Buying and selling a home is a big deal. To ensure the transactions go as smoothly as possible, nobody will have more influence than the real estate agent you work with.
Agents represent buyers or sellers, but in a few cases, they’ll represent both parties, although this can lead to conflicts of interest. In short, a buyer’s agent helps buyers find and shop for homes, make offers, and negotiate with sellers.
A listing agent helps sellers price, list, and market their homes and negotiate with potential buyers.
Here are several tips to help you in this critical process.
Cast Your Initial Search Wide
Referrals are often the best source of finding a great agent. Ask friends, family members, and co-workers if they can recommend someone.
Also, check online reviews and your state’s real estate board to see if the agent has any pending litigation, complaints, or blemishes on their record.
Choose at least three agents to interview, and more if needed, to get a sense of who the right agent might be for you. You can also find agents through a lender’s real estate agent network or a referral service.
The Agent Should be Licensed
A licensed agent must complete appropriate courses of study and pass a state exam. To confirm a potential agent is licensed in your state, you can check with a state agency or trade organization that oversees these professionals.
Some agents also get certifications for specialized groups of buyers, such as seniors and service members, or for dealing with certain types of properties, such as luxury homes. If you fall into a specialized category, ask the agent if they have training or credentials that correlate to your category.
Chemistry is Key
Good chemistry is everything in a real estate transaction. You must feel comfortable and confident that your agent will do all the hard work required to make the deal happen.
You must also feel comfortable asking questions, ensuring you get full explanations and that the realtor puts in as much time as needed to allay any fears or concerns you have during your screening process.
Trust your intuition. If you aren’t comfortable with the agent, keep looking. Good rapport is essential, and you should not ignore that element.
No Dual Agents
A real estate agent representing both parties can create distrust because they have two conflicting obligations: Getting the seller’s highest price and the buyer’s lowest price.
Using the seller’s agent might seem attractive because you think it will help your offer get accepted, but with a bigger commission on the line, the dual agent has more to gain and could push one or both parties into a bad deal while nicely lining their own pockets.
Remember, the seller hired the agent first, which may give them the edge in holding the seller’s interest above the buyer’s.
Ask potential agents if they will represent your interests only through the process, and request a written form that discloses the nature of their relationship with you.
So many real estate agents treat selling homes as a side hustle. Avoid these people at all costs. They have less skin in the game than a dedicated agent who sells homes full-time.
Full-time pros have more experience, knowledge, and insights into market conditions. They are also better at helping buyers and sellers avoid pitfalls that cost thousands of dollars.
Look for Experienced Agents Only
Let someone else help out a beginner. Do not gamble that somebody new to the game will do as well, representing your interests as someone with 20-plus years selling real estate.
Drilling down even more, look for an agent with a long track record of serving clients like you. Ask for names and references, then call those references to confirm their experiences.
Busy agents also have assistants who help them juggle several deals simultaneously. Be sure to ask how involved any assistant will be and how quickly you can access the agent if needed.
An efficient team can be a plus when buying a home but make sure you know the expectations and workflows going in.
Insist on superior service without making unreasonable demands, and pay only for what you get and nothing more.
Also, ask potential agents how long they’ve worked in the market you want to buy or, if you’re a seller, the neighborhood in which you currently live. Ask them how many homes they’ve sold in this market or how many buyers they’ve helped purchase in it.
You want to work with an agent familiar with the market in the neighborhoods you intend to buy or sell.
Ask How Much the Agent Will Be Paid
The standard real estate commission is normally between 5-6%, split between the buyers and sellers agents. However, you can negotiate a better deal, especially on higher-priced transactions.
As the buyer, you can ask for a rebate of a portion of the buyer agent’s commission. Sometimes, that rebate can spell the difference between getting a deal done or not, so play this card strategically as you mull over your circumstances.
When you can save money by going with a discount broker and can do it without compromising service, that’s another option to explore.
Ask About Results
Real estate agents are ultimately measured by their results. But it’s not only about how many homes they sell or how many buyers they help find homes.
If you’re selling, you want to know if agents sell homes close to their listing prices. You also want to know how long it takes agents to sell a home on average.
If you’re buying, you want to know if agents routinely persuade sellers to lower their asking prices. Ask how they negotiate deals and if they can cite examples where they succeeded in using creativity and industry knowledge to complete a deal.
For example, the best agents focus on something other than price during negotiations. They also negotiate favorable closing dates, fight for needed repairs on a home being sold, and advocate for their clients over what stays in a home after it’s sold and what goes.