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

by Emily Guy Birken · 17 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 how you say you should check a realtor’s credentials before you hire them. I would imagine that finding someone who is well qualified would do a better job. I’m looking for someone to help me buy a new home so I’ll have to find someone who is properly qualified.

  • Caden Dahl says:

    I like how you mentioned that choosing a real estate agent with experience is a better option. My wife and I are going to be purchasing our first house, so we’ll be learning the ropes, and we don’t want our real estate agent to also be figuring it out. Perhaps it would be a good idea to find someone with solid experience so they can guide us through this process.

  • A good friend of mine is looking for a real estate agent, to help her get into a home big enough for her growing family. You wrote that you should choose an experienced real estate agent, as they have valuable knowledge that can help you get into a new home. If she chose a real estate agent that is familiar putting people into homes like the one she needs, the whole process would probably go a bit faster.

  • I agree that asking for credentials when looking for a realtor is really important. It would seem that you would want to choose someone who is highly accredited and properly licensed to help you buy a home. I’m looking to buy my first home so I’ll have to ask about a real estate agent’s credentials before I choose one.

  • I’m planning on buying some real estate, but it’s my first time, so I would prefer to have a professional helping me out. In addition to asking for referrals, I think it’s a good idea to check an agent’s website and current listings to see how up to date they are on technology. I prefer someone that is up to date.

  • We are in the process of buying a new home, and I definitely need someone to help me in this big transition. I think these are some great ways to pick a real estate agent that will really help us. Asking what experience they have along with their credentials, as you mentioned, is a great way to ensure their qualification. Thanks for sharing!

  • Raisa Delima says:

    These are some great questions to ask a real estate agent before hiring. I like your idea of asking about what credentials they have — that would really help you see which agents are most qualified to help you. I think another good question to ask would be ‘what special resources do you have for finding a home for me?’ Real estate agents have a network of help they can go to for finding the right home, so it’s good to ask about that, as well. I hope we will be able to find the right realtor for us using this method.

  • Finn Stewart says:

    I like how you mention that it pays to interview several possible real estate agents before you decide which one to hire. Since you will probably be working really closely with this agent, getting to know them and seeing if you can have a conversation with them is important. I’ll have to make sure I do this when I start looking to buy a house so that I know I’ll form a good, working relationship with my agent.

  • I like that you said that you need to know that there are different kinds of realtor estate professionals. I think that you also need to find someone who is local and can understand your local needs. I was so blessed to have a local realtor who is a friend of mine when I was trying to find a new house.

  • I really like that you talked about getting referrals for real estate agents. It seems to me that a lot of people don’t understand the kind of difference it makes to have the right person helping you. Do you have any other tips about finding a good real estate agent? I understand that experience is important, but I also want to be sure I find someone that has enough time for me.

  • Braden Bills says:

    I’m planning on buying a new home, but I don’t know what to look for. It makes sense that I would want to get a real estate agent! I’ll be sure to find one who can help me look for a home that would work well for me and my family.

  • Jalu Sakti says:

    I love your idea of looking for referrals from friends and family of which realtors are the best! I think this will really help you get a broad range of options, assuming your friends and family have referrals to give. Once you have a lot of options, you can narrow them down by using one of many methods. I, personally, think a great way to do this is to ask for references that you can call — people who have used an agent’s services before and can tell you how their experience was. If you follow all of these tips, you’re sure to find the right agent for you.

  • 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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