While meeting with a mortgage lender should be the first step in the homebuying process, choosing a real estate professional is essential to your homebuying (or selling) experience. Here are several ways to narrow down your options for a qualified, compatible real estate agent.
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Get a Referral
Word-of-mouth really is the best advertising for a real estate agent. Talk to friends and family who have recently purchased or sold a property. Referrals are extremely influential in the success of a real estate agent.
Pick an Awarded Agent
Look for a real estate agent who has been endorsed by their peers and/or branch. Awards like the "Realtor of the Year" designation are awarded by other real estate agents within the state and local branch of the National Association of Realtors.
Just like doctors and lawyers specialize in a certain area of expertise, real estate agents can do the same. Acronyms like CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) , ABR (Accredited Buyer's Representative) , or SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist) indicate they have had additional education and training in handling residential real estate, representing buyers in a transaction, or assisting buyers and sellers in the 50+ age group.
If a real estate agent refers to himself or herself as a Realtor (with a capital "R"), they are a member of the National Association of Realtor and have formally pledged to uphold the NAR's code of ethics.
Essentially you'll want to look for an agent with a lot of experience, but more importantly, you'll need to look for someone with experience in the location and price range where you are looking to purchase or sell. They'll be up-to-date on the area's market history and can help you differentiate between a good and bad home.
You and your real estate agent will be communicating a lot throughout the buying and selling process. Is it best to reach you over text or e-mail? Find an agent who prefers to communicate that way, as well. Prefer a phone call after regular business hours? Tell your prospective agent that's the best way to reach you. Be upfront with how and when you would like to be contacted.
Look at Current Listings
With over 90 percent of buyers starting their home search online, the web is a great place to start your agent search. Look for an agent with an attractive web presentation.
Take note of the amount of listings an agent has. Do they have enough to indicate a healthy amount of business? Or are there so many that you feel you'll get lost in the hustle and bustle? Look to see if the agent's listings mirror the type of property you'd like to buy or sell. Are they in a compatible area and price range?
Most importantly, interview your prospects! You are hiring them to do a job, so it's important to be selective. Here are a few good starters:
- Is this your full-time job? A full-time agent is likely to have more market knowledge on a day-to-day basis.
- How many clients have you served this year?
- Can I see your references?
- How many clients are you currently working with? While there is no correct answer to this question, the amount of current clients may indicate divided attention, inexperience, etc.
- How are you going to market my home? (Sellers) Does this agent take part in print/online advertising? Will they hold open houses on a regular basis?
Overall, find out what your agent is going to do for you as a buyer or seller and how they're going to do it. A good agent knows the market, communicates in a timely manner, strategizes with clients on offers, and educates their clients throughout the process. Don't be afraid to ask the questions that will determine if your needs will be met.
If you're looking for a referral to an experienced agent in the area, contact one of our mortgage bankers. For more information about buying and financing a home in general, download our free Mortgage 101 Handbook, a great resource for first-time and repeat homebuyers.