Buying a home is the single most important and likely, the most expensive investment you will ever make. Getting the help of an experienced professional Real Estate Agent is critical to making the process run smoothly.
It cannot be over-emphasized just how critical it is to the home buying process to find and hire the right agent for you. The tips in this post apply whether you are buying, selling or both.
With over 2 million agents available nationwide the task of selecting the right one for you can be daunting but finding and working with the right agent who is experienced and trustworthy can go a long way to making your home buying experience pleasurable.
You are in the market for a new home and you want professional help. Do you need a real estate agent, real estate broker and REALTOR®? Often these terms are confused as all being the same thing.
Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent has passed a state licensing exam after taking the required training classes. Just about anyone can become a real estate agent providing they continue to meet the requirements set forth by the state they are licensed in.
Once licensed a Real Estate Agent can represent both buyers and sellers.
Real Estate Broker
Unlike a real estate agent, a real estate broker can open their own office and sell real estate on their own. They are required to take more classes in a variety of subjects to qualify to even take the broker’s license exam.
Real estate brokers must also continue their education to keep their license active and meet any other criteria set out by the state where they are licensed. A licensed Real Estate Broker can also represent buyers and sellers of real estate.
A REALTOR® is a dues-paying member of the National Association of Realtors. They must adhere to a strict ethical code established by the NAR. Real estate agents and real estate brokers can use the trademarked REALTOR® designation provided they meet this criterion.
Questions to Ask When Selecting an Agent
Ask how long the agent has been selling real estate. Since agents are paid on commission they can’t survive without some success. So, an agent who has several years of experience is less likely to get flustered by unexpected developments.
Find out how many clients the prospective agent is currently representing. You want to make sure he isn’t spread so thin he can’t devote the appropriate amount of time to representing you.
Does the agent work primarily with buyers or sellers? If you are selling as well as buying the process will be smoother if you are dealing with only one agent.
Ask for references. There is nothing wrong with interviewing an agent as you would a job applicant. Get the contact information of past clients and ask them for feedback.
Make sure the agent covers the area in which you are interested. Having an agent familiar with a larger territory can be a plus because it opens more options for both buying and new home and finding someone who may be interested in your home.
How often and in what manner can you expect communication from the agent? This is important because you don’t ever want to get to where you feel neglected and uninformed.
Some very simple questions are;
- How long have you been selling real estate?
- Has anyone ever filed a complaint against you? (This can be checked online if you don’t feel right in asking this question).
- How much business do you do in a typical year?
- Do you prefer working with buyers or sellers?
Choosing Your Agent
There are several things you can do to get an agent with whom you are comfortable. Treat this as though it is a job interview because the agent you choose is working for you.
A good rule of thumb is to interview at least three agents before deciding the right one for you. Find the one you believe you can trust.
A good place to start is to check the agent’s license to make sure it is current. You can also check with the state agency tasked with the job of regulating real estate agents for any disciplinary action.
The most experienced agent is not necessarily the right one for you. This is not to downplay experience but you will be spending quite a bit of time with this agent so you want someone to whom you can relate.
There is nothing wrong with trusting your gut feelings. After interviewing agents and one in particular just feels right, go with that agent.
Look at how the various agents are marketing other properties. Their web site and any brochures they use will give you a good look at what to expect when they market your home or the home you are looking to purchase.
Is the agent supported by a team or is he going solo? Agents who are part of a team often can provide a higher level of service to each of the several clients they are working with.
Don’t be swayed by flattery. You want an agent who will be straightforward and honest about the risks of buying and selling a home and who will help mitigate those risks.
Find an agent willing to take the time necessary to learn about you, your goals and priorities. If he is willing to do this he has already set a strong basis of service based on your needs.
Doing Your Part
After you have hired an agent do forget you also have a part to play. You need to work with and cooperate with your agent as much as you can. Don’t expect miracles.
A good agent will help you understand how much home your money will buy as opposed to your dream home. Let him guide and advise you.
You should never ask your agent to submit an unrealistic offer on a property. A good agent knows the market and the realistic value of the various properties. You have hired him so now you should trust him to give you sound advice.