The decision to buy or sell a home is one of the most important financial decisions an individual can make, yet many give little thought to finding the real estate agent best suited to their needs. Agents are often chosen based on the recommendation of a friend or family member. While this is a great place to start your search it does not guarantee you will find the best agent to represent you. Choosing the right agent can save you time, effort, aggravation and most importantly – money.
The issue is not with finding an agent, but with finding an excellent one. Experienced agents have a wealth of information at their disposal. Good agents will share that information with you and will use that information to educate you about things like a neighborhood’s median income level or the going price per square foot in your market. Simply put, an agent has the experience and knowledge to guide you through the many complexities of the home buying process.
Finding a good agent can take a little effort and planning but the end result are well worth the effort. If you are in the market for a realtor check out my 9 steps on how to locate the agent best suited for you!
1) Contact an agent with whom a friend or relative worked. Or contact a friend who is an agent. Although you shouldn’t use this as your only source of agents, it is a great place to start. If this agent produced positive results for a friend, there’s a good chance they will do the same for you. Keep in mind that if you choose to work with a friend or acquaintance, you should be 100% comfortable with them and fully trust their character. They will be privy to your personal financial information and may even have fiduciary responsibilities, in other words they will be acting on your behalf in regards to financial matters and could be responsible for handling or transferring your money in various situations.
2) Meet agents out in their working environment, not in their offices. Good agents spend very little time at their desks and will instead be found at open houses, property auctions, fundraising events, and other networking functions. Experienced agents are in touch with the local community and are highly knowledgeable about their particular market. In addition, many real estate agencies regularly host their own customer education seminars and expos. Check the agency’s website for information on their specific programs.
3) Check the agent’s background. Make sure the agent has closed many properties and has worked at least a few years consecutively (generally, the longer the better). An agent who closes 3 million in sales may have had one closing or three hundred closings depending on their market. More closings mean more experience so be sure to ask for clarification. However, keep in mind that experience does not necessarily equal excellence. In a realtor’s world, their success is at least partially due to the amount of effort that they put forth. A realtor who is consistently promoting your home or your need for a home, is ten times more likely to close the deal.
4) Research online. Having a web savvy agent is very important today as it’s estimated that over 85% of all buyers initially see their homes online. Great agents have laptops and smartphones and make the best use of technologies available to them. They are connected to the world in real-time at ALL times. An effective real estate agent in today’s world must email, text, and be available to buyers and sellers alike.
5) Speak with several agents regardless of whether you are looking for a buyer agent or seller agent. Remember though, agents will tell you what you want to hear. Make sure they are not selling you a dream partnership… you want to hire someone who is realistic and honest. In addition, never sign a buyer’s agreement form before looking for property. You should feel free to build trust with a real estate agent over several hours of looking before signing anything. If at anytime, you feel pressured or uncomfortable, end the relationship immediately. This person will be acting on your behalf and should represent you with integrity and professionalism.
6) Interview It is important that your agent is knowledgeable especially with information that may pertain to your situation. For example, are you a first-time home buyer or are you looking to refinance your home? Your potential agent should be well-versed regarding specifics of your circumstances. You should interview agents just as though you are hiring them for a job, because you are! Ask detailed questions. Interviewing candidates serves two purposes: You get an education about your local market while learning how the agent proposes to represent you.
7) Review home listings. See how the agent’s MLS listings come up in those searches. All listings from small to big should have professional photos. This is the first sign of a professional real estate agent who understands today’s market. If an agent’s listings don’t seem to be up to par as compared to others, you may want to consider using a different agent.
8) Consider choosing only an agent who is a licensed Realtor. In addition to being licensed by the state to legally sell real estate, Realtors also belong to the National Association of Realtors and must abide by a strict Code of Ethics. Also, only licensed Realtors have access to Multiple Listing Services (MLS) through which members share listings and have access to many more properties than non-members.
9) Choose an agent who listens to your needs and takes the time to explain things you might not understand. Real estate transactions can be complicated and the terminology confusing. You need an agent who will both know the answers to your questions and take the time to explain them.
You’re going to spend a lot of time with this person whether you are buying or selling, so be sure the agent is someone with whom you are comfortable and trust. Choosing a great agent can be the difference between a positive experience and a negative one.
You may find the following resources helpful:
Bankrate – Tips and Information about mortgage rates, financial calculators, and trends.
USA.gov – Information on government home buying and selling programs.
Zillow – Tips and information on mortgages, agents, home design, and even rentals.