When it comes to buying your first home, or selling your current one, choosing the right real estate agent can make a world of difference. From their market expertise to negotiation and communication skills, a good real estate agent is easy to spot – and not just because their picture may or may not be on a public bench!
Whether you are trying to find an affordable house or would like to sell your home for the best price possible, we’ve listed what to look for, and more importantly what to avoid, when it comes to searching for a good real estate agent that’s right for you.
The First-Time Home Buyers Guide to Choosing a Real Estate Agent
As a first-time home buyer, you’re typically looking for a real estate agent after you get preapproved through a mortgage lender. With your letter in hand, you learn how much home you can afford. From there, you can determine the criteria you’d like in a home and your priorities for a home, based on you preapproval amount.
This is where your agent, known in this situation as a buyer’s agent, comes in handy.
The buyer’s agent will set up appointments on your behalf and relay information on potential properties that may be of interest to you. That means that your overall house hunting experience lies heavily in the hands of your agent.
What to Look For
When you’re starting your home search, picking a good real estate agent is almost as important as choosing the right home. That being said, you’ll want to work with someone who not only knows the market, but understands the home buying process. The buyer’s agent should have:
- Experience with the local market, including the area and particular price that are in your interests and range. A good agent will be able to tell you about the current homes for sale, including location, demographics, school system and anything else that may be of interest to you.
- Negotiation skills to actively negotiate price and terms as well as assisting in property inspections and providing advice for improvements and repairs. A good agent will be in the buyer’s corner throughout the entire home buying process.
- Credentials, such as Accredited Buyer Representatives (ABR) or Certified Buyer Representatives (CBR). Perhaps the most important credential, however, is the REALTOR, meaning they’re a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and adhere to its code of ethics.
What to Avoid
Once again, with so much of your house hunting experience dependent on the competency of your agent, here are some warning signs to avoid house-hunting drama:
- Part-time real estate agents may have limited availability, and even more limited experience in the field. Be sure to ask the agent if this is their full-time job before proceeding.
- Dual agencies, meaning the agent represents both the buyer and seller, won’t have your specific interests at heart and could present conflicts in the home buying process. For this reason, it’s wise to look for an exclusive buyer’s agent.
- Bad reviews can be a telltale sign of an agent’s work ethic. Don’t be afraid to ask the agent for a list of references and past clients, to gauge how well they’ll work with and for you.
The Sellers Guide to Choosing a Real Estate Agent
As a home seller, you’re typically looking for a real estate agent after you’ve decided to move out of your current home, whether you’ve decided because you’ve received a job offer out of state or you’ve simply outgrown your space.
In this case, the seller’s agent can help you sell your home quickly and possibly for top dollar. Typically, agents representing sellers share information on the homes they are marketing through a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) database.
A good seller’s agent will have experience handling, and preventing, any possible complications that may arise in the selling process.
What to Look For
A good seller’s agent is pretty easy to spot. From their communication skills to their market expertise, it’s easy to see why you should hire an agent during the home selling process. Here are just a few things to look for in a good one:
- Communication skills are critical in a good seller’s agent, as they will be the communication between you and the potential buyer or buyer’s agent. You will need this during negotiations and for any possible offers made on your home.
- Market expertise not only helps with pricing your home, it also helps when trying to make your home visible to potential buyers through the MLS, for-sale signs, internet advertising, etc.
- A good track record is important. Don’t be afraid to request the asking and sales prices for their past home sales. If their previous properties were similar to yours, it can be beneficial to have an agent that specialized in what you’re selling.
What to Avoid
Essentially, the probability of selling your home lies heavily on the skills and knowledge of your seller’s agent, so here are some qualities to avoid when looking for an agent to sell your home:
- A poor track record means that either the agent hasn’t sold a lot of homes or the homes sold far less than the initial asking price. Outside of economic conditions that might influence this, these factors are warning signs that this agent might not be equipped to sell your home. It’s also wise to ask how long the homes were on the market.
- Dual agencies, like stated above, represent both the buyer and the seller. If your seller’s agent is loyal to both you and the buyer, a conflict of interest can arise.
- No experience selling homes similar to your specific house can also be a warning sign. An easy way around this is to ask about the qualities of the homes they’ve sold in the past, and for how much, to determine the sale of your home.
Bonus: Choosing a Listing Agent
Listing and seller’s agents are commonly confused as the same, and while their duties often overlap, it’s important to know the difference when it comes to the process of buying or selling your home.
A listing agent for a seller typically represents the seller by attracting buyers through marketing, holding open houses or showings, and even screening buyers for credit worthiness during negotiations.
A few of their duties include determining the value of your home, adding your home to the MLS, and conducting open houses at your property.
What to Look For
When you’re selling your home, a good listing agent will do far more than show your house to potential buyers. They have skills on how to present and market your home so that it looks attractive to buyers and buyer’s agents alike. Here are some additional qualities to look for:
- Recommendations for home improvement or home staging can help get your home sold. While this may cost you time and money, an agent that can make these recommendations improve your chances of a faster and higher priced sale.
- A list of references and contacts to contractors, photographers and moving companies is something that every agent should have.
- Local market data helps determine the price of your home. You’ll want an agent that has current market knowledge of your surrounding neighborhood, so that they provide the most accurate and attractive price to home buyers.
What to Avoid
Since the main job of a listing agent is to market your house for selling, there are a few red flags to look for, such as:
- Lack of market knowledge could result in your home being priced too high or low, making buyer’s wary of the home you’re selling. Make sure your listing agent has knowledge of the current market to determine the best price.
- Lack of a network typically means the listing agent is not familiar with the field of their work. Your listing agent should be able to recommend the companies and professionals that will help get your house ready to sell.
- Not a member of NAR not only means they don’t abide to the code of ethics, they might not belong to the MLS that helps list homes to agents and buyers. This could slow down or potentially halt the home selling process.
The Choice Is Yours
At the end of the day, make sure you interview multiple agents to find the right one for you. Ask questions to determine their experience and expertise and don’t be afraid to request references that can attest to their qualifications.
If you’re starting your search for the right agent, In-House Realty has thousands of trusted real estate agents in their nationwide network and their website provides additional tools, resources and more.
Each home buyer and seller will be searching for a specific real estate agent that fits their individual situation, but by sticking with our tips on what to look for and avoid, you’re on your way to finding one that’s right for you.
If so, subscribe now for tips on home, money, and life delivered straight to your inbox.