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What to expect from your real estate agent

Buying a home may seem overwhelming, especially if you’re a fist-time buyer. If you don't have experience, you may not know where to buy or how to make an appropriate offer. That’s where a real estate agent comes in.

A real estate agent can be an invaluable resource as you navigate the homebuying journey. They are there every step of the way to help you get the best deal. Learn what to expect from your real estate agent and how to work well with one.

What is a real estate agent?

A real estate agent is a professional who is legally licensed and trained in how to make real estate deals in your state. Many agents work for companies that employ several agents, each with different areas of expertise. Some might work with residential buyers, while others work only with commercial real estate.

Types of real estate agents

Different agents work across the homebuying process. These include:

  • Buyer's agent. As a potential homebuyer, a residential buyer's agent represents you. The buyer's agent gets a percentage of the home's sale price, typically around 3%, for their work on the transaction.
  • Listing agent. This person represents the seller and looks out for their best interests. The listing agent also gets around 3% of the purchase price.
  • Dual agent. A dual agent represents both the buyer and the seller in a single sale. This can be a conflict of interest. In some cases, like a sale between friends or family members who have already worked out the price but want an agent to help with the process, a dual agent may work well.

How does a real estate agent help you buy a home?

A good agent can help you with all the aspects of buying a home, from locating different properties to walking you through the contract and closing process.

  • Finding a property. Your agent can help you identify and tour homes, which can be even more helpful in a hot real estate market. They can schedule showings and watch for new properties that fit in your price range and have the features you’re looking for. They can also give you information about the area, including shopping, schools and transportation routes.
  • Making an offer. Knowledgeable agents can advise on the right amount to offer and how to make your offer more attractive to the seller. This is especially important in a market where properties sell at or around their listing prices.
  • Handling negotiations. Your agent can also help you negotiate with the seller if there are issues. For example, if the home inspection turns up unknown problems like a water leak or a damaged roof, your agent can work to get a lower price or have repairs made before you take ownership.
  • Managing paperwork. You'll need a lot of documents for making an offer, getting a loan, having an inspection done, negotiating issues and closing on the home. Your agent knows what is needed and can help make sure it gets done.
  • Lending knowledge. Real estate agents stay on top of mortgage interest rate trends and home loan options, which means they can help you find the right lender for your mortgage needs.

Your real estate agent acts as a coach, advising you on next steps and helping you if you run into trouble. It can be more challenging for buyers to move through the process without an agent to assist them.

How do you find the right agent?

With multiple real estate agents offering their services, it can be hard to narrow down your options and find the right person. Here are some tactics to use:

  • Ask friends or family for recommendations.
  • Look at online reviews for agents in your area.
  • Ask for a list of past clients from an agent you're considering. Then, contact those clients and ask about their experience with the agent.
  • Look for signs of professionalism. Good agents stand out by conducting themselves well, being on time and being available as needed.
  • Ask about their connections. If you're trying to find the right house in a seller's market, your agent will have to be on top of finding new properties that meet your needs. Well-connected agents find out about these properties before they're listed to give you an advantage. They'll also have connections with industry professionals who can help make your buying experience as smooth as possible.

You can interview the agents you’re considering, but please make it clear that you're searching for the right fit and are in the interviewing process If you’re talking to more than one person from the same agency, be transparent about it.

What can you do to work most efficiently with your agent?

You can take steps to ensure that your relationship with your real estate agent runs smoothly by following a few simple guidelines.

  1. Understand that agents work on commission. This means they're motivated to do a good job for you to ensure you'll buy a home and they'll get paid. If you don't buy, they don't make any money. Respect the time and effort they're putting into getting you a house.
  2. Return calls and communications in a timely manner. Your agent will be working to get you information that may be time sensitive. Respond quickly to voice mails, emails and text messages.
  3. Keep appointments and be on time. It may take a lot of effort for your agent to arrange a showing, especially if there’s a lot of interest in the property. Respect this effort by always showing up on time to showings and other scheduled meetings.
  4. Be ready to buy, or make sure your agent knows where you are in the process. If you're just casually looking, your agent will be more than willing to suggest properties and arrange showings. But if they're expecting you to make an offer and put down earnest money, and you're just trying to figure out if you want a house or a duplex, you'll have different priorities. Be open about when you plan to buy.
  5. Talk to your agent before you attend open houses or view properties that they haven't arranged. You want to be on the same page with your agent when you're looking at properties.
  6. Let your agent help you with other aspects of homebuying. Established professionals have connections that may make your life easier. They may recommend contractors or title companies based on their past experiences with other clients. Of course, you're always welcome to work with your own preferred professionals, but if you don't have these connections, consider your agent's advice. You'll also want to listen to your agent's recommendations about making offers, negotiating with the seller and other aspects of buying a home.
  7. Ask about forms you have to sign. Your agent has been through this before and can explain every document, as well as walk you through the mortgage process. Take advantage of their knowledge and ask questions about documentation and what you're signing. If you have more advanced questions, your agent can help you find a real estate lawyer for more help.

Once you have closed on your home, you may find it helpful to maintain a relationship with an agent who was especially professional and went the extra mile to make your experience pleasant. That agent can assist you in other transactions, such as buying investment property, and you can help them by referring them to your friends who are looking for an agent .

When you find a real estate agent, you should also consider enlisting the help of a mortgage professional. Speak to a Home Lending Advisor to get help with prequalifying for a mortgage and be ready to apply once you find the right home.

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