When the time comes to buy or sell a home, there are many advantages to enlisting the help of a realtor. They have the education and experience in your local market, can act as buffers between you and the seller’s agent if you’re looking at a home to purchase, and can handle the negotiations and volumes of paperwork for you. And that’s just for starters.

But how do you know which agency will best represent you, regardless of whether you’re buying or selling?

If you ask Frank Dowd, a licensed title agent and the founder of Associates Land Transfer Company (ALT), he’ll tell you to work with a smaller agency.

“Smaller agencies can be better because the brokers and agents can offer you more flexibility,” he said.

Most of the big brokerage companies are owned by corporations and make the majority of their profits from a slew of ancillary services, he explained. Agents with larger companies don’t have very much flexibility due to bureaucracy and layers of management. With smaller agencies, both buyers and sellers can feel like they’re receiving personal attention from their agent, which is not something big companies can often offer as readily. They can get answers to questions and resolutions to problems faster with smaller companies.

“When you're dealing with a smaller company, it has the flexibility to be able to adapt quickly and make changes if necessary,” Dowd said. Shawn Tammaro, Co-Founder and Broker of Record with Entourage Elite Real Estate in Conshohocken, echoed that statement.

“Small brokers can implement the latest technology in minutes versus the large brokers taking months and years sometimes to make necessary technological and procedural advances,” Tammaro said.

With technology and the Internet, small agencies have the same resources as the big guys – you’ll get the same Multiple Listing Service (MLS) access and are privy to listings on other websites as well.

When it comes to marketing your home, you might be at a disadvantage using a large brokerage.

“There are very little standards at large brokerages. Any agent, regardless of tenure, can get a listing but there are no set marketing standards for each agent to comply with,” Tammaro said. For instance, he explained, a top-producing agent at a large agency may invest in professional photography for a listing while a new agent with limited funds may not.

“If the clients are paying the same amount, then shouldn’t there be a professional standard for the way pictures look or the way the write up is done?” Tammaro questioned.

Additionally, big real estate companies don’t have the same pricing flexibility as smaller firms. Buyers and sellers have a better chance of negotiating the commission with smaller companies’ agents.

“You don't get the opportunity to get the best pricing with big agencies. Ultimately, I think small agencies save their customers money,” Dowd said.

While big agencies may have the knowledge of the general area you’re buying and selling in, smaller brokers can be familiar with specific neighborhoods, which means they’ll have a good idea of the pricing in each neighborhood and know when homes are hitting the market.

It can all add up to a more personal experience.

“Smaller brokers value every client more because every client represents a larger share of the overall business,” Tammaro stated.

Here are some tips to make sure you pick the right agency for yourself:

  • Ask people you trust for recommendations and what their experience was like with their chosen agency.
  •  Research agencies online. Many real estate websites have online agent reviews.
  • Look for an agency that specializes in what you’re trying to do. Check their current listings. Do you like the photos and descriptions they posted? Also, make sure you don’t pick an agent who sells $2 million homes to help you find a $200,000 home. If you find one you like, contact them to see if they’re available.
  • Interview the agent and find out what their marketing plan would be for your home. Ask them about their negotiation skills and inquire about reaching out to their past clients to see what their experience was.
  • While you don’t have to become best friends with your agent, you should make sure you get along – good rapport between you and your agency is the key to a successful business partnership.
  • Be wary of hiring a friend or family member as your agent. You don’t want to jeopardize a relationship if the process gets difficult.
  • Avoid an agent that is dually representing the buyer and the seller (depending on which end of the process you’re on). If they’re representing both parties, they may not be able to fully transparent with you.

You can reach Shawn Tammaro of Entourage Elite Real Estate at 610-828-7000 or shawn@entouragehomes.com.

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