Sooner or later, most everybody moves. I'm getting ready to transfer my flag to a larger lot and I've started gathering a few URLs that seem handy. If you come across any others, please send them to me!
--Once upon a time there used to be "prestige" names in the real estate biz. Foremost among these was Coldwell-Banker and if you wanted to look "uptown" for better digs they were the ones to call. Nowadays for various reasons things are a bit more egalitarian. Coldwell-Banker and other big-name brokerage houses have taken to swallowing up smaller operations. This has, for lack of a better work, diluted their talent pool. In Santa Rosa CA, a medium-sized city, there are presently more than 300 agents working for Coldwell-Banker alone and the standards of quality amongst their personnel varies greatly.
Brokerage houses are now no different than burger chains; McReal Estate Brokers, so to speak. If you are looking to buy a property worth less than half a million clams, the person appointed to look after your needs will most likely be equivalent to the person who asks you if you want fries with your order. It's only the high-rollers who get to talk to a partner in the firm; the rifraff talk to the folks with less seniority and little or no knowledge of the local conditions.
Personally, I get very nervous when the agent who shows me around consults a map and gets lost anyway. It bespeaks an unfamiliarity with the territory and a lack of information of local conditions. Sometimes these folks are what is referred to as "Sellers Agents" who primarily represent the folks whose properties are on the market. If you don't ask they tend not to tell and it's a good thing to find out in advance. Better to get someone working for you, exclusively... Another thing: any fool can get a real estate license these days and many do.
Less common are "Listing Agents"; they are the folks who actually do the peperwork and leg-work associated with finding properties and putting them up for sale. Although the names of brokerage companies are diminishing, the numbers of various types of agents are still high.
I suggest that those considering a move look carefully at the agents who show them around. Look for an independent "Buyers Agent", a person who knows the territory backwards and forwards and who works for your interests exclusively. Don't commit to one brokerage house or one agency: play the field. Once you find an agent you trust who knows the ropes, see if he or she will act as a Buyer's Agent on your behalf. Once that is accomplished you have a fighting chance of getting what you want in a reasonable time frame. And don't be afraid to negotiate the comission: there's no harm in asking and some folks are willing to work for less than the standard percentage...
So far, I haven't found one with a webpage. In any case, the best thing to do seems to be to hit the Yellow Pages and get as many quotes as possible. One tip I've found though: don't plan to move around the time college classes start or end: companies tend to be extremely busy at these times and may charge a premium on top of the usual fees. Wait for the "off season" and you'll get their full attention. You'll have more movers to chose from, too.
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