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

by Emily Guy Birken · 24 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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  • Ceiclle c says:

    You made a good point when you said that it is best to work with a real estate agent that is experienced and encompasses your specific market. My husband and I have been saving money since we for married so we could buy a luxury house. Now that we have more than enough, we want to find our dream house in the best possible way. We will be sure to do all your tips for our convenience.

  • Adie Murphy says:

    It was nice that you said that you can get a sense of how the agent works with her clients if you would talk to the recent clients of a real estate agent. My siblings and I are planning to shop for a luxury home for our parents that we can give as our anniversary gift to them. We want to make sure that we will get the help of a skilled and experienced professional since we want to find the best deal that won’t break our banks. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Eve Mitchell says:

    I liked that you mentioned that a good realtor will know the prices for houses in similar areas. My husband and I are thinking of moving our family across the state to be close to my parents. We would love to find a good single-family house that will meet our needs.

  • Rebecca Gardner says:

    I like your suggestion to ask for referrals from recent clients to get a sense of how each potential real estate agent works. My aunt and uncle are interested in purchasing a waterfront home this summer so they can start preparing to retire. I’ll share this info so they can more easily find the right real estate agent team to help in their search.

  • Angela Waterford says:

    I agree with what you said that a good agent needs to be able to tell you about the general price range of a specific area off the top of their heads because this will show their expertise in real estate. My fiancee and I are planning on purchasing a house before our wedding next year. I’ll ask around for recommendations on trusted real estate brokers from my friends and family.

  • Charlotte Fleet says:

    My older sister and her husband are really wanting to purchase a new home this year and they need to find a reputable real estate agent. I love how you stated that word of mouth recommendation from friends or relatives is a great way to scout out an agent. I will be sure to have my brother-in-law and sister talk to people they trust who have recently bought a new house for their suggestions.

  • britt wall says:

    I hadn’t thought about checking the experience of a real estate agent in our area before, so I appreciate the tip that you gave to consider it as we look for one to hire. It sounds like the best way to find one who knows exactly what they are doing. My wife and I have been talking about finding a real estate agent to help us when we are going to buy a home early this summer, and it is going to be important for us to know that we could find the best one. To be sure that they will be a good hiring option, I am going to check their local experience to the area that we want to move to.

  • Jesse Ford says:

    Thanks for mentioning that it’s good to know an agent’s experience in a specific market to ensure they understand the neighborhood, prices, and complexities of where you want to buy. My wife and I are thinking of looking at new homes because we’re considering moving out of our old one since we had more kids since we moved in and need more space. It might be a good idea to hire a reputable professional that knows the market where we’re looking to purchase a home if we decide to more.

  • rachel frampton says:

    My husband and I plan to purchase a single home around New York and we haven’t found a broker yet. We’ll keep in mind to check if they are knowledgeable regarding the prices of other similar properties. I hope we’ll be able to find a real estate broker before this year ends.

  • Dennis Sanchez says:

    My wife and I have been looking for a reliable real estate company to help us find a good home but we have been having a hard time. I like what you said about avoiding agents that are unexperienced and have just started working recently. This information you shared will be very helpful to us as we continue our house search.

  • easton says:

    I like the tip that you gave to choose a realtor who has a good amount of experience. My wife and I have been talking about finding a realtor, and it would be important for us to know that we can trust in who we choose to hire. If we choose to hire a realtor, I will be sure to look for one who has a good amount of experience.

  • Lucy Tuazon says:

    I think it’s important to have an experienced real estate agent on your side for all your real estate needs. If I were to buy a house for my family, I wouldn’t think twice of calling a real estate agent to assist with the whole process so I can make sure that I’m getting the best deal for my budget. I reckon that it’s not just because someone you know recommended an agent should be the reason that you hire them, it would be best to perform an interview and/or a background check first — to really assess if they are cut for the job that you require. But actually talking to their previous clients is an absolutely brilliant idea since they are the ones who actually know how the agent performs and could tell you if they would recommend hiring them.

  • Ellen Hughes says:

    I do like that you suggested choosing a real estate agent that’s experienced to make sure that they know how to deal with the complexities of the area where you’d like to buy a house. My sister is planning to hire a realtor that can help her in buying a house. She said that she’d like to only deal with a realtor that can guide her in choosing a location where she can find a house because she wanted a place that has no criminal history. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Duncan Lance says:

    The right credentials are absolutely important when it comes to choosing a proper real estate agent. After all, you will want to make sure that they have received the appropriate training and have practical experience. That way you can better rely on them to help you sell your home in the fastest way possible.

  • Rhianna Hawk says:

    Asking about other properties in the area that are for sale or houses in the same price range is a great tip to see if the agent really knows how to meet my particular needs. I’m selling a house that used to belong to my grandma before she passed and while I believe the house has a lot of rustic value with the age and design, I need a professional to help me get it properly priced. I’ll be sure to check that they’re a member of the National Association of Realtors as well, as you suggested.

  • Ava Murphy says:

    My brother is looking for a house to buy before his wedding day, so he’s interested in hiring a real estate agent that can help him. This is his first time buying a house, so he’s clueless who he should hire to ensure that he will get the quality help that he wants. This is the reason why your statement about how it will be an excellent reference if you can find a real estate agent that was able to provide a happy and satisfying real estate experience to your family members, colleagues, and friends. Thanks for sharing all your tips.

  • Sharon Wilson-Smith says:

    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.

  • Harper Campbell says:

    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.

  • Tammie Houston says:

    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!

  • Brayden Brade says:

    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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