As you start on the path of finding a home, having a real estate agent guide you in the process can make a difference. About 98% of buyers who used agents viewed them as a helpful source of information, according to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors, or NAR. Because an agent can help determine how much you pay for your new abode, it’s important to find one who is right for you.
Seek referrals and research associations
Start your search by asking friends and family members for recommendations. In this way, someone you trust can verify how effective and helpful the agent was.
You can also make a list of agents who sell homes in your price range and in areas where you’re looking to buy by checking online and through trusted real estate associations. Some have specialties and only work with certain clients such as first-time buyers or those looking for luxury homes. Also check for Realtors, or real estate agents who are NAR members. They follow a code of ethics in working with clients.
You can also check whether any of the agents have expired or suspended licenses by looking them up on state regulatory agency websites.
Ask the right questions
When you have a list of candidates, start interviewing agents. Consider asking them the following:
- How long have you been in the real estate business in this area?
- What credentials do you have?
You’ll want to find someone who has experience in your area and determine their specialities, if any. Some possible credentials include Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR) or Certified Buyer Representative (CBR), which means they have met specific qualifications and passed exams to represent a buyer at every stage of the process.
- How many clients do you currently have?
- Will you represent just me, or a seller, too?
- Do you work part time or full time?
These questions can help you determine how reachable and invested an agent might be in helping you. A buyer’s agent negotiates strictly for you in a deal, as opposed to a typical real estate agent who may represent the seller, too.
- How would you help me find a home?
- How much do you charge?
These two responses can let you know how the agents work, what sources they use and whether there are any costs involved. A buyer’s agent typically splits the home sale commission with the listing agent, with the seller usually paying the cost of the commission. Buyers typically pay nothing for the service directly.
By the end of the conversation, you’ll want to know if you can trust this person. When agents start recommending other professionals, including lenders, you need to be able to trust those judgments.
Check their references
During the interviews, ask agents for the contact information of some of their former clients. Call these people and ask open-ended questions such as whether there was anything that the agent could’ve done better or what factors made them choose this agent. You may be able to glean some insights from them as you make your final choice.
As you select your real estate agent, remember that you don’t have to stay with the first one you choose if things don’t work out. You want the right guide to help you find the home that works for you.