Besides choosing the property itself, a real estate agent is one of the biggest home-related choices a seller or buyer can make. One major factor is whether the agent works full time or part time – and that’s an age-old and controversial debate.
While full-time agents are likely to say they are more professional and educated than their part-time counterparts, part-timers say they have fewer listings and are able to spend more time on each client.
Part-time agents should be upfront with their schedules and limitations, experts say, but a homeowner or buyer should always do adequate research and get a complete picture of their work experience – just as they would for a full-time agent.
Bill Petrey, CEO and founder of AgentHarvest, a real estate agent finder service, stakes his claim on the side of full-time agents: “From the standpoint of helping a client, there are several limitations that a part-time [agent] faces, such as resource availability, training, experience and flexibility.”
Petrey’s company only recommends full-time agents, he says. The downside of hiring a part-time agent is that many of them have a second job or other priorities, and clients don’t get full representation.
“They don’t have the time to drop everything and go meet a seller or a buyer, or show up at an appraisal,” Petrey says. “My loyalty lies with the client, and [I prefer] an agent who has the ability to offer focused service.”
On the other hand, he adds that clients could consider a part-time agent when that agent is part of a bigger real estate team.
According to a National Association of Realtors 2012 member survey, most members of this trade organization work 40 hours a week, and 76 percent say real estate was their only occupation. NAR declined to comment on the story.
Additionally, some agents will start out as part-time to get their footing in the industry before they quit their secondary jobs to work full-time. Buyers and sellers may choose these part-timers because they know them personally and are comfortable working with them.
Phyllis Harb, Los Angeles-area agent of Harb & Co. who has been ranked in the top five percent of agents nationwide by NAR, feels strongly about the issue. She says, “It’s a full-time job and an average Realtor works more than 40 hours a week.”
Of course, the decision to go with part-time or full-time agent ultimately lies on the client. For those who do lean toward a part-time agent, here are a few tips on choosing one:
• Find out the agent’s schedule and flexibility. What kind of time do they plan to dedicate to you and how can you reach them during different times of day?
• Ask if there’s a backup agent you can call in case there’s an emergency showing, a bank appointment or an appraisal. Petrey says clients should find out exactly what assignments they would need to handle themselves in case the agent in not available during certain times of the day.
• Inquire how many homes the agent has sold in the past six months, says Terry Burger, a ReMax real estate agent from metro Atlanta. If the number is five or fewer, find out why or consider another agent.
• Sellers should inquire about the size of their marketing budget, Burger adds. Clients should find an agent who has resources to dedicate to promoting the listing.
• It’s acceptable to ask why the agent works part-time in real estate. Clients may feel more or less skeptical of the agent if they understand what drove the agent to work in the industry.