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

by Emily Guy Birken · 5 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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  • Kate Hansen says:

    When working with a real estate agent, I want someone who is looking out for me. This is why I liked how you mention to ask a real estate agent about other houses in the neighborhood. If they really are good at their job, I would imagine they do their research on the neighborhood you are looking at and can provide you with valuable information to make your decision.

  • Adam says:

    These are really some great advice! Recently, i bought a home and i took the assistance from a real estate agent. He really helped me a lot in the buying process so i can say it’s really important to have a real estate agent as that person will make your home buying process easy and stress free.

  • These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to ask for word of mouth recommendations when looking for a real estate agent. My husband and I are going to be moving at the beginning of next year, so we want to start getting our home ready to sell. My sister moved fairly recently, so I’ll definitely ask her about her agent to see if they would work well for us. Thanks for the great post!

  • I think it is good to have a few different homes to look at when looking to buy. If your agent knows of others that are in your price range and style, that is great! That way you can trust your agent to take you to homes that you would consider buying. Even if you have your heart set on one house, you might find something you like better somewhere else!

  • I actually didn’t know that there exists the National Association of Realtors. The next time I need to buy a house I will ask my real estate agent if they are a member of it. It’s important to me that my real estate agent is legal and official. Thanks for the tip!

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