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Looking for a real estate agent and don't know where to turn? You might find a match through an agent referral service or a lender-affiliated network.
Stand-alone referral services provide online tools to match you with agents for free. Some services negotiate lower real estate commissions with agents and then pass the savings to you. The companies make money from referral fees that agents pay.
Meanwhile, some mortgage lenders run their own agent referral services or have sister real estate companies that make referrals. When you apply for a home loan, you may be asked if you want to be referred to an agent.
Working with a lender partner agent
There are a couple of reasons you might consider working with an agent your lender recommends. One, agents in the network have experience working with that lender, which could help smooth the process to closing. And two, some lenders offer discounts at closing for using one of their network agents.
In addition, some lenders have special programs for borrowers who use one of their affiliated agents. Examples include:
Appraisal guarantee: The lender guarantees that the mortgage terms will remain the same, even if the home’s appraisal comes in lower than your offer. This could enable you to waive the appraisal contingency when making offers.
Cash offer: This program allows home shoppers, even first-timers, to compete with cash buyers. When you find a home to buy, the lender makes an all-cash offer on your behalf. If accepted, the lender purchases the property and holds it until your mortgage loan closes, then sells the property to you.
Buy before you sell: This is geared to homeowners who want to sell their property and buy a new home at the same time. Sometimes called a "trade-in program," the lender makes a cash offer on your behalf to buy a home. Your old home is sold, and you purchase the new home from the lender.
The specifics vary by lender, and there are fees associated with some programs. It's important to read the terms and conditions to understand how the programs work before moving forward.
How real estate agent matching works
The process varies, but in many cases you'll answer several questions — through an online form or on the company’s website — about the type and location of the property you want to buy or sell. You'll also provide your name and contact information.
Here are some things to consider before requesting a referral:
Does the network have agents in the area where you're buying or selling a home? Most networks have limited geographical areas.
What are the qualifications for agents to be in the network? Some lenders’ and matching services’ websites are more forthcoming than others about what they require from their agents. Qualifications may include number of years of experience, number of transactions completed in a recent period, and customer satisfaction. Look for a service that spells out how it vets agents.
Will you be eligible for a discount on the real estate agent commission or a lender credit at closing?
What happens if you don't like the agent matches you receive? The services typically offer to provide another match if you don't like your agent, but read the terms before you ask for a referral.