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How to find a great real estate agent

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Finding the right real estate agent takes time, but taking the time to research agents and find one with the knowledge and skills you need will pay off when it’s time for you to buy or sell your home. Here’s a list of tips to help you find a real estate agent who meets your unique buying or selling needs.

Determine the type of agent you need

So, are you buying or selling a home? Different types of agents have different knowledge and skill sets. Determining whether you need to find a buyer’s agent or a seller’s agent is key.

What’s a buyer’s agent?

A buyer’s agent is a real estate agent who works with homebuyers to help them find a home in their chosen location that meets their specific needs. Some buyer’s agents work exclusively with homebuyers, meaning they don’t list any homes to sell at all, while others may act as “dual agents,” meaning they help buy and sell homes.

Your buyer’s agent would help you to find a home and then represent your interests during the showing and price negotiation process. It’s important to find the right buyer’s agent to represent your interests as they’ll be responsible for handling the price negotiation process, which is crucial to getting the home you want at a price you can afford. Additionally, buying a home is an in-depth and sometimes complicated process, and you want to make sure you’re working with someone who has your interests in mind.

What’s a seller’s agent?

Agents who work with homeowners to sell a home are called seller’s agents, or listing agents. These agents will represent your needs during the listing and negotiation process, helping you to list and sell your home quickly and at a fair value. While real estate agents can be dual agents, meaning they do both, sometimes working with an agent who specializes in the area you need can be more beneficial to you.

Ask your friends or family for recommendations

The next step when searching for a skilled real estate agent is to ask around. See if your friends or family members have recently bought or sold a home. Word of mouth goes a long way. Working with an agent who has successfully helped your close friends or family members will give you an insider’s perspective into how that particular agent may be able to help you.

Don’t forget to vet the agents online; be sure to read positive and negative reviews. Ideally, you’ll want to work with an agent who’s bought or sold a house within the last six months as market trends can change very quickly. An agent who knows the current market trends can be an invaluable asset when it comes to buying or selling your home in a timely manner.

Ask a lot of questions

After narrowing down your list of agents, the next step is to meet them in person. Talking to the agent in person will allow you to get a deeper understanding of their values, skills and if their personality meshes well with yours. You’ll want to work with someone who has excellent communication skills and understands your buying or selling needs.

Good questions for buyer’s agents include:

  • Are you familiar with the neighborhoods I’m interested in moving into?
  • How often will you send me new listings?
  • Is there anything happening in these neighborhoods that might affect home prices now or in the future?
  • Can you recommend other professionals I’ll need to contact, such as a reliable home inspector?
  • How many homes do you usually show buyers before they are ready to make an offer?
  • What is your sale-to-list ratio for your last 10 transactions?

If you’re selling a home, however, you’ll have very different needs. Here are some good questions to ask if you’re selling a home:

  • How many sales have you closed this last year?
  • Were any of those homes sold in my area?
  • Were these homes listed at a similar price?
  • Do you require mortgage prequalification or conditional approval on incoming offers?
  • Which real estate fees will I be responsible for paying?
  • Do you have a marketing strategy for homes like mine?
  • Do you work with a professional home stager or real estate photographer?
  • Do you have any tips to help me raise my home’s curb appeal?
  • Do you usually host open houses?
  • How long will it take to sell my home based on the current market trends?

Choose an agent with the right credentials

Many real estate agents specialize and will receive additional training in particular areas of interest. To learn which specialty your agent has, take a peek at the acronym following their name on their business card or website. Some common credentials include:

Additionally, if the agent refers to themselves as a Realtor with a capital R, that means they’re a member of the NAR, or the National Association of Realtors. One benefit of working with a member of the NAR is knowing you’re working with an agent who formally pledges to uphold the NAR’s code of ethics.

Verify the agent’s credentials

It may be difficult to believe that an agent would lie about their credentials, but it is possible — and worth verifying. Fortunately, you can easily verify your real estate agent’s license and registration using online databases. The Association of Real Estate License Law Officials (ARELLO) has a searchable database you can use that allows you to verify any real estate agent’s license or credentials. Be sure to check your real estate agent’s credentials to confirm they have the licensure they claim to have, and have the paperwork to prove it.

Find out how experienced the agent is

How long your agent has been in business is also an important factor to consider. If your agent has less than five years of experience, they are likely still learning. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you should take their experience into consideration as it may affect how quickly your listing sells. If you do intend to continue working with an agent with little to no experience, then you need to learn more about their future goals.

For example, many real estate agents will start their careers by selling homes on the side while still working a full-time job. There’s nothing wrong with this, but you will want to make sure you’re working with an agent who has enough time for you. If they work a full-time job, you’ll need to know if they’ll only be available to take phone calls and show homes during the evening or on weekends. This is important to know as it can greatly affect your ability to sell your home quickly. However, while a new agent won’t have the experience of a seasoned agent, it is worth noting that a relatively inexperienced seller’s agent will be eager to sell your home.

Don’t be afraid to give your agent the boot

Have you already hired an agent to sell your home, but you’re having second thoughts about their ability to do so in a timely manner? Or did your buyer’s agent fail to send your offer before the agreed-upon deadline, and cost you your dream home as well as any inspection costs or fees you’d already paid? Don’t be afraid to fire your agent and find someone who can work more efficiently to meet your needs.

Understanding the value of a great agent

One of the best things you can do for your family, as a homebuyer or seller, is to make sure you hire a great real estate agent to help you find your dream home. A good agent understands that your homebuying or selling needs are more important than how quickly they can close a deal or how much they’ll earn on your commission. They understand that you are their client and that your needs come first. Don’t feel pressured to make an offer on one of the first homes you see.

Take your time and only make an offer once you’re sure your agent has found a home that meets all of your unique requirements.

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