Ready to sell or buy a new residence? You'll likely seek the expertise of a realtor to get you through the process from beginning to end, so choosing the right agent for the job is part of a successful outcome. Money will be exchanged, time will be spent, and your ultimate real estate satisfaction is on the line. These tips for picking the right realtor will guide you towards making a smart selection for your specific needs in the real estate game. Follow this advice for the best fit for you, your property of interest, and your means when it's time to open or close the door to the next chapter in your life.



Experience/Credentials

While a fresh, green realtor may have lots of energy and go-getter pep to his or her step, it's a gamble to bet on a newbie unless there's a partner involved. Experience generally beats out the "eager beaver" when it comes to a good deal of money and valuable property on the line.

As per WikiHow, the ideal realtor has several years of experience under their belt. "Veteran real estate agents often have more contacts to help sell your home and more experience to help overcome obstacles."

Rick Harris, regional VP for the National Association of Realtors and owner of a Coldwell Banker's office told U.S. News & World Report Money, "For me, the first thing I want to know is how long have they been in the marketplace. Not just how many years, but how many buyers do they work with that have similar needs."

And Robert Irwin, author of "Tips & Traps When Buying a Home" was quoted on Bankrate alerting readers, "If they haven't been in business 5 years, they're learning on you and that's not good." Your time and money should not be taken for granted for someone else to further their career.

In addition to experience, be sure your realtor is up-to-date with their credentials for their area of specialty and is certified legally. When it comes time to close the deal, you wouldn't want fraudulence or any other legal roadblocks coming between you and your sale or purchase.

Bankrate suggests, "Check with your state's regulatory body to find out if a prospective agent is licensed and if there have been any disciplinary actions or complaints. The information may be posted online."
Better to be safe than sorry!




Location

While the "best in the biz" may be the realtor of your dreams, if he or she is on top of the world in Beverly Hills, your South Dakota home that's on the market may not be this realtor's gem.

Money notes, "Real estate is a local game, and to win you need someone who plays in the areas where you're looking to buy. Not only will they be up on market trends, they'll know about local schools, commute times, and under-the-radar red flags, like the solid-waste transfer station that's been proposed for the neighborhood."

Even with someone local, strive for a reputable and/or nationally-franchised real estate agency, as per WikiHow. "Bigger real estate offices generally have more resources for selling and marketing homes. When multiple agents work from one location, a greater number of people can spread the word about your home. And franchises tend to have bigger advertising budgets than independently-owned firms."

You'll need to rely on your realtor to make the most of their budget, so be sure the person or team you choose has the capability to stretch every dollar in your market. As per NerdWallet, "Having an agent with experience in the neighborhoods you're most interested in can save a lot of time and effort." Cotty Lowry of Keller Williams concurs, as per Kiplinger, "You want an agent who is 'intimately and passionately' familiar with your neighborhood."

Consumer Credit Counseling Service even suggests to, "Drive through the neighborhoods where you are interested in buying. Look for "for sale" signs to identify which agents are listing the most homes in the area."




Reviews/References

Anyone who's had success with a realtor is sure to give solid feedback and would highly recommend this person to work with you. Friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues are all good sources to help you land the right realtor.

Asking for references from the realtor is recommended as well. Any confident and professional agent will be happy to supply you with a few. WikiHow recommends to, "Ask your potential agent for a list of satisfied home sellers who completed real estate transactions with the agent and call 2 or 3 former customers to verify that the agent handled their home sale to their satisfaction."


Money adds, "Ask what portion of business comes from referrals or repeat business. If an agent mainly works on referrals or repeat business, that can be a positive indicator that prior clients were satisfied."

And Credit.com notes, "You are leaving a lot to chance if you don't check out the past behavior of real estate agents. You should get references from an agent's three most recent clients and call them to verify that the agent is being truthful about his or her accomplishments."

With the reassurance that your realtor is on the ball, you won't sweat the small stuff as they work with and for you. Sure, it may take a little time to go through this process, but the wrong choice will cost you a lot more than a few hours of investigation.



What's the Plan?

A knowledgeable and resourceful agent will have a plan of attack to do the job the most efficiently. No dilly dallying, no secrets, and no time wasted.

WikiHow recommends asking for a marketing plan, for example. "A good Realtor will know how to price your house correctly to attract buyers. Your potential agent should know who your target audience is, have a recommended strategy for giving your home curb appeal and present a plan to market your house using multiple media outlets."

HGTV adds, "Running a few classified ads in the local paper, listing it on the Internet and holding an open house shouldn't be the only answers. The practitioner should be able to talk about what kinds of people are likely buyers and how he will reach out to those specific people."

The realtor should also make you aware of what you can do to. For instance, "A good salesperson will have expectations. He may want you to leave and take the dog when the house is shown, paint the garage, move some furniture around and scrub the tile in the bathroom. It shows that he can think like a buyer and that's a good thing," as per HGTV.

Additionally, find out how the agent plans to communicate with you and how often. As Money notes, "A communication lapse of a few hours can mean the difference between an accepted offer and a missed opportunity. With that in mind, choose an agent who responds quickly in the mode of communication that works for you, whether it's email, text, phone or fax."

With a plan you both agree on, your sale or purchase goals will be harmonious and tension-free. You will work together best with common strategy and little need for back and forth points of contention that can waste time, and in turn, money.

Now it's time to select a realtor who's the "real" deal! Good luck with your real estate sale or purchase!

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Developing further skills can boost your career at any stage.

Whether you are looking for a new job or trying to grow in your current one, getting a certification can be a great way to improve your skills.

Anyone can put that they are proficient in a computer program on their resume but having a certificate can help you stand out amongst the competition and give credence to the strength of your skills.

But what's the best way to invest in yourself without breaking the bank? Some certification programs can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars. We are going to walk through six of the best certifications you can get for $100 or less.

Tableau

Tableau's data visualization capabilities are comparable to Domo and Power BI.

Who is it best for: Those who work with analyzing and presenting data.

Cost: $100 for Tableau Desktop Specialist; additional certifications are available for a larger fee.

More companies than ever see themselves as data companies. Being able to understand data and use it to guide decisions at your company is often critical to taking on a leadership role. Not to mention, being able to present the data in a clean, attractive, and compelling way can help get buy-in from others in your organization or clients. That's why Tableau is a great tool to have in your toolbox.

Tableau allows you to create interactive visual analytics dashboards. In layman's terms, you can take data; create graphs, maps, or charts; and then allow end-users to interact with these graphics to better understand the information. It's a fantastic tool allowing non-technical users to gain insights for data-driven decision-making.

Tableau Desktop Specialist certification starts at $100 and has no expiration date. There are many videos on Tableau's site to prepare for your exam as well as Tableau Starter Kits allowing you to play around and learn the different capabilities of the program. Tableau offers a 14-day free trial as well as free license for one year for students.

Additional certifications after Desktop Specialist are Desktop Associate and Desktop Professional. Those working with a Tableau server may also be interested in a separate certification as a Server Associate or Server Professional.

The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

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