Young woman searching on phone for realtor.

How To Find A Real Estate Agent: A Complete Guide

7-Minute Read
Published on June 1, 2023
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Real estate agents are licensed professionals who help people buy and sell their homes. An agent will walk you through the process of buying or selling a home and represent you throughout the real estate transaction.

Successfully buying or selling a home can largely depend on finding the right real estate agent to work with. This article will explain how to find a real estate agent, and how working with one can benefit first-time home buyers.

What Is A Real Estate Agent?

A real estate agent is a licensed professional who represents buyers and sellers during real estate transactions. They work independently or through a brokerage. If you’re buying a home, a real estate agent will provide relevant listings and negotiate on your behalf with the seller.

If you’re a seller, your real estate agent will provide comparable listings in your neighborhood and help you sell your home for the best price possible. Real estate agents earn a commission for their services, which usually ranges between 5% – 6% of the home’s final sale price.

Many people use the terms REALTOR® and real estate agent interchangeably, but they aren’t the same thing. A REALTOR® is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). So in other words, all REALTORS® are real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are REALTORS®.

What Does A Real Estate Agent Do?

Real estate agents help homeowners buy and sell homes by either acting as the listing agent or a buyer’s agent. Listing agents represent sellers during a real estate transaction and help them sell the home for the best price.

A buyer’s agent walks the home buyer through the process of purchasing a house and will negotiate with the seller on their behalf. Here are some common activities real estate agents engage in:

  • Listing homes on the multiple listing service (MLS) website
  • Scheduling open houses
  • Scheduling appointments with potential buyers
  • Showing sellers comparable homes in their neighborhood
  • Sending offer letters to sellers on the buyer’s behalf
  • Negotiating with the seller for a fair price
  • Walking the buyer through the closing process

What To Look For In A Real Estate Agent

Here are the key qualities you should look for in a real estate agent:

  • Knowledgeable of the local market
  • Referrals from friends or family
  • Has sold and listed many houses
  • A strong understanding of real estate contracts
  • Good communication skills
  • Always willing to negotiate to get you a better deal

How To Find A Real Estate Agent

It’s always a good idea to meet with several real estate agents before choosing the one you want to work with. If you’re wondering how to find a good real estate agent, here are five steps you can take.

1. Get An Initial Approval

The first step is to get an initial approval, or preapproval, for a mortgage. During an initial approval, your mortgage lender will review your finances and conditionally approve you for a mortgage. They’ll also send you a preapproval letter that outlines how much you’ve been approved for and the potential terms for your loan.

It’s important to get preapproved first so you know what kind of house you can afford. From there, your real estate agent can begin looking for potential homes that meet your needs and budget.

2. Do Your Research And Get Referrals

It’s important to do your own research on real estate agents and ask friends or family members for referrals. If they recently moved and had a good experience with a certain agent, you may want to meet with that individual.

You’ll be spending a lot of time with your agent during the home buying process, so you want to work with someone you trust. It’s also a good idea to check the online reviews for anyone you’re considering hiring.

And while recommendations are a great starting point, keep in mind that your friends or family may not have the same home buying goals as you. You can also find a real estate agent by attending open houses in your area, getting official referrals through the NAR or by visiting our friends at Rocket Homes.

3. Interview Multiple Agents

Once you’ve found a potential agent, you’ll want to interview that person to see if you want to work with them. Sit down with a list of questions, and let the agent ask you any questions they have in return.

As the agent answers your questions, pay attention to their responses and how comfortable you are with that individual. Does it seem like the agent understands your goals and what you’re looking for in a home?

It’s also a good idea to ask about the current housing market in your area. You want to work with someone who knows the neighborhood you want to live in. Make sure your goals align by asking about their work history and why they’d be the right agent for you.

4. Ask For References

Before making a final decision on who to work with, always ask the agent for a few references. From there, you can contact those references and see what their experience was like.

If their references are a little light on the details, you can ask them if they would be willing to work with that agent again. If they say “no,” you may want to rethink hiring that person.

5. Check Your Contract

When you hire a real estate agent, you’ll sign a contract with that person outlining the terms of your agreement. It states that you’re hiring that agent exclusively to help you buy or sell your home and explains the agent’s commission fees.

You should always read through the contract to make sure you understand everything before signing. If there’s anything you’re unsure of, you can ask your agent to clarify. This is the best way to ensure everyone is on the same page.

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Tips For Buyers And Sellers Looking For A Real Estate Agent

Asking the right questions can help you determine whether a real estate agent is a good fit for you. Here are some questions you can ask, regardless of whether you’re looking for a buyer’s agent or a listing agent:

  • “Are you in the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)?”
  • “Do you follow a code of ethics?”
  • “How many years of experience do you have?”
  • “Do you work with a real estate broker?”
  • “Do you work by yourself or as part of a team?”
  • “What kind of fees do you charge?”

Tips For Home Buyers

Here are some questions home buyers can ask when choosing a real estate agent:

  • “What type of representation do you provide?”
  • “Will you help with a bidding war?”
  • “Do you have access to the MLS or pocket listings?”
  • “Do you have any experience in the neighborhood I want to buy in?”
  • “Will you help me negotiate with the seller?”

Tips For Home Sellers

Here are some questions sellers can ask when choosing a real estate agent:

  • “Will you list the sales price at a competitive rate?”
  • “Are you comfortable handling negotiations?”
  • “Will you handle the ins and outs of a home sale?”
  • “How will you market my home?”
  • “Can you tell me about any recent home(s) you sold?”

Finding A Real Estate Agent FAQs

The following are frequently asked questions about real estate agents – they may help answer any lingering questions you still have.

How much commission does a real estate agent make?

Most agents earn between 5% – 6% of the sale price in commissions, and this fee is usually split between the buyer’s agent and the listing agent. The home seller is usually the one who pays commission. So if you sell a $400,000 home, you can expect to pay between $20,000 and $24,000 in commissions.

Do I need to hire a real estate agent?

Technically, you don’t have to use a real estate agent to buy or sell a home. Many people who choose not to work with a real estate agent are trying to avoid paying the commission fees. But this isn’t the best reason to choose not to hire a real estate agent.

If you’re a buyer, a real estate agent can help you find potential homes that meet your needs and negotiate an offer with the seller. They can also navigate the home inspection and negotiate for any necessary repairs. Unless you’re confident you can do these things on your own, you should probably work with an agent.

And as a seller, the right agent can help you list and sell your home for the best price. Data from NAR shows that for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) homes sell for less money than agent-assisted home sales.

Why should I work with a real estate agent?

All buyers and sellers can benefit from working with a real estate agent, but it’s especially helpful for first-time home buyers. An agent can help you navigate this process and do a lot of legwork on your behalf. Agents have access to the MLS and knowledge of the neighborhood and comparable sales.

The Bottom Line

The right real estate agent is someone who understands your goals for buying or selling your home and goes above and beyond to meet them. With a little research, you can find a competent agent with a proven history and established relationships in the real estate industry.

You can find an agent by asking for referrals and interviewing potential agents before you decide on one. When you’re ready to start your home buying journey, finding a real estate agent is just one step. You’ll also want to get approved for a mortgage. You can get started today by applying online.

 

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Jamie Johnson

Jamie Johnson is a Kansas City-based freelance writer who writes about a variety of personal finance topics, including loans, building credit, and paying down debt. She currently writes for clients like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Insider, and Bankrate.