Finding a real estate agent that you like to work with and has your best interests in mind is the first step many people take in their house-hunting journey.
Making a home purchase is a big decision and a huge financial commitment. With the stakes so high, it's nice to have someone in your court to help you find a suitable home and advise you on making a good offer - this person, of course, is your real estate agent.
Finding a real estate agent that you like to work with and has your best interests in mind is the first step many people take in their house-hunting journey. But it takes more than just finding the first agent a Google search comes up with; it's important to know that the agent is experienced in finding the type of home you're looking for and is someone you can get along with.
Ask the right questions
Before looking at homes and reviewing residential mortgage options, interview a handful of agents to choose the right person to hire. Ask them:
- How long they've been a real estate agent - in general, and specifically in your area.
- How they plan to find you the perfect home.
- For a list of references.
- For a list of recent sales.
If an agent is new to the industry or new to your area, he or she may not have the industry knowledge to find your ideal spot. This is one reason it's important to inquire about how the agent plans to find you homes to tour.
Some agents simply review the multiple listing service and quickly search for homes in your price range and preferred neighborhoods. Sometimes, this simple step is enough to find your ideal home; other times, a little more legwork is necessary. A dedicated and experienced agent will know how to seek out homes that aren't on the market yet or how to issue a direct mail campaign for their client, NerdWallet explained.
Look at their backgrounds
There are certain licenses and certifications that real estate agents either must or may want to pursue. Find out which qualifications your potential agents have.
First off, they should be licensed by the state you're looking for a house in. You can usually find this information online, Bankrate noted. Additionally, you may be able to find about any complaints filed against the agent through the regulatory body that licensed him or her. This information is good to know before moving forward with this person.
Next, find out what additional certifications the person pursued. An important one is a National Association of Realtors membership - this means the person knows, understands and adheres to a code of ethics with their clients. Other distinctions might include:
- Seniors Real Estate Specialists are trained in helping senior citizens find the right home for them.
- Certified Residential Specialists have been trained specifically in residential real estate.
- Accredited Buyer's Representatives completed training in representing buyers in real estate transactions.
Agents may list these designations on their website or in acronyms on their business cards. Or, you can simply ask about additional training they've completed.
Make it official
Once you've determined who the best agent for you is, it's time to move forward with that person. Agents typically want their clients to be exclusive to them. Real estate agents make their money on the buying or selling of a home; if your agent helps you find a home but you wind up closing the deal with another agent, that person did a lot of work for no payout.
To protect themselves from getting swindled by inconsiderate or uninformed buyers, many agents require clients to sign a buyer's agent agreement. If you sign this form, legally you can't go with another agent unannounced. But, if you find that you and the agent aren't a good fit, you can terminate the contract and move on with someone else, Realtor.com reported.
If you haven't signed a contract but have met with the agent on several occasions, that person might assume (whether correctly or incorrectly) that you are exclusively working with him or her. This could simply be a rookie mistake on the agent's part, so you might want to step up and get clarification.
"Once you've found this special agent, you should sign a buyer's agent agreement to make it official," Rosanne Nitti, a california-based Realtor with RMN Investments & Realty Services. "This means you can both move forward with confidence - which is important when you're embarking on something as huge as buying a home."