How to Choose the Best Broker for the First Time

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How to Choose a Real Estate Broker

Finding the right one doesn’t have to be hit or miss.

By Joanne Kaufman

    Dec. 28, 2020

A while back, Gloria Sokolin, an associate broker at Fox Residential Group, got a call from a woman who was preparing to sell her $2 million apartment on the Upper East Side.

“She had been thinking of hiring the mistress of her husband’s business partner, who’d just gotten her real estate license,” recalled Ms. Sokolin. “And the friend who’d given me the referral said to her: ‘This is your most valuable asset. Are you crazy?’ ”

Ms. Sokolin ended up selling the apartment. “At some point I asked the woman why she had considered using a novice. And she said: ‘I don’t know. A broker is a broker.’ ”

This seems to be a widely held belief, to the great chagrin of those in the business. (And don’t get them going on the buyers and sellers who, in this age of StreetEasy and readily accessible data, don’t think they need a broker at all.)

“Most people spend more time picking a restaurant than they do picking a real estate agent,” said Kathy Braddock, a managing director at the residential brokerage firm William Raveis NYC.

“Because the entry bar to the profession isn’t high, and because it’s not immediately apparent who’s a great agent or a bad agent, people fall back on choosing Aunt Susie’s daughter because she just got into the business, and Aunt Susie is really applying the pressure,” Ms. Braddock continued.

“If you’re looking for a heart surgeon, no one says: ‘Oh, Dr. Smith is so nice. Go to him. He just got into the business.’ But you hear that a lot in real estate,” she said. This makes no sense, she added, because “whatever level you’re buying or selling at, it’s a significant level, so who you choose as your agent matters.”

Here are a few tips on how to find a good broker:

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If you’re selling a property, you should be looking for someone who knows how to price a property (admittedly an inexact science); how to market it; and how to negotiate effectively.

Start the search by getting recommendations from friends or colleagues. Ask your superintendent or resident manager for the names of brokers who have recently — and successfully — represented other sellers in your building. Check out StreetEasy for the names of agents who work in your neighborhood.

Interview at least three brokers. “You’re the CEO of this transaction, so own it,” said Ms. Braddock, who suggested questions like: Have you sold in my neighborhood? Have you sold in my building? And, in the case of a co-op: Do you know anyone on the board?

Ask what deals they’ve recently made. Ask how long they’ve been in the business — although if someone is a relative newbie, that isn’t necessarily a negative. “Experience is important, but it isn’t the only thing,” said Gary Malin, the president of the residential real estate company CitiHabitats. “If you just focus on a résumé, you may miss out on someone who is really good.” After all, a younger person may be hungrier and more energetic than an elder statesman.

By all means, get references and check them.

Ask for a listing presentation — a pitch that includes data on comparable sales and the specific plan the broker has for marketing your apartment. While you’re at it, ask your top candidates to show you some other properties they’re representing, said Stuart Moss, an associate broker at the Corcoran Group. “And not just the property itself but the whole building,” he said. It will give you a sense of how the brokers will comport themselves when potential buyers come to look at your apartment.

Give a wide berth to the broker who seems to be telling you only what you want to hear, the one who says your apartment is worth far more than the valuation others have placed on it. “I frequently say, ‘Don’t choose somebody to sell your home based on the number he puts in front of you,’ ” Mr. Moss said. “The market determines that, not the broker.”

Similarly, beware the broker who says your property is just perfect as it is. “Because they want the listing and don’t want to offend potential clients, some brokers are afraid to say what work an apartment needs to get it ready for the market,” Ms. Braddock said. “My contention: It’s just the reverse. This is a job interview, and brokers should treat it as such. They should be direct and honest.”

And, said Allison Chiaramonte , a sales agent at Warburg Realty, they should be at least reasonably likable. “Sellers sometimes focus on brokers they perceive to be tough or forceful negotiators,” she said. “But it can turn off the buyers and their representatives if a particular broker has a reputation for being difficult or unreasonable. You’re better off with a team player who gets deals done.”

If you’re buying, look for a broker who asks the right questions, among them: What’s your timing? What’s your financial picture? Are you prequalified for a mortgage?

