Follow These 3 Steps to Find a Real Estate Agent
Follow These 3 Steps to Find a Real Estate Agent
When you’re planning to sell a home or buy a home—it’s a big deal. Sure, you can do it on your own, but it’s a complicated process and will take up a lot of your time. There are some things that are better left to the experts, and real estate is one of them.
Yes, we are a company with over 500 real estate agents, all operating in the Greater St. Louis area. So if you’re here, you’re already close to finding an agent! But more than anything, we want to make sure you find the real estate agent that is the best fit for you. And that’s true whether we turn out to be that agent, or not.
Here’s the issue: According to the National Association of Realtors, there are 1.3 million realtors in the United States! How on earth do you find an agent that will get you the results you want?
With a little thought and research on your part, you can find an agent that will make the home buying or home selling process a whole lot easier. We’ve got some tips for the best way to narrow the search.
The first step in finding a good real estate agent is to ask for referrals from people you know. Family and friends who have recently moved are a great source of information. You’ll get honest opinions from people who want the best for you and have nothing to gain by recommending, or steering you away from, any particular agent.
You also know how closely your acquaintances’ circumstances mirror yours. If they have a similar lifestyle, tastes, and budget, chances are an agent who was a good fit for them will also be a good fit for you.
Look in your own neighborhood if you’re selling, or your desired neighborhood if you’re shopping. Quite often a few names will show up on yard signs in a specific area. Finding a real estate agent that’s familiar with the market is important, and this can give you a clue as to who might be a neighborhood expert.
Once you gather a few real estate agents’ names, check their websites for their current listings. This is especially important when you’re buying. You don’t need to find your dream home among what’s offered, but you want to be sure the homes listed fit your criteria and budget. An agent might specialize in million-dollar suburban homes, condos in the city, rural properties with acreage, or vacation homes. Make sure to find someone who can match your wish list.
Research—Do a Little Digging
Once you’ve checked that the potential agents on your list deal with homes that fit your needs, it’s time for a little more investigation.
Most real estate agents have a strong online presence with a website and active social media accounts. Much of their success depends on having good name recognition in the community where they work, so they work hard to develop positive relationships with their clients.
To learn about a real estate agent’s reputation, online reviews can be a good place to start. Remember, though, reviews don’t always tell the whole story. Not everyone who is happy bothers to write a review. And negative reviews should be taken in context. Being unhappy because an agent arrived a little late to a showing is significantly different from a complaint about unprofessional or unethical behavior.
Also, be aware that any company can lay down cash on a slick advertising campaign. High-profile advertising is no guarantee that a real estate agent will do a good job for you. Instead, look for an actual endorsement from a trusted source.
Check that the agent is licensed and has the appropriate credentials. Are they members of a professional organization? A few examples: NAR (National Association of Realtors), CRS (Certified Residential Specialist), ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative), or SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist). You can also contact the Better Business Bureau for their ranking, and make sure there are no disciplinary actions pending by state regulators.
Review—Interview the Candidates
By now your research to find a real estate agent has hopefully narrowed your search down to three or four contenders. Now it’s time to meet them face-to-face.
This is essentially a job interview. Don’t be shy about asking questions so you fully understand the process. You are looking to find the real estate agent who will do the best job for you. Here are some questions to ask and what to look for:
- How many homes have they sold and how many listings do they currently have? A low number isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker—everyone has to start somewhere. But keep in mind that someone selling real estate as a side job may not be able to devote the same amount of time to you as a full-time agent.
- What is their list price to sales price ratio? Real estate agents have access to a lot of data and should be willing to share it. As a buyer, you want someone who can successfully negotiate prices down to save you money. As a seller, you want someone who can get you close to your asking price, or maybe even more.
- What are the details of their contract? How much commission will they get? What is the length of the contract? Will there be penalties if you decide to stop using them?
- Are they part of a team or are they flying solo? It’s nice to have an agent supported by a team, provided you have the same level of trust in the other agents. If they’re on their own, you only have to deal with one person—but they run the risk of spreading themselves too thin.
- Are they a dual agent? A dual agency handles the purchase for both the buyer and seller of a home. If this is the case, the agent must disclose it to both parties. Be sure to ask a lot of questions to make sure you are satisfied with how they will handle any potential conflicts of interest.
- If you are the seller, how do they plan to market your house? How will they find and target the right pool of potential buyers?
- If you are the buyer, do they handle other buyers like you? For example, if you will have an FHA or VA loan, do they have that experience?
- Are they affiliated with other service companies you may need, like inspection, title, or mortgage companies? Do they have repair or maintenance providers they can recommend to help ready a home?
- How do they plan to communicate with you (phone, text, email) and how many showings do they hope to have for you, and how often? Do you get the sense that they’ll be flexible and patient with your schedule?
- Ask them to put you in touch with some recent clients as references. Refusing to do this for you should be a red flag.
- Finally, do they ask you good questions to get to know you? By the end of the conversation, they should have a clear picture of your goals, priorities, family situation, must-haves, and areas where you’re willing to compromise.
Do Your Homework and Trust Your Gut to Find a Real Estate Agent
Getting referrals, doing some research, and asking questions during interviews are the keys to finding the right real estate agent. You need to find someone who you trust, and who listens and understands you. Quite often, the choice comes down to who you “click” with. There’s nothing wrong with basing your decision on personality, provided they have all the professional attributes to go along with it.
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