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Russian Roulette: 3 Ways to Find an Agent


Those of us in the military or in a corporate position who are regularly relocated to different cities across the country (or even world!) have a unique set of needs when it comes to buying or selling a home. Electronic signature capabilities, WiFi communication, virtual showings and the ability to coordinate power of attorney signatures while out of country, can make a world of a difference. Overall though, the biggest need is to have someone we can trust during the real estate transaction in order to make the transition smooth. In most cases, that person is our real estate agent.

How do we find the best agent for our needs? Most typically rely upon Russian roulette, online reviews, a distant friend’s cousin’s recommendation (if we’re lucky) or some combination of the three. Before we start the journey of finding the best agent for our relocation, let’s first dive into understanding the three methods most commonly used to find a real estate agent.

1. Russian Roulette:

While the details are a little varied, this method is essentially a game of chance. You simply call the first relevant real estate agent that appears in a search result or the agent whose name appears on a home listing. From an initial time investment perspective, this is by far the quickest method to find an agent. However, don’t be surprised if your real estate experience ends in confusion, frustration, or worse, complacency. Truth be told, when playing roulette, an ‘okay’ experience (not taking the bullet!) is more dangerous than a ‘bad’ experience because it promotes a second spinning of the gun for your next move. (After all, it worked ‘okay’ the first time!)

The problem with real estate Russian roulette is there is more than one bullet in the chamber. You could feasibly end up with one okay experience and then three consecutive bad experiences (if you are purchasing/selling more than once.) The odds of a happy ending next time around are not in your favor. In fact, due to the incredible number of real estate agents in the industry (including part time agents, weekend workers, brand new licensees, etc.), the odds are probably against you for finding a truly terrific agent. There are many military and corporate buyers/sellers who have relocated several times and experienced vast differences in the quality of real estate agent each time. This can not only result in frustration for you, but can also majorly impact the success of your real estate transaction.

2. Online Reviews:

There are numerous websites out there that provide you with reviews or objective quantitative data – both claim to find you the best agent. Taking this approach is better than going in blind; however, just because an agent has a 5-star review for someone else doesn’t mean they can operate at a 5-star level for you as a relocating client.

Think of the last time someone recommended you their favorite restaurant. For me, it was a 5-star recommendation from a friend for the supposed best restaurant in town. Unfortunately, the restaurant happened to be Indian cuisine, and I’m not a fan of curry. I would rate the experience 3-stars (although the dessert was pretty good!)

The same thing happens in real estate. You might see a 5-star review for an agent that specializes in selling, but what if you happen to be buying a home? You might even find a glowing 5-star review given by a local (who had a great face-to-face interaction with the agent), but what if you can’t meet your agent in person until the day you carry your boxes through the door of your new home? You need someone who understands the hectic travel, temporary duty (TDY) or deployment schedules that riddle your months leading up to closing. Trusting one of your biggest investments, in terms of both time and money, solely to a 5-star review is akin to Russian roulette, but now you’re lucky enough to at least know the 'make' of the gun.

3. Friend Recommendations:

This final method of finding your next agent can be more reliable than the other two, but you have to recognize and understand any differences between your friend's situation and your own. Like the review method, friend recommendations can fall victim to bias. Because your friend knows you personally, they will ideally be able to provide you with more personalized and relevant information about the agent than a review would, however, they will typically be biased towards their needs, not necessarily yours. You can't fault them for their bias, of course, because they are drawing on their own experience. Just be well aware of your differences if you rely upon a friend or family member's recommendation.

Looking back to my curry example, the person who recommended their top restaurant to me was one of my best friends. I assumed that he knew I did not like Indian food, but even he can’t know everything. Your friends and family might know you well, but that doesn't necessarily make them qualified to provide the best real estate agent specifically for you.

These methods commonly used to vet agents might seem comical or rudimentary, but aren’t far off for many people. How did you find your last real estate agent? How did your friends and family find theirs?

After being in the military myself and then later helping military buyers and sellers through their real estate transactions, I’ve seen this challenge appear again and again. Over the years, I developed a system of steps that helps to minimize the chance of error in finding a good real estate agent when relocating from one city to another. The steps are quite simple, but the key comes down to creating the right combination of questions to ask and taking the time to execute. In all honesty, that’s the hardest part about truly vetting real estate agents—taking the time to do it and having the experience to understand what the agent is saying.

WeVett was created specifically for this purpose, and it is free for every client. We are happy to vet your agent for you! If you are a do-it-yourself kind of person, however, we also recognize you might want to take on the challenge yourself. Whichever way you choose, take a look at my next article—the 5 Steps to Vet an Agent and learn how WeVett agents!


Disclaimer: The information contained, and the opinions expressed in this article are not intended to be construed as investment advice. You should always conduct your own research, due diligence and obtain professional advice before making any investment decision. WeVett, LLC & its members will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by your reliance on information or opinions contained herein.


Just a word or two on what to do when you buy or sell a house. 

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