Buying or selling a home is a big deal. It’s important to have a high comfort level with your real estate broker. When searching for a new broker, you can get referrals from friends, research online reviews and ask the broker for client referrals. All of these are important steps, but the most important thing is the feeling you get from a broker in a face-to-face meeting. 

Set up an interview. When meeting with this person, you will get a feel for how they work - similar to when you walk in a house and know that it’s the right home. By taking a little time with them, you’ll be able to tell if they are really listening to your needs. Pay attention to how they interact with you. 

The best referral is from someone you trust. And even if this person feels confident with the broker, it’s more important about how you interact with them. You want an open and honest dialogue with the broker helping you to buy or sell a home. 

Charese has had years of experience in developing relationships with her clients. The following are the questions that she suggests you ask a broker.

Q: How long have you been a real estate broker?

A: I’ve been in real estate since 2005, almost 12 years. 

Q: Do you own your home?

A: Yes, even before I was a broker, I was interested in real estate. In 1992, I bought my first condo in River West. I was president of the association for four years out of the nine years that I lived there. It was built in the 1870s, so I learned a great deal about vintage buildings. In 2001, I graduated to owning a single family home in Roscoe Village. This home was built in 1896 and I’ve completely renovated it. I then started investing in other real estate opportunities that I could renovate, rent and/or flip for resale. With my extensive renovation knowledge, I have a vision of how homes can be updated to suit my client’s needs. I have a list of reliable contractors that I can refer to you. And with my experience of managing buildings, I have a resource for understanding ROI and rental expectations. 

Q: How are you different from other real estate brokers?

A: As I mentioned, I have a lot of personal experience with owning and renting my own homes. Since 1986, I’ve lived in many different neighborhoods in Chicago. Through the years, I’ve watched the diverse real estate development cycles. I have a deep understanding of the city. It has fueled my passion for different architecture styles. I share this historical knowledge with my clients.

Along with this, I have an eye for design, staging and renovation. My design skills include photography - I’m able to look at home or room and see it from a different design perspective. I can come up with a lot of inspiring ideas for my clients, whether they are selling or buying. 

Prior to becoming a real estate broker, I was the director of sales for a media company for 16 years. In 1991, I opened the office in Chicago to expand and grow the business. Through this experience, I gained invaluable sales negotiation skills. 

Each client I work with has unique needs. Buying or selling a home can be emotional, so I take extra care in developing a relationship in which they know they can rely on me. I work closely with them to understand their objectives and think outside the box to offer ideas and solutions. It’s extremely important that each client gets this type of individualized service. When I work with a client, our relationship goes beyond the real estate transaction.

Q: Do you have references?

A: Yes, I can offer references. 

And here are online reviews:

Yelp reviews 

Zillow reviews 

Q: How long have worked with your real estate agency? Why did you choose to work there? How is it different from other agencies?

A: I’ve been with MenardJohnson since 2006. It’s a small, boutique real estate agency in Roscoe Village that has been in business since 1976. The longevity truly is a testament to the customer service and expertise of the managing broker, Al Johnson. If you need to know anything about real estate, ask Al. He has seen Chicago change in unimaginable ways. Because of this experience, he brings a wealth of knowledge to every transaction. I have learned so much from him and continue to learn from him daily. 

Q: Did you have a career prior to working in real estate?

A: Yes, for 16 years I was director of sales for a media company.

Q: Why did you pursue a real estate career?

A: I got into real estate because I enjoy building client relationships. Buying or selling a home is a big decision and to see someone achieve a personal goal is beyond gratifying. I feel success for my client when I watch their dream come true. It’s amazing to experience that. The relationship is very different compared to a corporate relationship.

Another reason I’m in real estate is because the market is always evolving. There’s never a day that’s the same. As a broker, I have to keep up with the changes. And I love to constantly learn about the Chicago real estate market. Plus, having a passion for it inspires me to continually evolve.  

Q: Are you personally involved with all aspects of my real estate transaction or do you work with a team?

A: I am personally involved in the whole process. I do not gather your information and then hand you off to a team member. I think that in those situations there can be miscommunication. It’s important to me that we work together to realize your goals. I am always available to my clients and am committed to having the process go as smoothly as possible. 

Q: How do you market a property that you’re selling?

A: First of all, I provide a customized strategic approach to meet your specific goals. When I work with clients, I create a Custom Analysis that entails in-depth research on the property, taking into consideration variables such as school districts, location, renovations, the structure, age of the property and so much more.

Once we have the property value, I hire a professional photographer to take photos and create a floor plan of your home. The photos represent curb appeal. If someone likes the way your home looks online, they’re going to be excited to come see it. After I list your property on the MLS, other real estate websites, such as Zillow, Red Fin and Trulia pick it up and advertise the listing. It also gets advertised through email newsletters, social media and my extensive personal network. 

Q: What are your fees and commissions? 

A: This depends on the transaction. If you work with me, I can give you financial details on everything, including cancellations and what fees you’re responsible for according to our contractual agreement. Everything we discuss is confidential.