Buying or selling real estate is a huge transaction, and it can get pretty stressful. So, whether you are a buyer or seller, it matters whether the real estate agent that represents you is a perfect fit for your needs. How do you find a great real estate advisor, and what are the things you need to do to hire them?
Real estate agents help you throughout the transaction process, from advising you on the current market trends to guiding you through each process, making referrals for professionals you might need to rope in (such as home stagers, attorneys, inspectors, etc.), and helping you negotiate to get the best deal possible.
A buyer’s agent represents the homebuyer and helps them find the perfect home that fits their needs and budget and helps them make competitive offers. They have access to more home listings than a prospective buyer might find or have access to online.
A listing agent, on the other hand, represents sellers and helps them with marketing, pricing, listing, and negotiating counteroffers. They help you stage your home and know which repairs you need and which ones can be skipped.
You might also need the help of a referral agent, especially if you are looking for agents to represent you outside your locale or state.
Sometimes, an agent can end up representing both a buyer and a seller in a transaction, although some states don’t allow dual agency because there are risks for both parties in this arrangement. It is still best to have an agent that is solely in your corner during a real estate transaction.
When looking for a real estate agent, make sure that they are licensed by the state. Some agents are also licensed brokers, meaning they took extra training hours to pass the broker’s licensing exam. If your agent is a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), even better. Realtors are accountable to the Realtor’s Code of Ethics, and you can report them if they break the code.
You can ask your family and friends for a referral. This way, you know the agent is vetted by someone you already know and trust. You can also find some on social media and official referral sources such as NAR’s Find a Realtor. Or if you know a referral agent, they can connect you to someone. This is especially useful if you are looking to buy in a different state or metro, and have no personal contacts in that area.
Once you have a list of possible candidates, it is time to interview them. These are some of the things you need to consider when identifying who to hire.
When interviewing your prospects, ask them about their experience relevant to your situation. Have they ever represented a first-time home buyer? Do they have experience in doing deals for condos or co-ops?
Special certifications are a plus, especially for special circumstances. Seniors might benefit from hiring someone with SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist) accreditation. Other certifications include CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) if you want someone certified in residential real estate transactions; ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative) if you are a homebuyer; and SRS (Seller Representative Specialist) if you are a seller.
Aside from basic know-how, an agent who is an expert in the local market’s trends is a must. They can advise you on the different price points in the area, which properties are near schools and other facilities, or which houses are away from busy streets.
Their technical and marketing skills are also important to look at. How’s their descriptive writing for listings? Are they tech-savvy in terms of looking for resources and listings outside the traditional channels? How are their communication and negotiation skills?
It is best to work with agents whose availability matches yours. Can they go to house viewings with you at your preferred hours? Are they available for last-minute visits? Will they respond promptly to your calls and messages? If your schedules don’t match and they can’t dedicate time to your needs, the transactions might not go smoothly.
Some people prefer working with individual agents to build rapport and simplify communication for negotiations. Others prefer a team so that in case one agent is unavailable, there are others in the agency that can assist. Whichever your preference is, choose the best one that can cater to your needs.
Get a review from the last client they worked with. Ask them about their experience working with the agent, and what type of support they received. What challenges did they face with the agent? Will they be willing to hire that person or team again in the future?
When you’ve selected an agent, make sure to review your contract terms, including the agent’s commission. This is usually shouldered by the seller, and the usual rate is 5% to 6%. The listing agent and the buyer’s agent split the commission between them.
Bonus Tip: Sometimes, personality and chemistry also matter when hiring a real estate agent. Remember that they will be your partner throughout the stressful (sometimes complicated) transaction. It wouldn’t hurt to hire someone you can get along with. Make sure to choose someone who has your best interests in mind and will represent you well to get the best possible deal on buying or selling your home.
In today’s competitive market, getting a mortgage pre-approval helps speed up the process. This also helps you figure out how much you can afford and saves you time looking at houses beyond your price point. Getting pre-approved also shows sellers that you are serious about buying a home.
If you are a buyer, understand the loan process before entering bidding wars. How much can you afford? Do you have enough money for a down payment? Do you have enough set aside for earnest money, closing costs, taxes, and insurance?
It also helps if you already have the type of home, features you need and want, and priorities (such as nearby facilities, kind of neighborhood, etc.) in mind that you’d like in a home.
For sellers, look for a listing agent early because it takes a lot of time to get your home ready for sale. They can help you budget for repairs and staging and determine the price of your property.
Hiring a professional gets a better job done faster than doing it yourself. It might cost you a few thousand dollars, but the stress and workload they’ll shoulder with you and the guidance they can provide are well worth it. I hope this helps you find the perfect agent for your real estate needs.