When buying a property in America finding a good agent is key.
But once you have, finding a home in Florida, for example, might be easier than you think. Why? All homes that are for sale are listed in a central database called the Multiple Listing System (MLS). Any licensed agent has access to this system and can show you any home listed there. This means you can work with only one agent and see all houses for sale in the area.
But how do you choose the best agent for you?
"Interview several agents, either by email, phone or face-to-face when you are at an overseas property show, or their office in Florida," says British-born Patricia Tan, a Sarasota based agent (yourglobalagents.com).
"You should not be embarrassed or feel awkward about telling the prospective agent about your selection process, and the need to ask a few questions. This is common practice in Florida, and the agent will respect you for being open about it."
Patricia suggests there are seven questions you should ask...
Are you just a real estate agent or a Realtor®?
Only members of the National Association of Realtors® may use the term Realtor®. This is an important differentiation, as Realtors are bound by a Code of Ethics over and above the minimum requirements of the Florida real estate licensing law. Generally the Code of Ethics requires a Realtor to:
Be loyal to clients
Have a legal duty to clients
Cooperate with competitors
Be truthful in statements and advertising
Not interfere in exclusive relationships that other REALTORS® have with their clients
How long have you been in the business, and is this your full time job?
This is a good indication of the agent's experience and dedication to their profession. Generally, agents who have made real estate their full time career are more likely to be knowledgeable about the latest laws, standards of practice, trends in the market and how they may affect you as a buyer or seller.
Which NAR designations do you hold?
The answer to this question is an indication of how seriously the agent takes their personal education and responsibility to be aware of the best ways to serve their clients. The most important designation for an overseas buyer to look for is the CIPS - Certified International Property Specialist. This indicates that the agent has undergone a structured training course, run by the National Association of Realtors®; aimed at providing tools, knowledge and skills needed to work with an international buyer or seller of real estate. To achieve the designation, Realtors® must pass a written test, demonstrate experience in the global market and pay an annual subscription which ensures they receive up-to-date information on new regulations and trends as they may affect an international client.
Do you work alone, or as part of a team?
An agent operating alone may do an excellent job, but if you need assistance at a particularly busy time you may get frustrated by their lack of availability or responsiveness. Try to work with an agent who is part of an immediate "team" that includes other Realtors® and administration staff. Beyond that, they should also have an extensive support team provided by the company they work for - effectively giving you multiple levels of assistance should you need it.
How many British clients have you worked with in the past?
Despite what many may think, we do speak a different language from Americans! Your transaction will go more smoothly if there are no communication issues caused by differences in real estate terminology in particular. Do not be afraid to ask for customer testimonials or references, and the ability to speak to previous clients if that is what you need to feel comfortable in making a decision about the agent.
What are some of the common pitfalls I may encounter?
The agent should be able to articulate a number of areas where they will treat your transaction differently from that of a local. Some of these may include: currency exchange, money transfer and money laundering regulations, taxes, immigration, logistical problems associated with document signatures and notarization, foreign national mortgage requirements.
I'm not sure of I'm ready to buy yet. Are you happy to work with me?
Be honest. Tell the agent if you are not ready to buy. All agents are self employed and are compensated only by commission earned on property sales. They may choose not to spend time with you unless you are ready to make a decision. A good agent, one who understands an international client, will be happy to invest time with you in the interest of building a relationship for the future.
Get help buying a property in Florida
There's a dedicated are within A Place in the Sun Live for those looking to buy a home in Florida - The Florida Property Pavilion has a great selection of properties for sale and experts that can advise on the process of buying property in Florida and options for getting a visa. It's a great place to meet an agent that could help you find your perfect Florida home.
Tickets to A Place in the Sun Live are on sale now at two for £15. Click here to book.