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How to find a good real estate agent: A buyers’ guide

How to find a good real estate agent: A buyers’ guide

Buying a home is no small feat, and it’s one of the biggest financial decisions of your life. When you’re ready to buy a house, finding a real estate agent with the right experience to guide you through the process is key.

There’s no shortage of agents vying for your business via online ads, yard signs, and even billboards. And with so many professionals to choose from, finding the right one can feel overwhelming. Follow these seven steps to learn how to find a good real estate agent, so that you hire the perfect pro for your purchase.

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1. Get Preapproved for a Mortgage

Sometimes, home shoppers hire a real estate agent and dive into their home search before they ever talk to a mortgage lender. But it’s smart to consult with a mortgage lender first, before you talk to anyone else, to understand how much you can afford to spend on a home.

Getting preapproved for a mortgage educates you on the maximum amount you can borrow and identifies any issues that may need to be worked on early in the process. This helps you stick to homes in the right price range for you. In addition, it will show both agents and sellers that you’re a serious, qualified buyer. In competitive markets, you’ll likely need a preapproval letter for sellers to even consider your offer.

2. Ask Friends and Family for Referrals

Ask people in your network if they can recommend an agent with whom they’ve had a good experience. Ideally, you want someone who has experience working with clients in circumstances similar to yours. The needs of first-time homebuyers, for example, are different from those of repeat buyers or homeowners who are looking to downsize. And a condo specialist will have a different type of knowledge than an agent whose expertise lies in single-family homes.

Many consumers look for a real estate agent who is a Realtor — with a capital R. That means they’re a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and have formally agreed to abide by the group’s code of ethics, among other things. Some Realtors also have certifications to show that they’ve completed training in a certain area of expertise.

3. Research Potential Candidates

If you’re considering a particular agent, start by examining their online presence. Check their website and social media accounts, noting whether they have closed deals in your specific area.

Take a look at their online reviews, as well. Don’t worry about one or two negative reviews, but more than that could be a red flag. And be sure to check with your state’s real estate regulator to confirm that the agent is licensed and find out whether they have any disciplinary actions.

4. Interview at Least Three Agents

An interview is your opportunity to get a sense of the agent’s work style and experience. You want to find someone who is familiar with your particular area and understands your budget and needs.

Questions to ask Realtor candidates include how long they’ve been a real estate agent, whether they work full-time or part-time, how many clients they currently have and how long they typically work with buyers to close on a home. It’s also a good idea to ask the typical price range and neighborhoods of homes they help their buyers find, how they help buyers stay competitive in this market, and what their commission fees are.

5. Request References — and Check Them

Ask the agents you’re interviewing to provide information on homes they’ve listed and sold in the past year, with contact information for at least a few recent clients. Reach out to those clients to find out their experiences and what type of support the agent provided throughout the process. Ask whether they’d hire that agent again for their next real estate transaction.

6. Trust Your Instinct

Above all, go with an agent you trust and will feel comfortable with if the road to closing gets a little bumpy. If someone gives you a bad vibe during your interview, that’s unlikely to change when you start working together.

7. Take a Close Look at Your Contract

Once you select an agent, your contract should spell out all the terms to which you’ve agreed, including the real estate commission. Traditionally, though, the seller pays this fee, not the buyer — between 5 and 6 percent of the sale price of the home, with half going to each agent. The commission rate is often negotiable, however.

In a challenging housing market like today’s, where low inventory and high prices can restrict your buying options significantly, having a trusted agent by your side really makes a difference. Follow the steps above to find the best real estate agent for you, and together, you can start your journey toward finding the right home at the right price.


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