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The Choices Become Highly Personal

by Vivian S. Toy

New York Times Published : 1/28/07

BUYING or selling an apartment or house can never be a simple transaction because it involves both emotions and finances. This is your home, after all, and the choices are very personal.

Finding the right real estate agent to oversee the deal is crucial to making the process as painless as possible. As in any personal relationship, there is no way of guaranteeing a perfect match, but brokers agree that there are certain things consumers can do to improve the chances.

QUALIFICATIONS Make sure the agent is licensed. In New York City , to ensure an agent has access to all available property listings, check to see that he or she is a member of theReal Estate Board of New York. InNew York State, you can check the Department of State’s Web site to see if the agent has had any licensing violations.InNew Jersey, go to the Real Estate Commission’s Web site, and inConnecticut, the Department of Consumer Protection’s site.

EXPERIENCE Check real estate agents’ Web sites for lists of recent sales or ask for printed lists. These can give you an idea of the kind of experience an agent has and specific areas of expertise.

REFERRALS Ask friends and relatives for recommendations, because good brokers tend to get most of their business by word of mouth. But even a broker who comes highly recommended may have some weaknesses. Ask the recommender about any broker shortcomings, so that you can work around them.

CHEMISTRY Just in case negotiations get rough, you want to be comfortable with your agent’s personal style because he or she may have to bring you news you don’t want to hear. So think about whether you want someone who will take control and be blunt or someone who will hang back or pamper you a bit. Be prepared to move on if your personalities don’t click.

TYPES OF AGREEMENTS Although there are various types of agreements between buyers, sellers and brokerages, two are common.

When you choose a broker to sell your house or apartment, you will have to sign a contract giving the broker the exclusive rights to list it for a set length of time. So make sure you and the broker get along before you sign.

If you are buying, you don’t need to sign an agreement to have a buyer’s broker represent you. Or you can work with the seller’s broker. As helpful as they may be, you need to remember that the first loyalty of sellers’ brokers is to their seller clients, not you.