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RISMEDIA, October 21, 2010—I recently spent time with an amazing group of Coldwell Banker agents who came to our corporate office to provide us with a sense of the challenges they and consumers are facing today. I was inspired by Cindy Yoder of Coldwell Banker Vinson Chase in Modesto, California. Yoder spoke so passionately about the need for integrity and honesty in real estate today. Her reasoning was that her clients—and she rightfully believes most consumers—are nervous today about homeownership. She believes real estate agents have an important responsibility to make certain they are providing sound counsel, advice and answers today more than ever. Yoder went on to say that agents who are only concerned with making the sale are doing themselves and their clients a disservice. I couldn’t agree more.

Trust is so important in the real estate industry. It always has been, and always will be. But I would venture to say that today it means even more to all of us when it comes to major financial decisions like homeownership.

I get interviewed all the time on major media outlets and I continuously point out that now is the smartest time in my 35 years in real estate to buy a home. The reasons are fairly obvious. Home prices have dropped and are beginning to stabilize, mortgage interest rates are at all-time lows allowing home buyers to potentially save hundreds of dollars a month and thousands over the length of a 30-year loan. In most communities there is an abundance of homes to choose from and, of course, there are substantial tax advantages to homeownership.

But it is important to remember that what I have just said only applies to those who are financially secure and not concerned about the threat of job loss. It doesn’t apply to those who don’t anticipate living in the home for several years to hopefully allow the market to correct and build some equity. Homeownership is a long-term investment and not a “get rich quick” scheme.

But me saying all of this on TV, sharing it with reporters and writing it today shouldn’t mean that much to you. Each person’s needs and situations are vastly different, and I have always been a big believer in getting as much information as possible before making a big decision. And for the sake of today’s discussion, that means talking with a real estate agent.

When you make the call, it is fair to expect the agent to be excited about the potential to gain a new client—that is natural on their part. But you will quickly know if the agent is right for you and trying to build a relationship by providing proper answers and advice. Be sure to ask tough questions and probe. Explain your fears and concerns.

If the agent is good and wants to build his/her business by being a trusted resource, you will get great information and insight. You will have gained a valued advisor. If the agent is only interested in making a sale, then you don’t need me to tell you that agent may not be for you.

I hope you are not making your housing decisions based on this blog, articles in the paper, segments on TV or even by watching one of my interviews. You have to do your homework and make certain what you may believe about housing today is/isn’t true. And rather than get your information third-hand, go right to the source. Find an agent who answers your hard questions and provides you with a solid path toward homeownership.

Jim Gillespie is CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC.

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