Real Estate

Real Estate: John M. Lee

With more than 5,000 real estate agents selling properties in San Francisco, how do you go about choosing an agent to service your real estate needs? 

With prices so high, more people are migrating to the real estate industry as a full-time career, leading to more talented agents. When choosing one, do you choose a friend, relative, neighbor, or co-worker? Should you work with an agent at a large firm, a small firm, a franchise or an independent?

While there are exceptions to every rule, and every marketplace is different, here are some solid rules to apply when you want the best representation to protect your interests. Just remember that in the end, it’s your money that is at stake!

The real estate profession is plagued by high turnover. The statistics show that 50% of realtors do not make it past their first year in the business, and then another 50% of those who remain do not make it past their second year. This creates a workforce that is made up of many newcomers. While there are brand new agents with good intentions, why trust one of the largest investments you will ever buy or sell to someone without experience? 

Always look for an agent with at least a few years of experience. Anyone still in the business for a few years has probably at least learned the fundamentals of real estate, made the cut and has transitioned into being an experienced agent. Especially in today’s changing real estate market where a skilled negotiator and their awareness of the marketplace can assure that you can obtain the best possible price if you are the seller and that you are not overpaying for a property if you are a buyer.

 Another problem we have in the industry is a large number of part-time salespeople. They have either retired from some other career, work in real estate seasonally – such as teachers working the summer in real estate – or are earning a second income for the family by working evenings and weekends in real estate. 

 No matter how long they have been in the business, their lack of full-time commitment makes it impossible for them to keep up with the vast changes in the law, market conditions and current business practices that are occurring in the profession today. If an agent is not full time, look for someone else.

 Obtaining a real estate license is extremely easy. All someone has to do is to take one class and pass a multiple-choice exam and he or she can sell real estate. You cannot rely on licensing to indicate competence. And, unfortunately, many agents’ real estate education ends with their pre-licensing education. Look for someone who is educated in real estate and constantly attends seminars to learn the most current trends and selling techniques in real estate. 

 Before you hire an agent to help you buy or sell a home, you should interview at least three agents in person. In order to do this, first get recommendations from friends, family and neighbors. Then look on the web, in homes magazines and the local newspaper to see what kind of marketing the various agents and companies are doing in your area. Then call the few that impress you.

 Next, make brief fact-finding calls to determine which of the agents on your list are full time and experienced. The interview itself need not be a formal one. It is just a time for you to meet the agents, to explain your real estate needs and to determine whether you would be comfortable working with him or her. Ask whatever questions you like, or simply explain your goals and listen carefully to what they propose to do to help you in attaining your goals.

 If you follow the suggestions above, you will find that there are excellent agents working for firms both large and small, both franchised and independent. Thus, the real decision must be made based on the competency of the individual agent you will be working with on a day-to-day basis, especially in this current rapidly changing market.

John M. Lee is a broker with Compass specializing in the Richmond and Sunset districts. If you have any real estate questions, call him at 415-465-0505 or email at

Richmond Homes Sold in July*
AddressBedBathSq. Ft.Price
711 47th Ave.11,375 $1,300,000 
740 36th Ave.2.502,499 2,410,000 
146 23rd Ave.2.501,870 2,555,000 
890 35th Ave.2.502,360 2,700,000 
236 Eighth Ave.2.502,085 2,830,000 
120 Commonwealth4.502,813 4,500,000 

*Partial listing. Source: M.L.S.

Sunset Homes Sold in July*
AddressBedBathSq. Ft.Price
1990 31st Ave.1.00800 1,150,000 
2795 41st Ave.1.001,012 1,300,000 
1645 Rivera St.2.001,717 1,325,000 
2574 23rd Ave.1.001,575 1,420,000 
2635 43rd Ave.2.001,345 1,480,000 
2422 16th Ave.3.002,036 1,500,000 
1431 41st Ave.1.001,211 1,550,000 
1959 21st Ave.1.001,125 1,580,000 
2128 17th Ave.1.001,550 1,670,000 
1727 25th Ave.2.001,987 1,720,000 
1379 35th Ave.2.001,845 1,915,000 
1226 43rd Ave.2.001,621 2,165,000 
1912 Ninth Ave.2.501,936 2,300,000 
1906 Great Hwy.2.001,494 2,575,000 
1843 15th Ave.2.002,221 2,610,000 
1530 44th Ave.2.502,580 2,860,000 

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