“You really want someone who’s familiar with the area you want to live in,” said Amanda Hudson, a saleswoman at Dallien Realty who specializes in new development. “We sometimes see people who are trying to find a place in SoHo, and their broker lives on the Upper East Side and only comes downtown to shop. If they don’t do a lot of transactions in a particular neighborhood, brokers may not know about new zoning and its effects.”

Ms. Hudson also suggests that buyers seek out brokers who not only know a particular neighborhood but can also get into the weeds on the specific housing stock that is a client’s focus, be it prewar co-op or new construction condo.

She offered the example of legal fees. In a co-op deal on the Upper East Side, buyers and sellers typically pay for their own lawyers. “But in a new development condo, the buyer is responsible for covering the attorneys’ fees on both sides of the deal,” Ms. Hudson said. “Because this is an area I work in, I can tell buyers that here is something they can push back on.”

Ms. Braddock cites good listening skills and strong powers of intuition as highly desirable traits on the buying side. “You want someone who understands what you want in an apartment, but who also senses what might be right, even if it wouldn’t have seemed so on paper,” Ms. Braddock said. “You want a broker who is strong enough to say: ‘I know it isn’t on your list, but just come and see this place. I really think it will work for you.’ ”

What’s in a Team?

Medicine has its group practices and solo practitioners. So does real estate. One agent or broker on the team might have a subspecialty in marketing, another in staging; another might be the rainmaker-in-chief. The team’s chief selling point is the promise there will always be someone available to handle a showing or a crisis.

“On the buy side I don’t think a team does much for you,” said Ms. Chiaramonte, of Warburg. “If you end up with a different agent every time you go out to look at apartments, there’s no one single person learning what works for you. Much as great teams share information, things may get lost in translation.”

On the selling side, she said, there might be some advantage to having several people with the ability to show a property — thus guaranteeing coverage on evenings and summer weekends. “But it really has to be made clear to the client who on the team is doing what,” Ms. Chiaramonte said. “The seller may think the lead broker is going to be the point of contact, and that turns out not to be the case. Or it turns out that the assistant will be doing the showings, when the seller thought it was the No. 2 person on the team.”

Don’t be afraid to break up with your broker if the fit isn’t right. There’s no document binding a buyer to a broker, said Mr. Moss, of Corcoran. But a seller has a listing agreement with an agent, typically for a six-month period. Even so, “if a seller is unhappy, it’s easy to end the relationship,” Mr. Moss said. “He can simply say, ‘I won’t accept any offer you bring to me,’ and the agent is likely to say, ‘Let’s sever.’ ”

In such instances, sellers must take care to protect their interests, according to Steven R. Wagner, a real estate lawyer. “Make sure the broker provides you with a list of all the people who contacted him or her,” he said. “That way, if you do terminate the relationship and then a buyer not on the list materializes and makes an accepted offer, the broker can’t claim credit for the sale.”

The contract should also include a period, typically three to six months, after which the broker can’t claim credit for someone who actually is on the list, Mr. Wagner said.

“Make sure this is all spelled out in the agreement, so you don’t have to start negotiating when the broker equivalent of Dr. Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde.”

For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.

How to Choose an Online Stock Broker

Table of Contents

How to Choose an Online Stock Broker

When it comes to day trading, pretty much all you need to get started is a computer or laptop, an internet connection, and an online stock broker.

In this day and age, most of us have the former two on lock. But as for the online stock broker … which one should you choose?

Your broker is the gateway to executing trades, so it’s important to take the time to choose one that suits your personal trading needs so that you can maximize every trade.

This post will educate you on some of the things to look for in potential online stock brokers, and how to narrow down your choices.

What Is an Online Stock Broker?

An online stock broker is a web-based broker that facilitates trades.

At one time, your options were limited in terms of online stock brokers. These days, however, there are many different options out there, from brokerages associated with big banks to purely web-based ones.

While the variety is a good thing overall, it can make the decision more difficult because there are many more contenders for your account.

How to Choose an Online Stock Broker

How can you narrow down the many choices available so that you can figure out which broker is just right for you?

Short on time? Our lead trainer, Tim Bohen has some quick tips for choosing a broker — watch it here!

While the answer is ultimately up to you, these considerations can help you make an educated decision:

What are your goals?

Before you settle on an online broker, take a little time to consider your individual goals as an investor.

Not only can clear goals provide motivation, but they can help you decide on the best approach for trading and a broker.

