The First Step You Need to Take to Hire a Real Estate Agent
In a typical housing market, you might be able to navigate the process of buying a home without much guidance, but not now. If you want to make a competitive, yet low-risk bid on a property in today’s red-hot seller’s market, it’s to your advantage to work with a seasoned real estate agent who will go the extra mile to help you find your dream home, preferably an agent with expertise in your desired location and price range.
Experts agree you should go with an agent who has intimate knowledge of your desired area. “One of the most important things when choosing an agent is to find someone who specializes in the area where you want to live,” says Lexie Holbert, housing and lifestyle expert at Realtor.com. “Someone who really knows the ins and outs of the local market can recommend neighborhoods or share local insights that other agents may not be aware of.”
As a buyer, that means your first step is narrowing down the area where you want to live before you decide on an agent. (If it sounds like common sense, that’s because it is.) The more specific, the better: If you know you want to live in Park Slope, for example, rather than just somewhere in Brooklyn, you’ll be able to partner with an agent who knows more than a New York City generalist. You should still familiarize yourself with the local market before picking up the phone — Holbert recommends combing through plenty of listings first.
She says, “Look at the listing photos, take virtual tours and ask yourself, is this a place where I can find what I’m looking for in my price range? If not, you should expand your search.”
When you have a good sense of the neighborhood where you want to live, check with family and friends to see if they know anyone who has worked with a local agent there. Or, you could try a more scientific approach by using Realtor.com’s agent matching service. After clicking “get matched,” Realtor.com’s customer service team will give you a call within five seconds, explains Holbert.
“They will ask you a few questions about what you’re looking for, and our cutting edge data science-based algorithm will match you with the best local agent for you based on your specific home needs,” Holbert explains. “The representative will then transfer you live over the phone to the agent who’s waiting for you.”
Once you find an agent, Holbert recommends getting to know them and the buying process before committing. Some questions to ask include: How many homes have you sold this year in the neighborhood? What do I need to know about the market? How does the commission process work? What strategy do you recommend for buying in this market?
Just like you would do if you were trying to pick a restaurant for date night, Melanie Everett, managing broker of Melanie Everett & Co., recommends reading online reviews on local agents to winnow down your choice.
“You can check out Zillow, Facebook, Google, or even Yelp to learn more about a particular agent,” says Everett. “You’ll learn what their clients loved about them — and potentially what they didn’t love.”
Did your best friends just buy a place? If so, Everett suggests asking them about their experience and whether they would recommend the agent they used.
“At the end of the day, make sure the broker you’re talking to is a good match for your personality,” says Everett. “Do a phone consultation to start. If you’re more soft-spoken and the broker continually talks over you, for instance, then you may want to find someone who is more of a listener.”