The first step to becoming a homeowner is finding a great real estate agent. He or she is vital to moving you through the home buying process and will be by your side from the moment you view your very first listing until you've been handed the keys to your new property. Since your agent will play such a big part in your search, it's crucial to find someone who is the right fit for you.
If you're ready to find an agent, but aren't sure where to start — or, you're working with an agent but you think it's time to move on — listen up. We asked recent home owners to tell us — without sugarcoating it — what you should look for when hiring a real estate agent, based on their bad experiences from the past.
Here are the warning signs that this isn't the right agent for you:
If They Don't Listen to You
Of all the responses we received, an agent with the ability to listen seems to be at the top of everyone's list. Feeling heard is always important, but it becomes even more vital when you're about to invest a huge amount of time any money into a new home. As you meet and work with agents, pay attention to the flow of conversation. You want someone who asks plenty of questions to get a good sense of who you are and what you're looking for. Ideally, they'll also seem genuinely interested in what you have to say.
"The first real estate agent that contacted us seemed professional at first, but she turned us off in a huge way.We were adamant about staying downtown, a growing urban area. She kept suggesting we expand our geographic preference because of lack of inventory, but also made an offhand comment about the school system and how, if we ever wanted kids, we should settle outside of the city." — Melissa R., Allentown, PA
"Our agent didn't even offer to meet us or get to know our needs. It was frustrating because we told her what type of home we were looking for, and she would just send random properties that fit our price range but wasn't in our target area and didn't have any of the features that we were looking for." — Angeline V., Los Angeles, CA
If They Don't Have Enough Experience
When you hire a real estate agent, you're paying to have an expert lead you through the home buying process. Make sure the agent you select has enough experience to perform this duty without issue. When interviewing, be sure to ask questions to get a sense of their background and the types of homes they sell, especially if you're looking for a unique property. After the meeting, do your research. Read reviews and testimonials from past clients to get a sense of how well the agent has handled past transactions.
"I like to live in homes with a little bit of land, which usually means that I'm searching for homes outside of the major urban/sub-urban areas. There's a whole swath of home issues that come along with rural life — septic systems, wells, covenants for land usage, and water rights.
"I always try to use an that's local to the area and has experience with these types of homes. They know what problems to look out for, what inspections should be done, and can help me make sure I'm making a smart purchase." — Diane E., Fort Worth, TX
If They Aren't a Strong Communicator
Response time was another pain point that we heard over and over again. In today's market, homes move incredibly quickly and there is no guarantee that a property will still be available, if you wait to make a move. This means that agents and buyers need to move quickly when a home catches their eye. Good communication is the key to doing that successfully.
Unfortunately, there are very few ways to test response time upfront. A poor review may mention it in a passing detail, but you'll likely need to use your best judgement. Keep a close eye on how long it takes an agent to respond to your inquiries. If you find yourself getting frustrated, don't hesitate to move on to someone who better suits your needs.
"Response time was the biggest thing for us. You send an email and then wonder if it goes into a black hole." — Karen M., Charleston, SC