Your real estate agent plays an important role in the home buying process. If you want the first pick of the newest listings and an unbiased but professional opinion, you need a good agent. Searching online turns up what feels like hundreds of listings. How do you know which agent is right for you?
Do Your Research
The internet makes it easy to check up on potential real estate agents today. Check out an agent’s current listings as well as his/her past listings. What do people have to say about the agent online? Check social media as well as real estate sites like Zillow and Redfin. With a little poking and prodding, you could find a lot of information about an agent without ever picking up the phone.
Look at the Properties the Agent Sells
As you research a prospective agent, look closely at the homes he/she is currently selling. What types of homes are they? How long are they on the market? How well does the agent market the home? While selling is different from buying, it lets you know the level of trust others have in the agent. It also gives you an idea of how hard the agent works. Homes on the market for a long time may be due to a combination of a lackluster agent and the market. Keep that in mind.
Talk to Past Clients
Don’t discount the value of talking to past clients. Most will be willing to give you the good and bad about any agent. If someone had a great experience, they are typically willing to talk about it and refer the agent to others. Someone that had a bad experience typically wants to steer others away from the agent. Don’t be afraid to ask any potential agent for testimonials from past clients.
Talk Directly to the Agent
Treat the real estate agent selection process like a job interview. The agent has a big job – to help you find your dream home. You want someone that is fit for the job. Think about what you want out of an agent and form your questions accordingly. Of course, you could always ask the basic questions too, such as:
- How long have you been a realtor?
- How long have you worked for this company?
- How many houses have you sold in the area?
- How well do you know the area?
- How long have you lived in the area?
Questions like these help you get a better idea of what the real estate agent knows and doesn’t know. If he can’t answer questions about the area easily or hasn’t sold any houses in the area, you may want to look elsewhere. As you talk to the agent, get a good read on him. Does he add value to the process or is he all about himself?
Find an Agent in the Right Niche
Are you looking for a home in a special area or a specific type of home? Look for an agent that specializes in these options. For example, some agents specialize in condos while others specialize in working in historic districts. If you have your eye on a specific type of home or area, finding an agent with specialized knowledge in the area can help you get even more information, allowing you to get the highest level of service possible.
Follow Your Gut
Looking for a real estate agent is a personal decision. You know the type of personality you want to work with. Find an agent that matches that personality. For example, what type of communication do you need? Are you the type that needs daily updates or can you go a while without hearing from the agent? Ask agents about their method of communication, especially when new potential homes pop up on the market. Make sure the agent is a good fit for you – would you see yourself being friends with this person? If so, he/she is probably a good fit. If your personalities don’t mesh, though, it may not be a productive relationship.
Take your time finding a real estate agent. He or she plays an integral role in the home buying process. Find the agent that will provide the results you need on your timeline. If you are in a hurry, don’t hire a part-time agent. Instead, look for one that buys and sells homes full-time and will be fully invested in your home search.