Buying or selling a home? You’re about to make one of life’s biggest and most important financial transactions, and you don’t want to go through it alone.
A good real estate agent can make all the difference. They will no the market backwards and forwards. They will have a network of contracts to help you through the transaction (e.g., contractors to get your home ready for sale, bankers to help you get the best mortgage rates), and they will be excellent negotiators. If you work with an inexperienced or ineffective agent, however, the outcome can be as disappointing as the process.
The key is to choose a real estate agent who will have your best interests at heart and who will work hard to get you the best deal possible. Here are eight tips to ensure you find an agent who will do exactly that:
1. Get Referrals
Most real estate agents find work primarily through referrals. If they do a good job, their customers tell other homebuyers and sellers about them, and they get more work.
You’ll have better luck finding a great agent if you ask for referrals from friends and family members. Asking around is especially important if you’re new to an area.
2. Check Angie’s List
If you don’t know anyone who has recently worked with a real estate agent, or if you want more information on recommended agents, check Angie’s List. While you can look at reviews on other websites, such as Yahoo! or Google Business, the reviews on Angie’s List are generally accepted as reputable.
You have to pay for an Angie’s List subscription, but it isn’t expensive. And if you find the perfect agent, or avoid a terrible one, the cost will be well worth your while. Plus, you might want to use Angie’s List to find movers, home repair specialists and more during your move and as you settle in.
3. Do Your Research
Regardless of what your friends and Angie’s List listings say, it’s still important to conduct some independent research on a potential real estate agent.
For one thing, you want to ensure that the agent is up-to-date on all licensing requirements.
It’s also a good idea to choose a Realtor, which is someone who is a member of the National Association of Realtors. This organization ensures that its members follow a strict code of ethics and that they stay up-to-date on the world of real estate with ongoing activities and education.
However, licensing shouldn’t be the only thing you’re concerned about. You’ll also want to choose an experienced Realtor who has closed on many properties and is an expert in the area where you are buying or selling. In many cases, an agent’s expertise is with a specific sub-division.
4. Meet Agents Out and About
Obviously, you shouldn’t choose a real estate agent before you meet him or her in person. But the best way to meet an agent isn’t to schedule a sit-down office visit. Instead, you want to meet them in their world.
When you’re interested in hiring a particular agent, track down some of his or her current listings and find an open house where they are likely to be. Head to that open house, even if you aren’t interested in the property, and watch the agent in action.
5. Check for Web Savvy
These days, most agents have a website, and many of them use the site to gain business. But that doesn’t mean they know how to use the web effectively to market a home.
As more and more homebuyers shop around online before setting foot at an open house, online marketing is increasingly important. Be sure your agent, or at least the team she works with, can get word out about your home online.
6. Don’t Get Passed to an Assistant
You may think that hiring a busy, go-get-’em agent is a good idea. And it can be. These types will often market harder, dig up more homes to show you, and generally do a great job.
They can also be too busy to deal with you person to person. Most agents can handle about six or seven clients at once. If the one you’re interested in is juggling a dozen clients, you’re likely to get passed to an assistant, or have your phone calls go unanswered for days at a time.
7. Ask a Lot of Questions
Questions will help you get a feel for an agent’s strengths and weaknesses. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, for instance, talk to the agent about how many first-time homebuyers he’s worked with recently.
Ask questions about the marketing process if you’re selling your home and about how many homes you can expect to see if you’re a buyer. If you’re a buyer, talk to the agent about your budget and ask questions about the local area. First-time homebuyers should talk to potential real estate agents about closing and other specifics to ensure the agent is prepared to walk them through the process step by step.
The goal isn’t to give a potential agent the third degree. It’s to ensure that the particular agent is a good fit for your needs and that he or she understands the local real estate market, something important for both sellers and buyers.
8. Get Recommendations from the Agent
Finally, many agents will be able to recommend mortgage brokers, insurance companies, contractors and other home buying and selling personnel. The ideal agent is well-connected but won’t push you toward any particular choice. And she certainly won’t accept a commission for selling the services of these other companies, either.