A First Time Buyer’s Guide: How To Find A Real Estate Agent
Written By Ed Wallace
Sep 08, 2021
10 mins read
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A First Time Buyer’s Guide: How To Find A Real Estate Agent
Whether you’re buying or selling a home, choosing the right real estate agent is one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make. But when there are 1.4 million real estate agents in the United States, how do you find the right one?
It can be tempting to hire the first realtor or real estate agent that comes your way, or even ask friends and family to do the job. While this saves a lot of time and effort on your part, the easiest way isn’t always the best way. After all, the person you hire will be in charge of negotiating deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars – wouldn’t you want the best possible fit?
Ready to find your agent but don’t know how? Fret not. In this guide, we discuss some of the things buyers or sellers need to do before hiring an agent plus some tips on how to find the right one.
Things To Do Before You Hire A Real Estate Agent
Buying or selling a home can be pretty daunting, but being prepared can help you shop around for real estate agents. This section describes all the things you’ll want to do before attending any open houses to find an agent.
If You’re Selling
While a little easier in terms of pre-sale preparation, the selling process is difficult in its own way. Letting go of a generational home or a first house can be an emotional process, but sometimes a new place is just what you need.
Here are some of the things you’ll want to do before finding a seller’s agent for yourself:
Start finding a seller’s agent early: Living in a house for any amount of time usually means there’s going to be some wear and tear. Because of this, you’ll need to involve a seller’s agent several months to a year before you want to sell. Doing this early can help you come up with a repair-inclusive budget so you won’t be losing any money in the sale.
Organize and clean the house: Whether buying or selling, a clean and organized home is essential. As a seller, you’ll want to start clearing out old furniture that you don’t plan on taking to your new house. Some sellers hold garage sales to turn a small profit during the moving process.
If You’re Buying
Here’s the truth about home buying: it can be a long, expensive process. However, being adequately prepared makes things much easier in the long run. Here’s what you have to do before getting yourself a buyer’s agent:
Get pre-approved: Getting pre-approved for a mortgage saves time for both you and your realtor. Knowing your budget can rule out dozens of open houses that aren’t within your price range.
Familiarize yourself with how mortgages work: Good real estate agents want to get their clients the best deal possible on homes. However, it can be tough when a buyer doesn’t understand how their mortgage works.
Buying a house isn’t just agreeing on a price and shelling out cash – you need to know all the costs. Your budget should include a down payment (roughly 20% of the total price), earnest money (which acts as a deposit), and annual property tax or insurance costs.
Know what you want for your home: Before you go out and hire a realtor that suits you, it’s imperative that you have at least a rough idea of what you want from your home. Think of the area you’d like to live in alongside other factors like safety, distance to a school, and general neighborhood amenities.
How To Find A Real Estate Agent: A Step-By-Step Guide
Real estate agents are abundant in the United States, but not all of them are right for you and your family. When trying to find the best real estate agent, you need to evaluate your potential agents based on several criteria and make sure you know which questions to ask.
This section describes some of the main considerations when finding the right real estate agent for you.
Find An Agent Through Local Resources
According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), most people hire a real estate agent when buying or selling a home. That’s because having a buyer’s agent can make the home buying experience much smoother than it would have been.
Many buyers find their agents through referrals made by someone they know or through local referral programs. Some programs even have online databases that can help you land the right agent without needing to make too many trips out of your area.
But this isn’t the only way to look for someone to help you sell a house or buy a home. Another good way of finding a capable real estate agent is attending open houses in the area you’d like to live in. This gives you the chance to see your potential agents in action before making any commitments.
Evaluate Their Experience
Once you’ve found at least three capable real estate agents you’re interested in, you’ll need to set aside time to interview them. The interview process helps weed out agents who aren’t the right fit while also giving you a chance to get to know them and their real estate experience. After all, you don’t want a wet-behind-the-ears real estate agent fumbling when they’re working on selling your home!
That said, it’s essential to ask the right questions when choosing an agent. Specifically, you’ll need to know how many years of experience they have alongside any certifications.
How Many Years Of Experience Do They Have?
While experience alone isn’t the only way of evaluating a real estate agent, it can clue you in on how smoothly your transaction will go. When vetting a buyer’s agent, you’ll want to make sure that they have at least two years of work experience.
However, hiring an agent when selling is a different story. In this case, you may want an experienced professional with a deep understanding of the housing market and over four years of full-time experience.
