All real estate agents are not created equal. Here’s how to find a real estate agent who’s right for you, whether you’re a buyer or seller.
You may think that finding a buyer’s agent is a relatively easy proposition. After all, we all know a friend of a friend who just got their real estate license or that high school classmate who can’t stop posting on Facebook about their new career. However, the real estate agent you need must be experienced, knowledgeable, and a true expert, not just a random acquaintance. Here’s how to find a good real estate agent for buying or selling your home.
Is it hard to find a real estate agent?
Finding and contacting a real estate agent isn’t hard. The first step is knowing when you should contact a realtor to buy a house Finding a good real estate agent, however, is more difficult. You need to find someone who is:
- Knowledgeable about the local market where you want to buy or sell
- Experienced in transactions like yours
- Communicative and responsive so that you always know what’s up
- Connected to colleagues and a stellar professional network
- Qualified to provide the guidance you need without trying to tell you your business
It can be difficult to find someone who can do all of the things you need and provide the service you deserve. It’s a cliché because it’s true: a real estate transaction represents a collection of the most important and expensive decisions most people will ever make in their lifetime. You can’t leave the choice of agent up to random chance.
11 questions to ask your real estate agent
Once you’ve found a great real estate agent with whom you want to work, you’ll need to ask some questions to find out more about them and ensure that they are the best match for your needs. Here are 11 questions to get you started. You’ll probably think of more as you chat.
How long have you been licensed?
While there is no specific answer to look for here, you’ll probably want to choose an experienced agent. Keep in mind, however, that some newer agents may be very knowledgeable, especially if they have prior experience in a related field like mortgage lending or title and closing.
How long have you been working in this market?
Market knowledge is an important factor, whether you’re buying or selling real estate. You’ll want to choose an experienced agent who has been working for several years in the market that you’re interested in.
How much work do you do each year with clients in my particular situation?
If you’re looking for a luxury real estate agent, you may not want to choose one who primarily works with first-time homebuyers purchasing modest starter homes. If you’re looking for a buyer’s agent, you may not want to work with one who specializes in listings. If you’re focused on buying your first home, you may not want to work with an agent who specializes in high-volume real estate investor portfolios.
There are many niches and areas of specialization in the real estate industry. Look for someone who works well with clients like you. If you’re a retiree ready to downsize, a senior’s real estate specialist will have the skills and professional network to help you. If you’re looking to build a home, you may want to consider an agent who specializes in working with new home construction.
What price range do you normally work within?
Again, this question gives you a good indication of the type of client and neighborhood your agent usually works with. It will also help you to decide how familiar they are with clients in your price range so that they will have appropriate expectations about your budget and mortgage approval process.
Do you handle clients individually or as part of a team?
There is no good or bad when it comes to this question, but asking it will give you an idea of what to expect. With a single agent, you will always talk to them but you will have to share their attention with other clients. If you work with a team, there will always be someone available to answer your questions but you may work with different agents and support personnel at different parts of the transaction.
What is the advantage of working with you as opposed to other agents in this market?
Your agent should be able to answer this question honestly and insightfully. They should be able to define their differentiators and let you know what they are. Again, it’s not about a “right” answer. It’s about an answer that resonates with you and makes you believe they are a great real estate agent for you.
What is your view of dual agency?
Dual agency occurs when the same agent represents both the buyers and sellers in a transaction. It is illegal in some markets, frowned on in other markets, and perfectly acceptable in still other markets. Discuss dual agency with your potential real estate professional and decide whether or not you would want it to occur on your transaction.
How often do you communicate with clients?
There’s nothing worse than going days or weeks and not hearing from your real estate agent. The old saying “No news is good news” rarely applies when you’re talking about such important and emotional decisions. Your real estate agent should reach out to you on a regular basis during your process so that you can ask questions and stay informed throughout the transaction. In addition, if you have a preference for communication – text, phone call, email, or in-person – let the agent know.
What will the process look like for me from here on out if I work with you?
Your agent should walk you through a plan to move forward with your sale or purchase. They’ll know what information you need to gather, what documents you’ll need to sign, and they should be able to give you a rough timeline for your transaction. You may not be ready to sign a representation agreement immediately, but they should be able to walk you through the forms and answer your questions.
