Clients meeting with a realtor in home.

How To Choose A REALTOR® Or Real Estate Agent

7-Minute Read
Published on April 20, 2021

When it comes to buying a 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.

Whether you're 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 real estate agent that’s right for you.

REALTOR® Vs. Real Estate Agent

The one real difference between a REALTOR® and a real estate agent is that the former is part of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and adheres to that organization’s Code of Ethics. Being a REALTOR® and part of the NAR gives agents and brokers discounts along with additional educational resources for improving their practice and earnings.

Essentially, a REALTOR® isn’t necessarily better than a real estate agent. It just means that someone without that title is not a NAR member.

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Tips On How To Find A Good REALTOR® 

Before you can sign a buyer’s agency agreement and lock in your choice of REALTOR®, you’ll need to find one you want to work with.  If you’re just beginning the process of finding a REALTOR® to buy or sell your home, it’s easy to feel like you don’t know where to start. Here are a few general actions you can take as you begin to look for the right real estate agent.

1. Ask Around

If you’ve never worked with a REALTOR®, or if you don’t know of any in your area, getting referrals from friends and family is a great place to start finding potential REALTORS®.

2. Meet With Several REALTORS®

Don’t feel like you need to work with the first REALTOR® you meet. It’s a good idea to meet with several REALTORS® to find ones whose style and personality are a good match for yours.

3. Attend Open Houses

Stopping by open houses can not only give you an idea of the types of inventory currently available, but it can also help you make connections with local REALTORS®.

4. Do An Online Search

Another great way to find potential REALTORS® in your area is to look online, especially now in the age of Zoom meetings and virtual real estate tours. As you’re searching, check out agent reviews to see what former clients have to say about their experience.

If you’re looking for the right real estate agent or REALTOR®, our friends at Rocket HomesSM can connect you with one of their Verified Partner Agents in your area.

5. Ask Questions

When you do meet with a REALTOR® in person, over the phone, or on Zoom, be sure to come prepared with a list of questions to ask. The more you chat with a potential REALTOR®, the more confident you’ll be when you choose the one you want to work with.

How To Pick A REALTOR® Or Agent When Buying A House

As a first-time home buyer, you’re typically looking for a real estate agent after you get a mortgage approval through a lender. With your preapproval 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 your approval 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. This 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 said, you’ll want to work with someone who not only knows the market but understands the whole home buying process. Your buyer’s agent should have:

  • A successful track record: A 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 their location, demographics, school system and anything else that may be of interest to you.
  • Negotiation skills: They should have the skills to actively negotiate price and terms, the ability to assist in property inspections and the capacity to provide advice for improvements and repairs. A good agent, in other words, will be in the buyer’s corner throughout the entire home buying process.
  • Professional credentials: It is best if your agent has credentials, such as Accredited Buyer Representatives (ABR) or Certified Buyer Representatives (CBR). This is in addition to the REALTOR® credential everyone is familiar with, signifying they’re a member of NAR.

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 agents: 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 agency workers: Dual agencies – meaning the agent represents both the buyer and seller – won’t have your specific interests at heart and could present conflicts in your home buying process. For this reason, it’s wise to look for an exclusive buyer’s agent.
  • Poor reviews: Bad reviews can be a telltale sign of an agent’s work ethic and leave you wondering if you’d be better off buying a house without a REALTOR®. 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.

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How To Choose A Real Estate Agent Or REALTOR® When Selling A House

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 because 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 listing agent, also called a seller’s agent, will have experience handling, and preventing, any possible complications that may arise in the selling process. A listing agent 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

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 traits to look for in a good one:

  • Good communication: Communication skills are critical in a good seller’s agent, as they will be the liaison 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.
  • Successful sales history: 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 who specializes in what you’re selling.
  • Listing expertise: Recommendations for home improvement or home staging can help get your home sold. While this may cost you time and money, an agent who can make these recommendations improves your chances of a faster and higher-priced sale.
  • Contacts: A list of references and contacts for contractors, photographers and moving companies is something that every agent should have.
  • Market expertise: Local market data helps determine the price of your home. You’ll want an agent who has current market knowledge of your surrounding neighborhood, so that they provide the most accurate and attractive price to home buyers. 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.

What To Avoid

Essentially, the probability of selling your home lies heavily on the skills and knowledge of your listing agent, so here are some qualities to avoid when looking for one:

  • Bad sales history: A poor track record means that either the agent hasn’t sold a lot of homes or the homes sold for 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 in question were on the market.
  • Lack of experience: An agent with no experience selling homes like your house can also be a red flag. 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.
  • Minimal market knowledge: Lack of market knowledge could result in your home being priced too high or low, making buyers wary of the home you’re selling. Make sure your listing agent has knowledge of the current market to determine the best price.
  • Few connections: 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.
  • Missing credentials: Not being a member of the NAR not only means that they don’t necessarily abide by the Code of Ethics, but that they might not belong to the MLS, which helps list homes to agents and buyers. This could slow down or potentially halt the home selling process.

The Bottom Line: Think Carefully When Choosing A REALTOR®

Make sure you interview multiple agents to find the right one. Ask questions to determine their experience and expertise and don’t be afraid to request references who can attest to their qualifications.

Before you worry about choosing the right REALTOR®, though, start your house hunt by getting preapproved with Rocket Mortgage® today.

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Andrew Dehan

Andrew Dehan is a professional writer who writes about real estate and homeownership. He is also a published poet, musician and nature-lover. He lives in metro Detroit with his wife, daughter and dogs.