For instance, if your goal is to save for retirement, you may have different needs than if you want to buy a car in the next year. Assessing the aggressiveness and frequency with which you’ll be trading can help you determine which broker is the best fit.

What’s the account minimum?

Be sure to look at what minimums are required to open an account with various brokers.

These days, many online stock brokers have no required minimum to open an account. This is great for new traders who are starting out with fairly small accounts.

However, others may require as much as $10,000 as a starting account balance. Obviously, depending on the account size you want to get started with, this can take some brokers off the table from the start.

Recently, StocksToTrade incorporated broker integration, so you can execute trades right from the platform. As a limited-time promotion, traders can open an account with Tradier with just a $500 minimum account requirement! This is for a limited time, and it’s exclusive to STT members!

Are there trade commissions or fees?

It’s not uncommon for brokers to charge commissions or fees on trades. However, you want to make sure to research what these fees are before you sign up.

For example, at the time of this writing, popular brokers Ally Invest and E-Trade both charge commission fees of $6.95 per trade. This is charged upon buying or selling.

Other brokers, like Robinhood ( soon compatible with StocksToTrade ) , don’t charge a transaction fee on trades. However, this doesn’t mean that everything is free.

As thei r website says, “there are fees charged by the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission and FINRA on all sell orders.” So while Robinhood won’t be charging their own fee, they will charge the amount required by these regulatory agencies.

Be sure to dig a little deeper than just commissions and per-trade fees. While a broker might seem like they have a very reasonable fee structure, sometimes there can be hidden costs that can add up over time.

For instance, some accounts will have a yearly fee, or may charge if you dip below a certain balance, or if you are inactive for a period of time. There may even be a closing fee on some accounts.

Be sure to research any account fees like this from the beginning, rather than being surprised by them later. You don’t want to lose money due to unforeseen fees.

Is it available in your country?

If you’re not in the U.S., can you still use an online broker? Absolutely. Interactive Brokers is available to non-U.S. members, and it’s compatible with StocksToTrade.

Do they have stock analysis tools?

Some brokers offer stock analysis tools for free. Others offer them for a fee. And others have minimal resources for analysis.

If you are a member of StocksToTrade , this may not be as big of a consideration, because you already have a thorough platform to perform analysis and you may not need this feature as much.

So, for instance, if you already have the analysis tools via StocksToTrade, you might be able to choose a broker with fewer analysis tools if you like their other offerings.

Consider customer service.

If you have an issue or an inquiry, how easy is it to get in touch with the customer service department?

Researching the customer service offerings is something that many traders overlook when opening accounts, but that can prove very frustrating later on when you find yourself in need of assistance.

Consider calling the customer service department before opening an account to ask any outstanding questions. It can be very informative!

Ask around.

There’s nothing like a person-to-person review. Read online reviews and ask other traders their thoughts on various brokers.

Chances are, you’ll find out some invaluable information this way that can confirm the brokerage you’re leaning toward, or alert you of potential red flags.

Conclusion:

Choosing an online stock broker should not be taken lightly . The right broker can help you make the most of every trade, which can help you get ahead over time. It’s worth your time and research to make sure you find an online stock broker that’s well suited to your needs.

Big News!

StocksToTrade has established itself as a premier platform to help you choose the best stocks to trade, but now it’s even better.

We’re proud to introduce one of our most exciting developments yet: broker integration! Now, you can research, plan, AND execute a trade all on one platform.

Try StocksToTrade for 7 Full Days for just $7.00! StocksToTrade was built by traders for traders. Cut the amount of time, stress, and anxiety you experience behind the keyboard and only deal with the handful of real trade opportunities daily. Find the stocks that matter!

The STT scanners do the work for you, navigating through the market based on your imported watchlists. Then, when STT alerts you of a potential trade that meets all your criteria, instead of clicking over to a separate broker page, you can take action right from the platform!

It’s time to simplify your trading process. The new, updated StocksToTrade is compatible with a variety of different brokers — see if your brokers made the cut.

Looking for a New Broker?

More great news: We’ve teamed up with Tradier to offer StocksToTrade members a sweet deal: unlimited trades for just $14.99/month, with a $500 account minimum*. Boom.

Your success is important to us. With such a low monthly fee and unlimited trades, you’re practically covering the data service fee included in your subscription to our platform!