What Are Their Certifications?
A good real estate agent may have quite a few qualifications. Here’s a list of the most common qualifications and what they actually mean when it comes to selling or buying a home:
CRS (Certified Residential Specialist): This certification is only given to a top-performing real estate agent. Someone that has this is a tried-and-tested professional.
ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative): This means that your real estate agent has received specific training for representing buyers in a real estate transaction.
ASR (Accredited Seller Representative): Like ABRs, someone with an ASR has received specific seller training.
SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist): This certification is only given to someone that’s completed training to secure a home for buyers over 50 years old.
Realtor: This title is given to members of the National Association of Realtors.
Look For A Neighborhood Expert That Knows The Local Market
A real estate agent’s work experience is only one of the many factors that can determine how smooth your transaction will be. An equally important consideration is if your real estate agent is well-versed with the local market. An agent that understands local market prices in a city an hour over may not be as helpful when helping you find the best homes.
This section lists the specific questions you need to ask when probing your real estate agent.
Do They Sell Many Homes?
Whether you’re looking to buy or sell a home, it’s important to know how often your agent makes the sale. Seasoned agents usually have a tried-and-tested marketing plan that can get you the best possible deals, no matter where you look. Working with a consummate professional also means they’re experienced negotiators and often know which homes are available before they’re even listed!
Are They Invested In The Local Community?
Any agent who has sold dozens of homes in a specific area definitely has the expertise to help you out, but it doesn’t hurt to hire someone passionate about the locale. Looking out for a top agent that cares can make a huge difference when you’re trying to find the home of your dreams!
How’s Their Track Record?
Checking your agent’s track record should be high up on your to-do list when interviewing potentials. Specifically, you’re looking to see if they work within a reasonable price range that’s accurate to an area’s general market value.
That means you may have to ask if they can make a sale close to the listed price and have the records to back their claims. On top of this, it’s best to find out how long your agent takes when finishing a transaction – especially if you want to sell your home quickly.
Find A Real Estate Agent With Good Customer Service
One of the most important things when looking for an agent to help you buy or sell a home is customer service. Because the process can get very involved, you’ll want to find someone you can depend on when navigating the housing market.
But how can you tell if your agent is the best fit? We recommend doing two things: evaluate how they communicate, and be sure to speak with their former clients for feedback.
Communication Is Key
Like with any business transaction, communication can make or break a sale. After all, your agent’s responsiveness can be the difference between locking in the deal of a lifetime and missing out on dream homes. That’s why you need an agent that’s easy to get a hold of and is completely transparent with you how your expectations will fare versus the housing market.
A good agent will let you know if you won’t be able to buy a three-bedroom house in a specific area with your budget, but they’ll also work to get you the best possible deals despite any financial limitations.
Speaking With Former Clients
Interviewing your potential agent can definitely help you make the right decision, but sometimes you won’t get the full picture. That’s why we recommend asking your agent for a list of clients they’ve worked with before. Doing this helps you get a more in-depth look at an agent’s specific strengths and weaknesses and help you make an informed choice.
Keep Your Options Open
Sometimes, agreements between you and your agent don’t work out. Some agents may try to lock you into a confusing contract that you can’t get out of, or even charge you for expenses you didn’t initially agree on.
If that’s the case, you’ll probably want to switch over to another agent. But be warned, some agents may charge a termination fee to cover out-of-pocket marketing expenses or a cancellation fee if you’re not happy with their services.
Either way, you don’t want to be left hanging without an agent after a professional disagreement. Always keep a shortlist of at least three agent alternatives – just in case.
Only Hire Agents You Actually Like
So you’ve landed an agent with the expertise, excellent negotiation and communication skills, and has the records to back them up – but you just don’t like them. Does that mean you should stick it out? Of course not.
You don’t have to be friends with your agent, but liking and trusting them ensures your transactions are seamless and easy. If your real estate agent has an abrasive personality or you just don’t get along, you should consider ringing up those alternatives.
The Bottom Line
Let’s be real – finding the right real estate agent is a pretty involved process. From interviews to open houses to constant communication, it may feel a little overwhelming. On top of that, some deals just fall through, and you may have to shell out more money than you originally intended.
However, working with financial professionals can make selling or buying a home so much easier. Contact us at Wesley LLC to find out how we can help you find the best fit!