What resources can you provide that I’ll need if we move forward?
If you still need to be connected with other real estate professionals, like a lender or title company, your real estate agent will be able to help with professional referrals, as well. As you move further toward the closing table, your agent should also be able to help you with a home inspector, contractors, decorators, or other professional contacts.
Do you have previous clients I could speak to as references?
Many people skip this step, reasoning that the agent will only provide former clients they can count on for a good reference. However, it’s still important to talk to those clients to get a better idea of what it’s like to work with the agent or broker. In addition, it offers you an opportunity to ask additional questions about communication and competence that will help you make your decision.
How much is a real estate agent?
If you were wondering who pays the real estate agent, real estate agents are paid on commission. While local markets vary, most commissions represent around six percent of the value of the home purchased. That is divided between the buyer and listing agents, roughly equally.
Both agent commissions are paid by the seller upon the sale of the property and are taken out of the proceeds of the sale at the closing. That means that if you’re looking for a buyer agent, you will find one at no cost to you. If you’re a seller, you’ll essentially be paying for your agent’s expertise in marketing and the value of their professional network to get your home sold.
What do you do once you’ve decided on a real estate agent?
Once you have chosen the right agent for you, you’ll be ready to get started on your transaction. Here’s what will happen next.
In most cases, your new agent will ask you to sign a representation agreement. This will formalize your professional relationship and spell out the terms of it including the expiration date, commission information, and other important legal issues.
For Sellers: Preparing and marketing your property
Once you’ve signed on with an agent, they’ll provide you with advice on preparing your home for the market. This may include a simple cleanup and decluttering or it may involve value-added repairs and improvements to the property.
There will be photography, the writing of a property description, and other marketing materials to announce your sale online and to the real estate market in your area. Your agent may also choose to host an open house, if you allow it, to let people see your home in person.
For Buyers: Obtaining pre-approval and beginning your search
If you have not yet started working with a lender, your agent will provide you with some referrals to reliable lenders in your area. You are under no obligation to work with any professional recommended by your real estate agent. However, if you don’t have a preference, your agent is a great resource for finding the people you need to move your transaction forward.
Once you’ve been pre-approved for financing, your agent will begin a targeted home search based on the budget and other criteria you have defined.
Once you’re under contract, there will be an inspection of the property. Following this inspection, there may be some repair items to consider. This may lead to additional discussions regarding who will make or pay for the subsequent repairs that are needed. Whether you’re a buyer or seller, your agent can help you make good decisions about this process and represent your interests during the negotiation that follows.
If the home is being financed, there will be an appraisal process during which a licensed appraiser will decide on the fair market value of the property. Should the appraisal come in under the agreed-upon sale price, this may lead to an additional negotiation process in order to determine who will pay the difference.
Once all of the requirements for the transaction have been met, there will be a final walkthrough, usually the evening before or the morning of the closing day. This is the last chance to check for damage or for repairs that have not been satisfactorily completed.
Congratulations! Closing day is a milestone and a memorable opportunity for you to celebrate the hard work you and your agent have put into making your purchase or sale come to fruition.
Where do I find a real estate agent?
You may have seen the old cliche about real estate agents advertising on bus benches or shopping carts at the grocery store. That’s no way to choose an agent.
Some people choose an agent based on a For Sale sign on the front lawn of a house in their neighborhood. Others choose an agent recommended by a friend or family member. Some end up buying a home without a realtor at all. With any of these options, you’re leaving a great deal up to chance.
Dwellful provides an agent finder that can connect you with a knowledgeable local agent in just minutes. Dwellful’s data-driven technology helps to narrow down the agents in your market to the most qualified and the most successful when working with clients like you and with your transaction requirements. Best of all, Dwellful’s service works for buyers and sellers and comes at no cost to you.
Identifying the right real estate agent should never be a matter of luck or happenstance. Whether you need to find a buyer’s agent, listing agent, or someone who can help with both, Dwellful offers the resources you need to get started. Our agent finder will help you narrow down your search, providing information on specialty agents from a first time home buyer real estate agent to a senior's real estate specialist.