- - Thursday, February 23, 2012

Getting ready for the change in seasons? That hint of springtime freshness in the air can have even the most jaded homeowner ready to pull down those heavy winter curtains, brighten up the paint and maybe even change those old butcher-block countertops for brand-new granite.

So why not change your Realtor? After all, if your home has been languishing on the market all these winter months and back into the fall, it might be a good idea to dump last season’s real estate agent along with the fading poinsettias and heavy drapes.

Or is it?

Despite America’s penchant for change and innovation, most buyers and sellers tend to stand by their real estate professionals. According to data provided by the National Association of Realtors, most home sellers don’t even shop around for a listing agent; 66 percent go with the first one they contact. So you want to be sure to hire someone who can navigate the ins and outs of today’s increasingly complicated real estate transactions.

“It’s such a changing market in this area,” said Angie Bresnahan, a real estate agent with Weichert’s office in Ashburn, Va. “In 2003-2005 you didn’t need to change agents; the homes practically sold themselves.”

Of course, that could not be said a couple of years ago, when the housing market was it its worst. In those days, not only would homes stay in purchase purgatory for months on end, it was fairly likely the listing price was well below the seller’s expectations.

“During that time, you were dead if you were the first agent,” Ms. Bresnahan said. “Home values were going down at roller-coaster speeds, and you were the bearer of some extremely bad news.”

These days, Ms. Bresnahan said, homes in her bailiwick - Loudoun and Fairfax counties - have been selling at “quite the clip.”

“Agents are getting it done in less than 30 days,” she said.

Hardly enough time to change your Realtor.

Still, even today, there have been some horror stories. There’s the one about the agent who priced the home so high the seller never got an offer and another about the agent who placed a home on the Multiple Listing Service and then never contacted the seller again. Buyers have been bemused by agents who have taken them into neighborhoods where they expressly didn’t want to go or repeatedly shown them homes they couldn’t afford.

But real estate agents have their own tales to tell. All too common: the seller who expected his home to be listed at a price well above its current value.

“I kept saying the property was overpriced,” said Heather Embrey, a member of the board of directors of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors and a Realtor with McEnearney Associates in McLean. “But in the end, I can’t want a property to sell more than the seller.”

Buyers, too, can come with their own sets of, well, challenges. Ms. Bresnahan remembers taking one buyer with her two young sons in tow to a fairly remote property only to discover two unknown men waiting at the door, expecting to be let in and shown around. Surprisingly, the buyer was very upset with Ms. Bresnahan’s decision to ask the unexpected lookers to make an appointment first.

“It was a security nightmare,” Ms. Bresnahan said. “This was a woman with two young children. But she said I was being rude and uppity in not allowing the people in that day.”

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