Teresa's Top Tips for Finding a Realtor

TDR Mortgage’s Top Tips to choosing a Real Estate Agent | California’s most trusted Mortgage Broker

  • By Teresa Tims
  • March 8, 2019

Teresa’s Top Tips to choosing a Real Estate Agent | California’s most trusted Mortgage Broker.  Teresa Tims is a 20 year mortgage & real estate veteran she shares her Top Tips to selecting a Real Estate Agent in this article. “How to Select a Realtor that’s right for you when buying or selling a home in California.”

Do you know the questions to ask your agent to make sure they really know what they are doing? The right agent makes a huge difference in the success of your sale or purchase. Don’t make a choice and hire a Realtor without this essential checklist. (Contact our office to receive this checklist with all available links at (909) 920-3500.  You can also view the checklist at the bottom of this blog).

Hi. My name is Teresa Tims and I am president of TDR Mortgage in Upland, California. I’ve been doing mortgages since 1998.  I love my job, I love real estate and I work with people who buy homes all the time. I primarily do mortgages, but I also work with lots of agents that list homes and help people find houses.

A lot of times a buyer will come to me, and just knowing what I know about mortgages and real estate I will partner with a realtor to come to a successful close on a transaction. I’ve done over 1900 transactions in my career, so I have a lot of experience in transactions, so I have a lot to say about the subject.

How to pick a realtor? How do you know if the realtor you’re working with is actually experienced? Aside from the polished outfit or cars or website or social media presence, how do you really know this person is truly qualified to represent you in one of the biggest transactions of your life?

I’m just going to get started here with my list. I’m happy to share this list with you. If you leave a message, I can contact you and send this list over to you. One of the things that TDR Mortgage specializes in is we show our borrowers how to navigate the real estate process easily. We do that by prudent diligence and helping you make smart, confident decisions when buying, selling, refinancing.

What is their license Level? Are they a Realtor or Real Estate Broker?

First, I like to start with are they licensed, are they a licensed agent? You would be surprised by how many people transact in the state of California that aren’t licensed. On the form that I have, the checklist, it has links to where you can check out all of the things that I’m going to share with you right now. Are they a realtor or are they a real estate broker? So are they a licensed real estate agent or are they a licensed real estate broker? What is the difference and why is it important?

I myself personally, I’m a real estate … I’m a licensed real estate broker, and in my field I’m always wanting to push for excellence in my trade, and I want to attain the highest level possible that I can. That’s just a, that’s a preference thing on my part. I like shiny, new, I like certifications and licenses, and I like the knowledge that it brings which allows me to benefit my client more.

Now I do know a lot of realtors that do not have their brokers license that are phenomenal, top notch. So I don’t think that either one of those things is a deal killer, but it’s definitely something to know.

Department of Real Estate Look Up

Okay, are they licensed? We’ve got that link lookup. Do they have any license infractions? Have they been naughty? That’s always fun to know if someone is … Not only are they licensed, but have they gotten in trouble by infracting on certain laws and regulations?

Reviews…What are people saying?

What are people saying about this realtor or broker? Not just on Yelp,  you have Google, Zillow, Bing, Facebook. Get a general view of what people are saying and really read the reviews to get a good idea.

TDR Mortgage's Top Tips for choosing a Realtor in California
TDR Mortgage’s Top Tips for choosing a Realtor in California

Did they call/text you back in reasonable amount of time?

Do they call you or text you back in a timely fashion? I mean that’s really, really important. If you’ve got an agent that’s listing your house and that person is not calling you back, do you think they’re going to be calling back the other agents that are calling to inquire on your property? In real estate that’s just a thing, you answer your phone.

Were they easy to find when you googled their name?

Were they easy to find when you googled their name? I would think that in this day and age you should be able to put in that person’s name, find out all about them, their website should pop up, their phone number should be easy, clear, concise. If they’re going to be listing your home, you should see evidence that they’re a listing agent, that they have experience listing properties.

Do they have a website?

Do they even have a website? I think like it’s funny sometimes you’ll go searching for somebody and they don’t have a website. I don’t personally understand that. Your website has so much information and in this day and age often it’s a calling card. You get to put on there your why. Why should a buyer pick you to represent them? As a seller, why should they pick you to list their home? To me I think a website is very, very important.

