The wrong real estate agent—or just one who doesn't jibe with your vibe—can cast a shadow on your whole home buying experience. That's why it pays to know what things to look for (and the right kinds of questions to ask) when searching for a reliable real estate agent. So to help make your search a little easier, we called on William E Brown, President of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), for advice on how to find the best agent for your unique homebuying needs. Read ahead for six ways to score a stellar real estate agent and hopefully, your dream home.
Ask for referrals
According to Brown: "42 percent of homebuyers and 64 percent of sellers found their agent through a recommendation from a friend or family member." Make it a point to ask people you know and trust for personal recommendations, and be sure to listen out for helpful word-of-mouth suggestions.
Talk with recent clients
The pros suggest asking potential agents for a list of their recent clients (ideally over the past three years) so you can find out firsthand what their homebuying (or selling) experience was like. Questions such as "How long was your home on the market?" and "What was the asking versus selling price of the home you purchased?" can be invaluable for your real estate agent search.
The web is brimming with resources to help guide you through your real estate agent search. Sites like UpNest—a free service that allows you to compare multiple agents and real estate quotes—and Realtor.com (that touts a "Find a Realtor" search engine) are making it easier and easier to find a solid real estate agent from the privacy of your own home.
Take your time and ask plenty of questions
Once you've narrowed your list down to a few potential agents—Brown recommends at least three—it's time to start asking questions. "When interviewing a potential agent, homebuyers should ask about how long they have worked in residential real estate (to ensure they're a seasoned agent)," Brown explains, "as well as details on any specific marketing systems and approaches they would use to help you find or sell a home." Other important inquiries include finding out if the agent works alone or in a team (since there's power in numbers); what the agent's schedule is like (i.e. are they readily available?); and how they plan to help you find the perfect home (for buyers) or market your home (for sellers). It's also okay to request a list of each agent's recent sales (so you can get an idea of their track record).
Know the difference between Realtor and Real Estate Agent titles
"There's a notable difference between Realtors—which are a registered trademark of National Association of Realtors—and real estate agents." Brown explains, "Realtors are registered members of NAR, which means they've committed to a code of ethics that protects consumers in real estate transactions." However, it's important to note that similar ethical standards are enforced as a matter of federal and state law — whether you deal with a capital-R Realtor or not.
Communication is key
"Communication is critical," Brown stresses. "Homebuyers will have much more success if they work with an agent that understands their expectations and that isn't afraid to be honest about feedback. Finding an agent that understands how often you expect to be in touch with them, what marketing methods you'd prefer to use, and the times of day you want to hear from them will make the experience smoother for everyone."