friend who is a realtor or a prior realtor you trust? Our friend used her referral service and screened a realtor for us. We are SO happy with who she chose.

Compare this to when we used zillow and went with the person who had the most sales and great reviews. We liked her initially...but we discovered - after we had signed a contract and were working with her for a while - that she was AWFUL, worst realtor we have ever had!

High sales volume does not = great realtor.
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Old 04-17-2018, 08:18 PM   #5
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We just went through this. My prior top notch realtor in another part of
The country recommended getting on Zillow for the communities you want and search for highly rated realtors in the area. You can google ‘Zillow agent reviews Dubuque’ or similar. He recommended interviewing those with at least 50 reviews but none here had that many. We then interviewed three that had more than 25 listings. Being sellers, we discussed technology extensively to find those doing the latest, greatest marketing and to find a fit before listing.

I’d rather read a lot of positive reviews from actual customers than rely on one or two.

Good luck!
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Old 04-17-2018, 09:30 PM   #6
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Try homelight.com. They supposedly have the top rated Realtors as opposed to many websites which just sell ads.
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Old 04-17-2018, 09:44 PM   #7
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We did a version of what was suggested above. Looked for sold listings in the neighborhoods and price range we liked and picked a realtor who seemed to focus on these. So far she's been good, but will know better in the next 6 months when we really put her to the test.

If the market is competitive, it makes sense to look for a high volume top agent, who may know about places coming online. That said, we had a phenomenal experience with an almost brand new agent when buying our home now. He was super hungry and smart and worked his tail off for us, but still had the backing of experienced agents in his group to help manage some of the more complicated stuff.

FWIW, something is up with the 'top agents' in home light. None of the most well known agents in our area are highlighted.
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Old 04-17-2018, 09:45 PM   #8
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Caveat emptor on ratings from public sites.

I had some connections to the local MLS when I sold my house and asked for the top selling agent in the area. Guy did a great job, better than either agent in a friend’s recent $1.5 million purchase. If every broker was like him, there wouldn’t be any complaints about RE agents.

If you don’t have an insider available, ask any agent for a list of all the sales in your target area over the last 2 years, and subtle as possible, make sure it includes the agents.

Haven’t looked, maybe realtor.com has the agent info on recent sales?
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Old 04-17-2018, 09:55 PM   #9
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Unless things have changed, Raleigh and Durham are different real estate markets. The cities share an airport and RTP certainly draws from both, but otherwise they are fairly independent. I'm sure any realtor will offer to show you anywhere, but my impression is that they typically know one area or the other. The one I sent in a PM is out of Raleigh, which includes Cary, Apex, Wake Forest, maybe a few others. Basically the ones east of RTP. Durham I know less about, they likely include Chapel Hill and Carrboro but I'm not sure as that could be a third set of realtors, though Durham and CH are adjacent.

I don't know how relocation helpers do it for RTP companies, since people coming in often don't know whether they want to move to Raleigh, Durham or elsewhere. I suspect that whoever gets assigned to you has their own bias and will push you towards it. I was just out of college when I moved so I was only looking at apartments.
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Old 04-17-2018, 11:18 PM   #10
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I was recently faced with this same issue. We'd just started looking at real estate and a house came on the market that we really wanted to buy. I used Zillow's real estate agent reviews to find an agent that had a lot of reviews that were all good. As it turned out, she was terrific and helped structure an offer that allowed us to buy the house over competitive bidders.

In contrast, the agent that sold my house was the top selling agent in the state (or so he claimed) and he sucked.
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Old 04-17-2018, 11:45 PM   #11
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I've always had good luck with high-volume agents. You don't get the hand-holding, detailed explanations, or instant responsiveness you might get with others. But the in-depth market knowledge and experience pays off huge when it really matters during negotiations and problem-solving to salvage a deal. If you spend enough time on Zillow in a specific area, you'll start noticing a handful of agents who seem to have a firm handle on the market.

