Q & A With Anna Solomon, Real Estate Agent & Expert:

What are the four most important things you should look for when choosing a real estate agent?
Anna Solomon:

1. A Good Listener

First and foremost, look for an agent who listens and asks you, the buyer, many questions. An agent needs to make sure that the buyer understands his or her purchase goals are realistic based on the desired purchase price.

2. Someone Who Comes Highly Referred

Obtain referrals of different agents that friends, co-workers or family have used. Speak to those agents and see if you would be comfortable working with them. Many times people get referred to someone who has a license, but does not work full-time in real estate. This is not someone you should be working with. You should select an active agent that is well networked with other agents.

3. Patience Is a Virtue

Buyers need an agent who can be patient with them. You should find out if the agent will be frustrated if you do not purchase something within a short time. If you select an agent and feel that this agent is not the right one, be upfront and let them know that this is not working out.

4. Exclusivity Is the Way to Go

Lastly, when you select an agent, let them know that you will be working with them exclusively. This will let the agent know they have a committed buyer who will respect their time and in turn, they will be respectful of the buyer's time. Too much time is wasted in the real estate industry when either does not appreciate the amount of time committed to the search of a home.
What are the biggest mistakes first-time home buyers often make when shopping for a home?
Solomon: Not being pre-approved for their financing and/or being prepared with their proof of funds to demonstrate their ability to purchase to the seller. Many buyers also get distracted by items that are easy to correct (paint, carpet) rather than paying attention to location and conditions not easily correctable.

Many buyers also have a tendency to get distracted by the personal things in the house rather than focusing on the layout of the house and how they would use it. Another mistake? Not checking on a house at different times of the day to observe factors such as traffic patterns, noisy neighbors, airplanes overhead, difficult parking, etc.
What things should buyers be most wary of throughout the escrow process?
Solomon: Assuming that someone else is taking care of things. It is easy to think that escrow is looking at documents, that the agent is looking at the documents and that they will all point out problems to you. Even though both parties do read these documents, the buyer needs to read them as well and ask questions about the areas that they do not understand. There is no "stupid/dumb question". As in all fields, escrow and real estate use language that is not part of the buyer's daily conversation. Ask for clear explanations from the escrow officer, the title company, and your agent. The buyer should never feel rushed.

The buyer should also make himself available for all inspections. I find that this is crucial. Seeing problems is far less threatening and scary as compared to reading them. I recommend that the buyer follow the inspectors around during the inspections for they learn so much more about how their house works.
Where can home buyers expect their real estate agent to make the greatest impact in a transaction?
Solomon: Keeping you on target and focused on the task at hand. Listening to the buyer's concerns, helping them assess the results of inspectors. Guiding them to learn as much as possible about the property and area. Being there with them during the inspections so that they feel that someone is on their side.

Being an experienced agent, I can help the buyer understand if an issue is of great importance or a minor one that can be easily remedied. Making the buyer aware of deadlines and making sure they are met -- or experience serious consequences. Protecting the buyer from agreeing to things without thinking things through -- for people become emotional about house purchases.

Agents can also make a big impact when it comes to being a good sounding board for the buyer and clearance center for all questions and concerns, guidance to inspectors, lenders, and vendors. People need to trust their agent to be their advocate in all matters in the process.
Given the recent debacle in the housing market, what's the biggest change you're seeing in 2013?
Solomon: Difficulty in properties appraising at their selling price due to the rapidly changing market. Also the amount of misinformation that loans are hard to obtain. There is a huge lending market available and the buyer needs to be prepared to provide all information required. I have closed many escrows in this market in 30 days with lenders such as Wells Fargo. Money is available, the buyers just need to have their paperwork ready and the loan will come through.
If selling a house, what are the most important criteria in determining your home's value?
Solomon: Comparable sales in the neighborhood, condition of both interior and exterior, how updated the kitchen and bathrooms are, landscaping.
What's the biggest mistake people often make when selling their home?
Solomon: Not looking at it from the perspective of the buyer. Allowing sentiment to get in the way of reality. Why should someone pay more for your house because you loved the shag carpeting when it is dated and worn out?

Mistake #2: Being at the showings when buyers come. Buyers want to wander through the house without the seller hovering. Buyers cannot imagine what it would feel like to live there if the seller is talking at them and pointing out things that have no value to the buyer.
What's the best time of year to buy a home? The worst?
Solomon: The largest inventory is generally from March through June. However, as there is no bad weather in our area (Los Angeles), I find that there is no "bad time" to buy or sell. Many times those who look while others are preparing for holidays or vacations, pick up an opportunity to have less competition -- for less people are out shopping for property.
What's the most impactful marketing you can do around a home sale?
Solomon: Good photography is an absolute must. People have little patience and therefore the pictures must capture their attention or they will go onto the next property. Preparing a good website is also very important. Proper pricing, too. Exposing it on the MLS (Multiple Listing System), staging a house to make it look showroom ready. Spending some monies in preparation for selling will get you a larger return. As an agent, my networking is also crucial in getting the word out to other agents who have clients for the property.
Anna Solomon, Prudential Real Estate Agent Anna Solomon has been a real estate agent with Prudential for 30 years, having sold roughly $500,000,000 in property. She is currently ranked in the top one-percent of agents at Prudential.

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