How long have they been in business?

How long have they been in business?  Well, with all of the transactions that I’ve been involved in, I find it most beneficial to the buyer or the seller that the agent have a minimum of three years under the belt, preferably five.

How many transactions did they do last year?

Someone on another call brought up a good point that is it time or is it number of transactions. I honestly think it’s both. If somebody has been licensed for 10 years but they’ve only done one transaction a year, that does not make a realtor. That does not make someone that is going to represent you in the utmost fashion.

Now somebody that has been an agent for a year or two, they have a lot of transactions under their belt, they’re a hustler, they might not know how to solve every problem, but a person like that is going to have enough wherewithal to find out how to solve that problem. I think that the tips that I’m giving you, you have to look at them all in a complete package and then make your decision.

But just having this information and being able to sit down and be on the phone or even in person with this agent to be able to ask them these questions is very powerful. They should be happy to answer. I know I would be because who doesn’t like to talk about themselves and kind of brag. All of these things are fundamental things that an agent with any wherewithal or experience would be easy to answer.

Are they full-time?

Are they full-time? Why is this important? I think that when you’re working, any kind of professional, do you go to a financial planner that’s part-time, do you go to a doctor that’s part-time? Our profession is one that is … We’re handling people’s finances on the mortgage side. On the real estate side you’re handling a very, very valuable asset and you want that person to be available on a professional level. So that’s why I think that a full-time agent is the best choice. However, again rules, there are exceptions to rules, I do currently work with a couple of part-time agents that are fantastic. I had one agent go out with in a very hard price range and go out and get an offer accepted on multiple offers situations and he knocked it out of the park. So it’s again not cut or dry. I prefer full-time.

Do they work alone or do they have an assistant or team?

This is kind of a big one for me. Do they work as an individual or do they work as a team? And if they work as a team, you need to ask the question. You may be meeting with the team leader that’s got 20 years experience, but what about this team leader when they pass you off or hand you off to one of the sales professional on their team such as a buyer’s agent. This buyer’s agent that you’re going to be working with, how long have they’ve been a buyer’s agent? How many transactions have they been through? Do they know how to write an offer on their own? Do they need someone to handhold them?

If an agent needs hand holding on how to write an offer, that’s not a good sign. That’s really not a good sign. I mean, we all have to start somewhere though, we all have to start somewhere. But me personally, I want to work with a person that has the breadth of knowledge, that has the experience. I found that with these teams comes a lot of cluster fuckery. I don’t know how else to say it, but there are so many people on the team. Nothing really moves too efficiently. Seller and buyers often get pushed to the side lines while they’re pursuing their bigger endeavors of doing, be 100 plus producers and list 20 properties and close 20 properties a month.

I personally prefer an individual agent that is going to be the one showing the house, listing the house, the one handling problems when they come up. Things come up. Things come up on real estate transactions all the time, like a lot. And when you have somebody, when I’m working with professionals, people that are really problem solvers that have a lot of transactions under their belt, who have years of experience, those kind of situations that come up, they’re so easy to get through. It’s like cutting butter with a hot knife, just easy. When you’re dealing with inexperienced people that really don’t know what they’re doing, it’s so painful and it’s a huge disservice to the buyer or to the seller.

My ideal situation as an agent that works with a transaction coordinator, maybe they have another partner and they play off each other with their listings and their buyers, but I personally like that one agent that uses a transaction coordinator. That’s kind of like what I think is the sweet spot.

What do they specialize in? Buying, selling or both?

Another question to ask is do they specialize in buying or selling? There’s a technique when it comes to working with buyers and having the patience to show buyers multiple properties. I know a lot of people that are really great listing agents but they suck at being a buyer’s agent. You want to ask, Hey, how many listings did you do last year? How many buyers did you work with?” Again, that’s one of the things that they should be able to come back very quickly with and not just kind of look up in the sky. So if you’re buying a house, if this listing agent works with buyers, great. But if it’s a listing agent that really doesn’t work with buyers, it might be a little painful getting that agent to show you over and over and have the patience to guide you through that process.

Do they own a home, rental or investment property?