We bought a rental house several years ago and used the highest-volume agent in that area (DFW suburb). From reading reviews, I could tell that a lot of other agents didn't like him. He's aggressive and perhaps even confrontational at times. But that's exactly who I want on my side when the rubber meets the road. He also was not particularly communicative with us. But it was abundantly obvious he knew exactly what he was doing. We got an amazing deal on that house, mainly because he took advantage of a situation where the prior buyer backed out very late, the listing agent was frustrated with the sellers, and we had cash and promised to close quickly with no option period. He had provided us a copy of the inspection report from the prior failed deal.

We sold the same house last year and used the same agent. That market is now red-hot and he knew exactly how to handle the onslaught of above-ask offers, many of which were way too high to even "appraise." He told the top 5 offers they would need to commit extra cash down, to cover any potential "appraisal shortfall." Three dropped out, one offered half, and the other offered to cover 100%. He told me, "this is how I separate the serious offers from the ones who just try to jostle their way to the top of the stack with the intent to negotiate more seriously after inspection/appraisal."

Seems to me, you want the experience and market knowledge that a high-volume agent can bring to the table. Anybody can stage a house and take great photos. What really matters is what happens when the two agents start talking on the phone. You want someone who has the experience to think on their feet and resolve problems quickly and fairly. That experience comes with doing lots and lots of deals, day in and day out.
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Old 04-17-2018, 11:52 PM   #12
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We have lived in a lot of different areas. We have selected our realtors by driving around in areas we liked and noticing who has the most listings in that area. We figure that realtor really knows the market in the area. We’ve always had a good experience with this approach. I suppose it’s kind of like looking on Zillow and picking the highest volume realtor. I agree with others that any realtor can take good pictures and put your home into or search the MLS for good properties, but what’s most important to me is someone who knows the local area well and who knows the other agents. They will know what represents a good value and know hot to negotiate well.
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Old 04-18-2018, 12:54 AM   #13
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OP,
You answered your own question with your paragraph #2.
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Old 04-18-2018, 08:00 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by simple girl View Post
High sales volume does not = great realtor.
Lots of good suggestions above, I hadn’t thought about scanning Zillow, I’ll try that. We have identified about a dozen specific neighborhood/developments. And I’ll follow up on the other ideas and the PM.

Wanted to explore the above in case I have it wrong, and why I said “high volume.” What I probably meant was larger firms should have other people with other strengths to call in if necessary, aside from the single realtor we’d work with. There’s a good chance we’re going to have to go with new construction to get what we want. Many realtors will know the areas we’re interested in, but we need someone who has experience and relationships with builders. We’ve read builders are happier to work with realtors who bring them a steady stream of customers, high volume wins that contest? And if there are negotiating or construction issues, wouldn’t a prominent real estate firm have more (collective) ability to work through issues? OTOH an independent realtor can’t have strong relationships with many if any builders, or others to call in if there's a problem. I’ve been approached by an independent who seems very good, but I’m afraid to go down that path.

For those with local knowledge, please correct me here. We want to live near Raleigh with reasonable access to Durham and Chapel Hill, so West, NW or North of Raleigh but not in Durham proper. Wake Forest and Brier Creek, and throughout that area look like good options to us. Cary and Apex are very nice, but they’ve gotten expensive. Chapel Hill is very nice but too expensive and too far from Raleigh. South, SE and East of Raliegh are out for proximity even though they’re probably the best value.
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Old 04-18-2018, 08:58 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Midpack View Post

For those with local knowledge, please correct me here. We want to live near Raleigh with reasonable access to Durham and Chapel Hill, so West, NW or North of Raleigh but not in Durham proper. Wake Forest and Brier Creek, and throughout that area look like good options to us. Cary and Apex are very nice, but they’ve gotten expensive. Chapel Hill is very nice but too expensive and too far from Raleigh. South, SE and East of Raliegh are out for proximity even though they’re probably the best value.
First, a disclaimer, that I moved away in 2001. I would still return for work occasionally and stayed in touch with people there until I retired in 2011. I actually get lost once in what used to be a very familiar area because they totally rerouted some intersection that used to be a straight country road. Since 2011 I think I've been back once. 540 was a game changer and I can only guesstimate the impact on housing and commuting.

