For many people, a home is one of the biggest investments they will ever make.  The process, on either side, can get complicated. And it’s not just about the money- stress, fear,  and confusion can all be involved, which is why the majority of buyers and sellers decide to (or should) seek out the assistance of a real estate agent.  According to Zillow Group Housing Trends Report,  up to 89% of sellers and 74% of buyers hire a real estate agent.

However, not all those that have hired an agent have been satisfied.  It’s about hiring the right agent for the job. You shouldn’t choose an agent based on just one factor, like how long they’ve been in the industry or the commission amount they charge. Think of it more like finding the recipe that the makes them the best fit for you and your needs.

So, here’s your guide to finding and hiring a great real estate agent near you.  One that meets your needs.

What does a real estate agent do for you?

You are pretty sure you want one, but you’re still not 100% sure what the agent is going to do exactly, when it comes to the sale or purchase of your home.

Education and experience.   The average American only sells a home every 10 years according to the National Association of Realtors.   Even if it’s not your first time buying or selling, you’ve probably already forgotten the process. An agent does this for a profession. They will walk you through every step of the process.

Research.  It’s a lot easier for an agent to determine market conditions and make suggestions to you based on those. They can arm you with comparables, cost per square foot homes in your favorite neighborhood, list-to-sold prices, estimated closing costs, and average days on the market that will ultimately help you make the right decisions. Not saying that you couldn’t do this yourself, but it could take awhile.

Resources.  It takes a village of professionals to get through a home sale or purchase.  Loan officers, title companies, repairmen, movers, inspectors.. and the list can get longer.  Most people close their eyes and pick, but a good real estate agent will have reputable resources ready to go,  or if they don’t, they’ll use a technology that can.

Where do you even start?

Ask family, friends, or co-workers for recommendations.  A great referral from someone you know can go a long way.  Although, there is plenty of due diligence to be done on an agent even if they came recommended.

If your family and friends don’t have recommendations,  you could give it the old google search “Realtors near me”.  This list could be endless, and leaves you on your own to compare them all. Other online resources,  like Transactly, provide an agent match that takes your information like location, the agent’s years of experience, price range, reviews and the qualities you’re looking for in an agent and narrows down the list of Realtors in the area that best suit you.  This cuts down on a significant amount of the leg work (guess work) you would be stuck doing on your own.

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What do you look for in an agent?

If you decide to compare real estate agents on your own, there are certain criteria you’ll want to look at for each agent to decide if they are worth making your interview list.

Reviews.  Just like most things you buy on Amazon,  a real estate agent probably has some reviews online.   How recent are the reviews? Are there any in your area?  Are most positive? While reviews can be helpful, it’s important to remember that they don’t always tell the whole story.

License and disciplinary actions. Real estate licensee information is public record. It’s recommended to do a quick search on the agents you are considering for an interview to make sure you’re aware of any disciplinary actions, ethics violations or revocations on their license.

Member of National Association of Realtors (NAR).  Agents who belong to NAR have agreed to follow its strict code of ethics, and it’s not required of every real estate agent.

Experience.  There are great real estate agents who have been in real estate only a couple years, and others that have been in it a lifetime with dissatisfied customers.  However, reviewing their years of experience and comparing that to your unique situation is still important. The number of closed sales they’ve had over the last 12 months can also be a good indication of their experience.

Social media presence. This may not occur to you as a shopping point, but it’s a good indication of how well your home will be marketed if selling, how up on technology the agent is, and if they distribute the type of content that you would want to read.

Ideally,  you’ll want to find the names and contact information of a few Realtors that you can interview further and compare to find the one that best fits what you’re looking for in a real estate agent.  After all, you are hiring them for a job.

It’s Time to Ask Questions

Once you’ve chosen a handful of agents, it’s time to schedule a time to talk with them. Whether in person or on the phone,  it’s important that you find out some additional information from each one on your list so that you can compare and contrast each of their answers.

Are they familiar with the area?   Whether buying or selling,  familiarity with the neighborhood is important.  Buyers purchase the neighborhood as much as the home, and sellers must market their neighborhood to attract them.  

What technology and tools do they use during the process?  It’s no secret that real estate has been one of the last industries to embrace technology. If you want an agent that’s willing to use FaceTime to show you a house or text you at 10 pm to let you know you’ve received an offer,  you better make sure they are at least somewhat up on technology. Beyond that, the efficiency of technology can improve your experience while cutting down costs for the agent.  They can then- hopefully- pass those savings to you.

If selling, what commission do they charge?  You have to understand how commissions are paid to both real estate agents before asking what they plan to charge. The seller pays the listing agent a percentage of the sale price and the listing agent pays out a buyer’s agent a percentage of that commission for bringing the buyer.  Commissions are negotiable, there is no “standard” only “Customary.” Although it’s not recommended to make the choice of agent based solely on commissions, it might give one agent a competitive edge over another.

If you are buying a house,  does the real estate agent offer commission rebates?  It’s not allowed in all states, but you can check the Department of Justice website to see if buyer agent commission rebates are allows in your’s.  If allowed, the buyer agent can give you back a percentage of their commission just for using them as your agent when you buy a house.

Use the interview to assess how compatible you are with the agent and gauge their responsiveness.  If they don’t respond back to your first request for an interview, move on! If they’re not responsive to you handing them your business, how quick will they be to submit your offer for your dream home?

Expectations

In addition to questions,  the interview with the agent is a great time to set out any expectations you may have regarding availability, communication, or marketing.   If you expect to have an open house every weekend for the next two months, 3D drone photos, and a professional staging company, it’s time to lay that out now.  Although it’s probably unrealistic, it’s important that you and the agent you choose can discuss what is realistic for both you.

As a seller,  it’s also important to discuss the agent’s pricing strategy on the home.  Their recommendation should be based on the local market, comparable properties sold in your area, and timeframe.  If it’s not realistic, it could be a costly mistake and your home could sit on the market for longer than anticipated.  

Choosing the Best Real Estate Agent

You’ve done your homework. You’ve interviewed multiple agents, compared their answers and approach- it’s time to hire a real estate agent. Don’t underestimate the power of chemistry.  The agent you choose will be advising you on how to buy or sell one of the biggest assets you’ll ever own- make sure you feel comfortable with them.

Once you’ve notified the agent that they’ve been hired,  they may ask you to put it on paper to make it official, depending on your market and if you’re buying or selling.  It’s important to read and understand the contract terms before signing. Not like all those other “click to accept the terms and conditions” boxes that no one ACTUALLY reads.  Ask your agent or attorney to clarify any of the terms that are unclear and make sure that the things you expect from your new Realtor are in that agreement as well. This holds them accountable to hold up their end of the bargain also.

It’s All About You

You’re never going to find an one size fits all agent.  To hire a GOOD real estate agent, it is going to take some research and communication.  All the criteria above will help, but ultimately, you have to hire the agent that fits you.  It could make all the difference on whether you get the highest price for the home you’re selling or find the perfect one to fit your family.   

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