What else? What’s next on my top tips to find the best agent to work for in California? Okay, so I went over how many transactions did they do last year. Okay, this is a biggie for me. Mic drop right now. You’re working with a real estate agent that is going to list your million dollar house or help you buy a $2 million house or even $100,000 house. Do they own a home?  Do they own investment property?

I’ve always had this disconnect with people in my profession that dole real estate advice and talk or teach people how to do stuff, but they don’t even do it. It’s a little bit of a pet peeve. Although I do know really great agents, like some amazing agents that don’t own a house because things happen. Things come up in our personal lives that prevent us from being home owners sometimes, but I would prefer to work with somebody that has experience owning real estate in California.

Do they charge an additional fee for the transaction coordinator or legal doc coverage on top of the standard commission?

Hey, this is one that really never comes up. It’s not really talked about. If you’re buying a house and you’re working with a real estate agent, that agent gets paid from the listing side of thing. The seller offers a commission to the buyer’s agent, but sometimes that buyer’s agent tacks on additional fees. Are they going to tack that on and charge that fee to you? I know a lot of companies do it so I don’t want to talk too much smack about it, but I’m like, “Okay, you’re already getting your $10,500. So do you have to charge a transaction fee for the buyer when you’re already getting that nut, you’re already getting that commission?”

It’s a preference thing. Some agents do, some agents don’t. But I’ve seen recently, I’ve seen like a 495 transaction fee and then like a 250 legal fee. Well, that’s like $750, that’s kind of a lot, and then that gets added on to our fees, what you’re paying as a buyer. I think going into it it’s good to know, do they pass along that transaction coordinator fee to you on top of everything else that you have to come up with.

Do you like and trust them?

The last two things I think are no brainers. Given after you’ve talked to a couple of people or three people, usually you don’t talk to more than two or three agents, and you’ve gone through this checklist, they’ve answered your questions, and they’ve given pretty good answers. At the end of the day it comes down to two things, two things: do you like them, and do you trust them? Don’t ever do business with someone that you don’t like or trust.

When you’re talking to the agents and getting a feel for them, you’re going to be working pretty intimately with these realtors for 30, 60, 90 days, so I think that’s really important. Go with your gut. Go with that feeling that we get sometimes that tells us not to do something, but we do it anyway. I do that all the time. But in a real estate transaction, really go with your gut. And if you get a bad feeling, you need to listen to yourself and just be intuitive in that respect.

Hey, if you’re looking to buy or sell in Southern California, can pick up that phone and give us a call at 909-920-3500 and let me help guide you to some of the best professionals in the area. Have a good night. Yes, I want to end it.


How to pick a Realtor Checklist

TDR Mortgage shows you how to navigate the RE process, easily,  make smart confident decisions when buyjng, selljng or refinancing

License Level? Are they a Realtor or Real Estate Broker?

DRE Lic. Look up (Click here)

Are they licensed?

Do they have any license infractions? Check infractions (click here)


Reviews what are people saying

Yelp (link)

Google (on google type “find google reviews for agent Name or Company Name”)

For example: See photo below- The reviews will be on the right side box.

Zillow (link)

Facebook (you will need to know the name of the agent’s business page on facebook)

Did they Call / Txt you back in reasonable amount of time?  

Were they easy to find when you googled their name?

Do they have a website?

How long have they been in business?

5+ Years Preferably but Minimum 3 years.

Why is this super important?

Are they Full Time?

Why is this important?

Do they work alone or do they have an assistant or a team?

Why to stay away from a big team, it’s a cluster usually and the actual agent has very little involvement and your transaction is usually handled by an unlicensed transaction coordinator or very very inexperienced buyers agents.

Ideally I recommend an agent that uses a Transaction Coordinator and works alone or has an assistant or buyers agent partner.  

What do they specialize in?  Buying or selling or both?

How many transactions did they do last year?  Buy___________ Sell__________

Do they own a home?  

Do they own Rental or Investment Property?

Do they charge an additional fee for the transaction coordinator or legal doc coverage on top of the standard commission?

Do you like them?

Do you Trust them?

About Author: Teresa Tims

Teresa Tims is President of TDR Mortgage in Charming Downtown Upland CA. She prides herself in offering quality home loan products, competitive pricing and knowledgeable assistance when helping her clients select a home loan. Teresa is a life-long resident of the Inland Empire. Read More