Wake Forest always seemed pretty far out there to me. 540 certainly helps, and 98 was a pleasant drive toward Durham, but getting up there from Raleigh required going out US 1 which I always thought was ugly and slow. Maybe "Wake Forest" is now sprawl south and west of the traditional town and it's not quite as far, with alternate routes.

Brier Creek is certainly in a hub, near the airport, off 540 and 70, so pretty quick access about everywhere. The shopping area is pretty new. I got turned off to the area by all the malls popping up everywhere, and this is yet another one, so I'm not a fan, but that's probably more or less typical of any area like this. Since it's parallel to the runways, planes shouldn't be going right overhead but I think you still get noise. Easy access to Umstead Park, which is a gem for hiking and biking. (Personally if I was to move back to the area I'd probably look off Ebenezer Church Rd or Trenton Rd to have direct access into the park, but that's my personal priority.) I was always a little puzzled why areas like Brier Creek didn't fill in earlier. RDU was built in the 40s, and RTP in the 60s, but when I moved in '84 there was virtually no development around either RDU or RTP. It kept growing out from Raleigh and Durham, and Cary exploded.

I always liked the area north of Strickland Road, which I think is what you are talking about between WF and Brier Creek. Nice houses, pleasant rural but accessible. Some of my friends bought off of 55 down near 64. Not a bad area either. South and east of Raleigh never really appealed to me. Too far from RTP, and they just weren't as nice of areas.

I can't tell you much about current pricing but I'm a bit surprised that Apex is too expensive but Brier Creek is not. Apex used to be Cary without the price tag. Holly Springs is a further out option, and I don't think it's that bad to get anywhere you're looking for, but prices probably went way up, especially with 540 making it out there. I lived in Cary, btw, but not the high priced areas. Zillow shows my last house for $254K, and I sold it for a little over half that in 2001, but they made improvements. 3Br 1600 sq ft split level on 1/3 acre.
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Old 04-18-2018, 09:12 AM   #16
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I moved to Raleigh 6 years ago and live in the Wake Forest/N. Raleigh area. The real estate agent we used was great and I have a few other names that I would be happy to provide if you want.

PM me if you're interested and we can talk more about what you're looking for regarding neighborhoods, area, features, size etc.
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Old 04-18-2018, 09:24 AM   #17
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For those with local knowledge, please correct me here. We want to live near Raleigh with reasonable access to Durham and Chapel Hill, so West, NW or North of Raleigh but not in Durham proper. Wake Forest and Brier Creek, and throughout that area look like good options to us. Cary and Apex are very nice, but they’ve gotten expensive. Chapel Hill is very nice but too expensive and too far from Raleigh. South, SE and East of Raliegh are out for proximity even though they’re probably the best value.
I think you've got it right. Do you not want to live in the city limits? If you are OK with the city, there are some good options in the city proper that are kind of a secret to outsiders because they are currently not the "hot thing." Yet they have advantages such as: a) they are built out for the most part, so growing pains (construction, sudden traffic increases) go elsewhere, and b) the roads have been improved and don't get a lot of use because everyone seems to want to be on 540, which I now try to avoid at all costs.

Brier Creek is going through growing pains. I am not a fan of the mega-shopping at 540/70 due to access issues. If you visit, try going there to shop some day at 5PM and see the traffic disaster, which is getting worse daily. While you are at it, hop on 540 and sit in that parking lot. Living in Brier Creek neighborhoods isn't bad, it is just the shopping is all in these mega-complexes.

However, just down the road in slightly older neighborhoods are reduced traffic and more neighborly shopping. I'm thinking of the area between 70 (west), Lynn (south), Creedmoor (east), Strickland (north). All have easy access to 70 or 540 (ugh) to get to Durham and Chapel Hill. You could also explore the area between 70 and 40 in west Raleigh. This area has suddenly become quite desirable for an older area.

