If you’re in the market to buy your first home, finding a real estate agent you trust is an important step in the early home buying process. Check out the guide below to find helpful tips for choosing the best real estate agent for your needs!
Where to Find a Real Estate Agent
Choosing a real estate professional to work with is a big step as you start the home buying process. Here are some of the best ways to find a real estate agent in your local market!
Ask Friends or Family
Getting referrals from your friends and family is a great way to find a trustworthy real estate agent! If a professional worked well with your friends and family, it’s a good indication that you’ll have a similar experience. Overall, working with an agent who’s been referred to you can make you feel more at ease because they’re more likely to have your best interests in mind during the house buying process.
As you drive around your desired neighborhood, take note of “For Sale” signs with the names of real estate agents who work in that area. This is a simple way to find out who’s familiar with the market, home values, and community that you want to live in. Look up their credentials to make sure they’re up-to-date on their licenses, see how much experience they have, the certifications and designations they offer, and other information pertinent to you as a first-time home buyer.
Use Online Search Directories
You can always search through online directories like Zillow or Realtor.com to find real estate agents in your local area. These online directories list agents by ZIP code, so it’s an easy way to connect with someone who’s familiar with the market. As a first-time home buyer, you can use these sites not only to find a real estate professional, but also as a valuable research tool for new home listings.
Talk to Agents at Open Houses
Attend open houses in neighborhoods you’re interested in and talk to the real estate agents who are hosting them. Speaking with agents in person can help you identify what kind of agent personalities you work best with. Not to mention, meeting agents during open houses is a great way to see their knowledge in action.
Interview Multiple Agents
Talking to more than one person can give you an idea of the different skills and experiences each agent has to offer. Make sure to ask questions like “What’s your track record?” or “How well do you know the market in this neighborhood?” The interview process can give you a better understanding of how an agent will be able to help you accomplish your goal of purchasing your first home.
Questions to Ask a Potential Real Estate Agent
Your real estate agent will be representing you while you find your future home, so it’s important to ask questions and evaluate who can best help you. Here are some useful questions to ask a real estate agent!
What’s Your Process?
An agent’s process and how they work directly impacts you and your house buying journey. How do they find homes, and how often can they show them to you? How many houses will they show you—is there a cap? Can you search for houses, too? Does the agent have to accompany you to open houses? What are their negotiation tactics, and will they stay true to your budget while house hunting and negotiating? Being informed of all of the processes can help you understand what’s expected when you hire an agent.
How Long Have You Been an Agent?
You’ll want to ask how long someone has been a licensed agent to get a sense of their expertise in the real estate business. Those who’ve been in the business longer have more negotiation experience, may know the market better, and have a more refined process. However, newer agents may have more up-to-date training and more time for you as a client. Regardless, look for someone who can deliver a high-quality house hunting experience.
How Many Clients Do You Have?
You should find out how many clients an agent works with to give you an idea of how much time they have to offer you. Too many clients may indicate they don’t have much time to dedicate to you, and too few clients may be seen as a red flag. However, if they’re a real estate agent part-time, then a lower clientele makes sense. Figuring out their capacity sets you up for future success when you choose your ideal agent.
How Many Homes Have You Sold in the Past 12 Months?
Figuring out how many homes an agent has sold in the last 12 months allows you to find a qualified individual with a consistent track record—and one who’s good at selling homes. On average, an agent should have sold between 30-50 homes during that period of time. This gives you an idea of how successful a real estate agent is at reaching a deal for their clients.
Do You Have a Network of Preferred Vendors?
A big challenge when buying a house is knowing who you can trust when you need help. Asking an agent to refer you to their network of professionals—like inspectors, appraisers, and lenders—can help you evaluate how reputable the agent is. If an agent outsources qualified and trustworthy professionals, then it’s likely the agent is also qualified and trustworthy. And having that as a resource will help you when it’s time to use those services, too!
Are You Familiar with My Desired Area(s)?
The real estate agent you choose should be familiar with the homes and the amenities in your desired neighborhood, but they should also have details on the neighborhood that you might not have thought to ask about—like how much traffic or noise there is, what commutes are like to other parts of the city, and if there are specific foundation or plumbing issues with homes built in the area.
What’s the Best Way to Contact You?
Communication is key in the quest to find a new home, especially for first-time home buyers. Not only will you be spending a fair amount of time with your agent, but if you have any questions, this is the person you’ll go to. So ask the real estate agent what their preferred method of communication is. Do they want you to text, call, email, or meet in person? Make sure you know how they’ll be in contact with you, how frequently you can contact them, and how long before they usually respond. This helps you gauge their availability.
What’s Included in Your Buyer’s Agreement?
A buyer’s agreement is the contract you sign when you hire an agent. You should read and fully understand this before working with a real estate agent. The buyer’s agreement is meant to be a set of expectations to protect the buyer and the agent in case someone doesn’t hold up their end of the deal. Key details to know are the term length of the contract, buyer exclusivity and representation, compensation, property description, the agent’s duties, and termination rights. If you end up wanting a different agent down the line, the buyer’s agreement outlines how to terminate the contract in good faith.
Do You Work on Your Own or with a Team?
Before hiring an agent, you should also know whether they work independently or with a team. Real estate agents who work with a team often have more people available to assist in the home buying process. However, there may be potential for breakdowns in communication with a larger team, so a solo real estate agent may be easier to work with.
What’s Your Commission Rate?
As with any financial transaction, understanding how well your agent is compensated is essential before you enter into business with them. Typically, commission fees for both the buyer’s and seller’s agents are paid for by the seller. About a 6% commission of the house’s sale price is split between both agents.
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