Using a professional real estate agent when buying or selling a home can help you make wise decisions and avoid costly mistakes.
But not just any agent will do. Here’s how to choose the right real estate agent for you.
The basics of the real estate agent
Before you start looking, it’s helpful to know what to expect from an agent and the terminology you’ll come across.
What does a real estate agent do?
Real estate agents help people buy and sell homes. Agents educate their clients on current market conditions, guide them every step of the way, and refer them to other professionals, such as home inspectors and real estate lawyers. Their particular titles depend on who they represent in a real estate transaction.
In some cases, an agent can represent both parties in a single transaction, but it is best to have someone who is only in your area.
Real estate agent vs real estate agent
Not all real estate agents are real estate agents. Realtors are licensed agents who are members of the National Association of Realtors. Members undertake to respect the standards and code of ethics of the association.
All real estate agents must be licensed in the states where they work and comply with national and state laws. Licensure requires officers to take a number of courses and pass an exam. Check with your state’s real estate commission website to find out if a particular agent is licensed.
Difference between a real estate agent and a broker
A real estate broker has gone beyond the agent level with additional training to obtain a real estate broker’s license. Like agents, brokers must complete state-required courses and pass an exam to obtain a license. A broker may supervise other real estate agents, work under the direction of a management broker, or operate independently.
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How to find and interview real estate agents
Ask your friends and colleagues for references to find several potential agents. Search the websites and online profiles of agents, read their specialties and experience, and review customer reviews.
Pick at least three agents to interview and drill down into the details of how they would work with you.
What buyers and sellers should ask of real estate agents
Here are the key things to know whether you are buying or selling a home.
Will the agent represent my interests?
You can assume that any real estate agent you choose will only represent your interests. But in some cases, real estate agents are not legally required to represent only the buyer or seller in a transaction. For example, a “double agent” represents both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction, and a “transactional agent” works with both parties, but has no fiduciary responsibility to either party. .
Understanding the nature of the agent’s role when working with you is essential. Ask potential agents if they will only represent your interests throughout the process, and ask for a written form that discloses the relationship, advises the Consumer Federation of America.
What is the agent’s experience and training?
How long has the agent worked with clients and what training or recognition does the agent have? Look for an agent with a good track record serving clients like you.
Will the agent or assistants work with me?
Agents sometimes have assistants working for them as part of a team. Will you work more with the agent or with the assistants? An efficient team may serve your needs well, but make sure you have enough direct access to the agent.
How much will the agent be paid?
Usually, the seller pays the real estate commission, which the listing agent shares with the buyer’s agent. A typical real estate commission is 5% to 6% of the sale price.
As a seller, you may be able to negotiate a lower rate, especially for a high-priced property, according to the Consumer Federation of America. As a buyer, you can request a rebate of part of the buying agent’s commission.
Agents may not want to budge on commission, but it’s worth asking.
Have recent customers been satisfied?
Ask for references and talk to clients who have worked with the agent in the past year. Were they satisfied with the officer’s job? What went well and what did not go well? How did the agent handle the challenges? Conversations with recent clients will let you know if the agent is right for you.
Finding a Real Estate Agent: Tips for Buyers
Here are some things to consider when choosing an agent to help you buy a home.
What challenges will I face as a buyer in today’s market? A good agent will set realistic expectations by explaining the availability of listed homes and the level of competition you will face with other buyers.
How will you help me find homes listed in my price range? Ask for examples of how the agent has recently helped other buyers similar to you. This will give an idea of how the agent will meet your needs.
How are you going to help me make competitive offers and negotiate with sellers? Look for an agent who will help you stay on budget and meet your goals.
Finding a Real Estate Agent: Tips for Sellers
Here are some things to consider when choosing an agent to help you sell a home.
What are the comparable listings in my area? An agent should provide a benchmarking analysis of the market, showing homes similar to yours that have been sold in the past six months.
What do you think my house is worth and why? An agent who recommends the highest price is not always the best choice. Choose an agent who supports the recommendation with knowledge of the market.
What should I do to improve my home? You may need to fix things to sell your home, depending on the local real estate market. Hear solid reasoning about your home’s needs and the ROI for making those improvements.
How will you market my house? Agents will likely suggest listing your home on the Multiple Listing Service and real estate websites, such as Zillow. Get details on other promotional tools the agent will be using, such as photos, video tours, and advertising. The level of marketing required to sell a home depends on the market. Less marketing may be needed when there are more buyers than homes for sale.
How to choose a real estate agent
Compare agents’ experience and approaches, as well as their ability to build relationships. Is this someone you will feel comfortable working with? Choose a knowledgeable agent with a working style that matches yours.