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Real Estate Agent Referral Networks for Home Buyers and Sellers
You can get referred to a real estate agent through your lender or through a company specializing in matching agents with buyers and sellers.
Barbara Marquand Senior Writer | Homebuying, homeownership, mortgages
Barbara Marquand writes about mortgages, homebuying and homeownership. Previously, she wrote about insurance and investing at NerdWallet and covered personal finance for QuinStreet. Prior to that, she wrote for national consumer and trade publications on a wide range of topics, including business, careers and parenting. Her work has appeared in the Associated Press, MarketWatch, MSN Money, The New York Times, The Washington Post and many others.
Johanna Arnone Assistant Assigning Editor | Mortgage lenders, homebuying, home equity
Johanna Arnone helps lead coverage of homeownership and mortgages at NerdWallet. She has more than 15 years' experience in editorial roles, including six years at the helm of Muse, an award-winning science and tech magazine for young readers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from Canada's McGill University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing for children and young adults. Practice making complicated stories easier to understand comes in handy every day as she works to simplify the dizzying steps of buying or selling a home and managing a mortgage. Johanna has also completed coursework in Boston University’s Financial Planning Certificate program. She is based in New Hampshire.
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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.
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.
Better Real Estate, which is affiliated with Better Mortgage, is a brokerage that employs its own estate agents and partners with a national network of additional brokers and agents.
Discount and special programs: Home buyers who finance the purchase with Better Mortgage may be eligible for a closing cost discount of up to $2,000 in the form of lender credits; free home listing if they're also selling a home; and special mortgage programs, such as an appraisal guarantee and cash offer program.
HomeLight provides digital tools for real estate agents and an agent-matching tool for consumers, enabling buyers and sellers to tap into a network of 28,000 real estate agents across the country. Although best known for its matching tool, the company also offers mortgages through its lending arm.
Special programs: In some of the states where HomeLight operates, buyers and sellers may be eligible for cash offer and buy-before-you-sell programs.
HomeStory runs an agent network and provides referrals to consumers through its lenders. The company vets agents and trains them in the lender's program. You can't get a referral directly from HomeStory; you have to go through a participating lender.
Discount: Clients who use one of the referred agents get a cash-back reward at closing. The reward amount varies by lender.
Learn more: Ask your lender if it participates in HomeStory.
Navy Federal Credit Union Realty Plus
Navy Federal Credit Union partners with several name-brand real estate brokerages for its Realty Plus program. You can sign up on the Navy Federal website to get matched with an agent to buy or sell a home. You'll also be assigned a program coordinator to guide the process.
Discount: Cash back after you close on the home. The amount is based on the sale price of the home and can be anywhere from $400 to $9,000. The program is open only to Navy Federal members but does not require the use of a Navy Federal mortgage.
Rocket Homes, a sister company of Rocket Mortgage, has a "verified partner agent" network covering more than 3,000 counties nationwide. To be in the network, partner agents must have at least two years of experience as full-time agents, completed at least eight closed transactions in the previous 12 months and finished the network's training program. To stay in the network, agents must achieve a client satisfaction rating of at least 4.5 out of 5 stars. Rocket Homes also has in-house agents to assist sellers.
Discount and special programs: Reduced agent commission for sellers who use an in-house Rocket Homes agent. Cash offer program for sellers.
Veterans United Realty, which is affiliated with Veterans United Home Loans, has a nationwide network of real estate agents with experience serving veterans and current military members. To find an agent, you fill out a short online form and provide contact information.
Discount: Cash back after closing in states where available. The amount depends on the home price.
AgentStory uses data analytics to match you with agents in the city where you want to buy or sell. You fill out a form online and get a list of top matches. The website also lets you browse agents by state, where the service is available, or search for agents by name and see their performance data, such as the number of listings, list-to-price ratio and days on market for their listings.
UpNest works with agents from a variety of brokerages nationwide. After you submit a request, UpNest will call you to ask about your preferences, and then will send you three to five proposals from agents in your area within 24 hours. You choose who to interview and hire.
Discount: Agents may offer savings on commissions to compete for your business.