Buying a Home? Here’s How to Pick the Right Real Estate Agent

by Emily Guy Birken · 8 comments

house hunting
The perfect house has come up for sale. It’s the right size for your family, in the right neighborhood, and in your price range. You plan to call the phone number of the real estate agent who’s toothy grin graces the sale sign and get started on your path to home ownership.

Except calling the seller’s agent is not necessarily in your best interest. You will be much better off hiring your own real estate agent without being in a potential conflict of interest who can meet your needs and negotiate for you.

And don’t look for just any agent either. Here are four questions you need to ask an agent to determine if she is the right fit for you:

1. What’s your experience?

You want to avoid working with an agent who is just getting started in general, as you don’t want him/her to use your purchase to learn the ropes. You also want to know that their experience encompasses your specific market. That way, you will know that your agent understands the neighborhood, prices, and complexities of the specific area where you want to buy.

2. Tell me about other houses in this price range or this neighborhood.

An agent who can truly meet your needs as a homebuyer will know other similar properties that are for sale in the area — off the top of his head. Even if you have your heart set on a particular house, it’s good to know that your agent understands what makes that home special. Is it the school district? Perhaps the home is in a walkable neighborhood? What specialty shops are around the area?

3. Can you give me some referrals?

The best way to find an agent is generally through word of mouth. Knowing that your friends, colleagues, or family members are happy with the agent they used to buy a similar property is an excellent referral (although you should also ask the other questions on this list.)

But if you are the first of your peer group to buy a house, then it can be tough to find an agent this way. That’s why it’s a good idea to ask the agents you interview for referrals to recent clients. You can get a sense of how the agent works with her clients and what to expect from the process.

4. What credentials do you have?

You may have heard the term Realtor and assumed it was the same thing as a real estate agent. But an agent calling himself a Realtor (with a capital R) is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), and he has formally pledged to abide by the NAR code of ethics.

In addition, your agent might be a Certified Residential Specialist, which means she completed additional training in how to handle residential real estate, or an Accredited Buyer’s Representative, which means she has completed additional education in how to represent buyers.

The Bottom Line

Hiring a real estate agent is similar to entering any other potential business relationship — it pays to interview several possible candidates before you decide which one to hire. A little time spent in the interview process can potentially save you money, time, and heartache.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • I like that you talked about how you can ask your friends, colleagues, and relatives for a recommendation of a good real estate agent that they may have hired to buy a house to get a firsthand knowledge about the agent that they hired. My husband and I are looking to buy a new house, and it’s important for us to make sure that we will only deal with a reputable agent that has a history of satisfied clients to ensure a good service. I believe that asking the people you know and trust are the best sources of a great real estate agent. I will make sure to consider all your tips.

  • It’s interesting to learn when it comes to choosing a real estate agent there are some things we need to remember to talk about to make sure we hire the right one. I like that you pointed out we need to talk about the other houses in the same price range as the one we are looking at. This will help narrow down the options of who to choose so we can get the right house for us.

  • Your idea of interviewing the real estate agent before hiring them for me is a good action, especially the part where I ask about experience. If an agent is experienced in the field then I can be surer that he will do a good job, since I know he has already dealt with a client whose needs are similar to mine. My sister plans on purchasing a house soon. I’ll be sure to pass the information to her so she can better decide who to hire to help her. Thanks a lot!

  • That’s a great idea to ask the realtor for their credentials. My wife and I are looking to buy a home and this sounds like great advice. I appreciate you taking the time to make this list.

  • Max Jones says:

    We’ve been home shopping for a week or two on our own, and my wife and I haven’t had much success. I really like the idea of working with a realtor to help us find homes for sale in the areas that have peaked our interest, and I think that using your tips to find the right one for my wife and I would be good! I’m glad that you talked about the credentials for different realtors and making sure that they are a member of the NAR and seeing what other qualifications they have! Hopefully we can find a realtor with the right credentials who is good at their job and can help my wife and I find a few homes for sale that we’re interested in!

  • Gloria Durst says:

    I agree that you need to check a realtor’s credentials. It would be smart tot make sure they are properly certified by the NAR in order to be sure they are experienced. My sister wants to buy a new home, so she’ll have to find a properly certified realtor to help her out.

  • Kyle Winters says:

    It really is great that the first question the article asks revolves around their experience. After all, experience really should be the biggest thing you’re looking for when choosing a real estate agency. Ideally, you want to choose one that is knowledgeable about all parts of the real estate process including buying and selling the home.

  • Alex Dean says:

    My husband and I are wanting to find a real estate agent to help us find our dream house, but we need advice on how to find the right one. It’s good to know that one question we should do is have them tell us about houses in our price range or in the neighborhood we are looking. That way, like you said, we can feel like they know what they are talking about and understand what we are looking for.

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