The Del Webb community just NW of Brier Creek fits your bill perfectly, except it is in Durham county. We have plenty of friends over that way. However, it is Del Webb, for better or worse, and this area is currently undergoing massive growth which will be very painful for the next 15 years or so.

North of Raleigh has many options. It is very quiet. N. of Strickland is watershed. Growth is very controlled. It is too quiet for DW and I, and the roads are just getting scary for me at night. But it is a fine option. 98 leads right into Durham, and will also lead into the new connector road being built which should make access to Chapel Hill easier. However, 98 has seen some congestion of late due to the new explosion of growth in Wake Forest.

Anyway, maybe too much info. I live closer in the city, as does FUEGO. But I do travel through these areas a lot.

I haven't bought a house or needed a realtor in 30 years. Don't have advice. My realtor friends are not so good at their jobs and I would not recommend. Is that a bad thing to say?
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Old 04-18-2018, 09:31 AM   #18
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I have found good real estate agents in several states by contacting them via web sites. I usually contact them IRT a particular MLS that attracts us. I tell them what we are looking for, pay close attention to the response I get, then call and talk to the agent for a while. Some of these folks have gone to great lengths for me, even after I assured them I was probably not going to buy right away. One even sends a[Ihandwritten[/I] note every Christmas, although after 9 years she has to have figured out that we are not going to buy in her area

I also used this method to rule out an agent who came highly recommended by somebody else. This agent clicked with that other person, but not with me!

I am very, very upfront with them all. Just sizing up the area, etc. I would be chagrined if someone went to all the trouble of showing me houses, thinking they were going to sell something to me right away.

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All I know to do is call the larger real estate offices in Raleigh-Durham, tell them what we’re looking for, and see who they offer up. From there we’d ask them some questions (good questions to ask are easy to find online), ask for references and do some research on our own, and narrow it to one or two and proceed.

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Old 04-18-2018, 10:37 AM   #19
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OP, I would do the following:

I would do as you say in your paragraph #2 & talk to the sales manager (no one else) at agencies that have a lot of listings in your desired area. But for the "tell them what we are looking for" piece I would specify the agent, not describe a property. Do you want older, younger, high volume, neighborhood specialist, etc. ?? If you just specify a property you are going to get referred to the agent who needs listings the worst -- exactly the one you don't want. Ask for two names from at least three agencies and interview them all. For anyone you are interested in, ask for customer contact information for one or two recent sales and one or two recent purchases. Also ask for contact information for their currently-longest unsold listing. Don't just ask for references; everyone has a few old friends to introduce you to. By specifying recent and specific time frames you will reduce the likelihood that you'll get the BS references.

Re rating web sites: These are just like the doctor rating sites --- popularity contests. You are not looking for a friend here. You are looking for an employee. A dour and crotchety old expert trumps a personable and friendly idiot every time.
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Old 04-18-2018, 10:43 AM   #20
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We're looking for a small (2000sf plus/minus) but well finished open concept 3/2 single story, where most homes are two stories. Open concept is what makes us believe we're limited to new construction or within the last 5-10 years. Older homes with distinct living and dining rooms won't make our list.

We're still somewhat early in the process but the specific neighborhoods that are popping up are (in no particular order): Richmond Park, Traditions Wake Forest, Enclave at Ellis Crossing, Drayton Reserve, Longleaf Estates, Fendol Farms, Heritage Wake Forest, Jordan at Southpoint, Kings Glen, Preserve at Kitchin Farms, Courtyards at Heritage Grove, and Hills at Southpoint. DW is adamant that we use a realtor (vs going to a development/builder directly) to sort out neighborhoods and builders, and I don't disagree.

We're not ruling out small 55+ communities (since they're building the type of homes we're looking for), but Del Webb communities are not in the running for us. There are a few that are mixed age communities with a block or two of single story homes that are appealing. Not specifically age restricted, but I'd imagine they're targeting empty nesters without segregating them entirely, sounds appealing to us.

Thanks again for the suggestions, I'll be researching for the next few days.
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