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 – and not just because their picture may or may not be on a public bench!
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 good 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 and additional educational resources for improving their practice and earnings.
Essentially, a real estate agent who is a member of the NAR holds the title of REALTOR®, while agents who are not members are not designated as such. A REALTOR® isn’t necessarily better than a real estate agent. It just means that someone without that title isn’t a member of that particular national organization.
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 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 the 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 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 your 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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 who specializes in what you’re selling.
- 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.
- A list of references and contacts for 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 who has current market knowledge of your surrounding neighborhood, so that they provide the most accurate and attractive price to home buyers.
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:
- 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.
- Dual agencies, like those 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 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.
- 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.
- 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 being a member of the NAR not only means that they don’t necessarily abide to 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®
At the end of the day, 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.
If you’re looking for the right real estate agent or REALTOR®, our friends at Rocket Homes® can connect you with one of their Verified Partner Agents in your area. 1, 2
Before you worry about choosing the right REALTOR®, though, start your house hunt by getting preapproved with Rocket Mortgage® today.
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