A good real estate agent will find you the right home at the right price and make a potentially complex and stressful process feel easy. But don’t hire the first agent you encounter just yet.
Real estate agents vary in their specializations, so it pays to look for one who caters to your specific circumstances. For example, first-time home buyers will have completely different criteria from luxury real estate investors.
Follow the steps below to be well on your way to working with the most effective real estate agent for your home search.
1. Set your goals and expectations
With home searches in the past year lasting a median of eight weeks and home closings averaging four to six weeks, your working relationship with an agent adds up to at least three months. That’s a significant amount of time. Avoid having to switch agents by developing a clear idea about the home you want and the kind of agent you want to work with.
To get started, look back on other professional relationships you’ve had. Do you always want to stay abreast of developments? Or are you more comfortable with periodic updates by email? Should a real estate agent stick strictly to your list of criteria or are you flexible with your terms? Answer these personal questions as objectively as you can to find an agent who fits the bill based not only on experience but also on working style.
2. Do your research
Once you know what you’re looking for, scout for potential candidates. A good place to start is online. Search for agent profiles and look up their statistics and reviews. You can also take note of any for-sale signs you see in the neighborhood you’re interested in. It’s a useful strategy for finding local agents who are already familiar with the area’s housing inventory and comparables.
Remember to ask your social circle for referrals. Target people who are (or were) in the same situation you are now for recommendations ofagents with experience inassisting clients like you.
3. Familiarize yourself with basic real estate credentials
Not all real estate agents are certified equal. Learn about common agent designations and what they mean. Let’s start with the simplest terms, “real estate agent” and “Realtor”. Though they’re informally used to refer to the same person, a real estate agent is a licensed professional who is legally allowed to carry out property transactions. This doesn’t mean they are Realtors. A Realtor must be an active member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and, as such, adheres to the association’s code of ethics.
While there are several other designations differentiating one realtor from another, there’s one more designation home buyers should pay attention to: Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR). ABR Realtors specialize in assisting buyers with property transactions. They have also completed extra courses to aid them in their goal to put forward the buyer’s best interests.
4. Reach out and connect
At this stage, you probably have several agents on a shortlist. Reach out to at least three candidates and request a video interview. Ask them about:
- Their track record;
- Patterns you’ve noticed about their sales performance;
- Their strategies and approach to finding homes and making offers; and
- Their previous clients and any references.
An interview like this will give you a fuller impression of how well a real estate agent can work for and with you.
5. Make your choice
Pore over all the information you’ve gathered about the agents you interviewed carefully. Compare track records, experience, expertise, references, and network. Delve into each candidate’s history to check for possible conflicts. Common warning signs include an agent who regularly acts as both the buyer and seller, seems hard to reach, or hurries through check-ins.
A great real estate agent should be constantly giving you the best advice for buying a home. You know you’ve found one if they:
- Are prepared to be clear and honest at every stage of the buying process;
- Complement how you work and communicate;
- Make suggestions based on their expertise, but never force your hand; and
- Have your best interests in mind, which shows up as an interest in
○ sticking to a comfortable price range,
○ negotiating provisions in your favor, and
○ finding a home that suits your desired location and lifestyle.
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