*Offer only available through your StocksToTrade application. Brokerage service provided by Tradier Brokerage Inc. (“TBI). TBI does not offer OTC Markets or OTC-BB trading

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** Results not typical or guaranteed. Past performance is not indicative of future returns and financial investing isinherently risky. All content is provided subject to the qualifications and limitations set forth in ourTerms of Service and Use.

This is for informational purposes only as StocksToTrade is not registered as a securities broker-dealeror an investment adviser. No information herein is intended as securities brokerage, investment, tax,accounting or legal advice, as an offer or solicitation of an offer to sell or buy, or as an endorsement, recommendation or sponsorship of any company, security or fund.

StocksToTrade cannot and does not assess, verify or guarantee the adequacy, accuracy orcompleteness of any information, the suitability or profitability of any particular investment,or the potential value of any investment or informational source. The reader bears responsibility forhis/her own investment research and decisions, should seek the advice of a qualified securities professional before making any investment,and investigate and fully understand any and all risks before investing.

should seek the advice of a qualified securities professional before making any investment,and investigate and fully understand any and all risks before investing.

How to Choose the Best Forex Broker

hoosing the best Forex Broker is constituted by numerous elements. This short feature aims to give you, the novice trader, an idea as to what specific qualities you need to look into when deciding on a Broker.

Here, we will be briefly discussing six (6) important aspects that a Broker should excel at, namely: Security, Fund Deposit and Withdrawal, Transaction Costs, Trading Platform, Execution, and Customer Service.

6 Crucial Things to Consider When Choosing a Forex Broker

1. Tight Security
Somewhat a matter of common sense, the first thing that you have to consider in getting a good Broker is its promise of high-level security.

Beginners in the trading game are fortunate as checking for a Broker’s credibility isn’t much of a challenge. Regulatory agencies across the globe are privy on the sneaky and the fraudulent and they are more than willing to share the information.

Here is a list of countries and their regulatory bodies:

Australia: Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC)
Canada: Investment Information Regulatory Organization of Canada (IIROC)
France: Autorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF)
Germany: Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (BaFIN)
Switzerland: Swiss Federal Banking Commission (SFBC)
United Kingdom: Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA)
United States: National Futures Association (NFA) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)

It would be wise to check if the Broker is a member of any of these regulatory boards. If it is, it is highly likely that the Brokerage company is a legitimate one.

2. Affordable Transaction Costs
Transaction Costs are an inevitability regardless of what kind of currency trader you are.

Entering a trade means paying for either the spread or a commission. As this is the case, it is natural and important for the trader to look for the cheapest or the most affordable rates.

Not uncommon is the measure that sacrifices low transactions for Broker reliability.

You have to be on top of all specifics; you will have to determine if you need tight spreads and afterwards review existing options. You need to balance security and low transaction costs.

3. Easy Deposit and Withdrawal
Reliable Forex Brokerage companies are lax with depositing funds and withdrawal of earnings.

Fact of the matter is, Brokers need not make withdrawals of your profits difficult. Brokers only hold your funds in light of trading facilitation. Actually, it is well within the responsibility of your broker to ensure speedy and smooth withdrawal processes.

4. Intuitive and Comprehensive Trading Platform Functions
As most trading activity happens through the broker’s trading platform in online Forex trading, it should be intuitive and stable.

As such, it is imperative that when you look for a trading platform, look into its tools, its key strengths. Check if its technical and charting tools are easy enough to use. Does it have a news feed? Are all relevant information for sound trading made available to you? You have to take note of these as the capabilities of the trading platform you would be able to determine are decisive to how your trading activities would be conducted.

5. Execution
It is well within your broker’s responsibilities to fill you at the best possible price for your orders.

Normal market conditions, (meaning normal liquidity, no important news releases or surprise market events) means your broker should be filling you at, or very close to, the market price visible to you upon clicking “buy” or “sell”.

For instance, provided your internet connection is stable, upon clicking “buy” EUR/USD for 1.2000, that would be the price you would get filled for or at least within the micro-pips of it. The speed at which your orders get filled is integral, more so if you’re a scalper.

A few pips difference in price can make or break your deal.

6. Competent Customer Service
Should problems arise, it would be a comfort to traders to be given support readily. As such, a competent broker is also measured by the efficiency of its customer support system.

Brokers should not only be forthcoming during the account opening process, they should also be approachable during “post sales”.

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