These days, choosing a Realtor can feel like picking a needle from a haystack. There are so many options to choose from that many buyers and sellers wonder how they can zero in on the professional who will best meet their needs.
In light of that, we've created a list of tips for finding a real estate agent you can trust. Read on below to get a sense of what qualities you should look for in a Realtor and what the process is for finding the estate agent that's right for you. With any luck, these tips will help lead you to your perfect match.
What should you look for in a Realtor?
Before we get started discussing how to find the right real estate agent, it's important to take some time to think about what qualities make for a good buyers agent or listing agent. That way, you'll know what to look for when it comes time to narrow down your choices.
Licensing and certifications
The first thing to consider is what licensing and certifications each agent has under their belt. At the very least, everyone you consider should be licensed as a real estate agent in your state.
Beyond that, you may want to look for someone who is a Realtor, rather than simply being a real estate agent. Agents who are designated as Realtors are part of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). As a result, they have to adhere to a strict code of ethics during every transaction.
If you want to take things even further, some agents also have specialized certifications. For example, some are "senior real estate specialists," meaning they have taken specific courses on how to guide senior citizens through housing transitions. Other agents have a Green designation, which means they have a focus on sustainability.
Next, you'll want to consider the agent's experience level. Particularly for first-time buyers and sellers, it's important to have someone in your corner who's familiar with the process, and that familiarity comes with experience. Typically, this information should not be hard to find. Many agents will highlight their experience level on their website and other marketing materials as part of their digital marketing strategy.
Local market knowledge
In addition, you should try to hire an estate agent who is familiar with the state of your local real estate market. Truthfully, the techniques behind buying and selling will differ depending on whether you're in a buyer's market or a seller's market. Any agent worth their salt should be able to guide you through current market conditions and help you set yourself up for success.
The last criteria you should look toward is the agent's availability. In most cases, real estate markets move very fast. When a property comes up that you think might be a good fit, you have to be ready to make an offer. With that in mind, you should focus on choosing a real estate agent with whom it is consistently easy to get in touch.
How can you find a Realtor you can trust?
Now that you know what to look for in a real estate agent, the next step is to work on finding one who is the right fit for you. This section will cover how to go about finding your top picks from a sea of possibilities.
Ask for referrals
Often, the first step to finding a buyer's agent or listing agent is to ask around for referrals. While your family and friends who have recently gone through the process of buying a house are great places to start, your lender is also a good resource.
Whoever you end up asking, be sure to gather information on what they liked about their real estate professional, whether there was anything they didn't like, and why they feel the agent is worth recommending.
Do your own research
From there, the next step is to do some research on your own. These days, most buyer's agents and listing agents will have a fully fleshed-out internet presence. Take the time to go over their website, review their social media, and carefully read any online reviews or testimonials. Based on that information, you should be able to get some sense of whether you like what that particular agent has to say.
Interview your top choices
From there, you can start to work on putting together a shortlist of candidates. Ideally, you should be able to come up with two or three real estate agents you feel might be a good fit for you.
Once you have a few agents in mind, call them up or email them to ask to schedule a time to interview them. Any agent who's been in the business for a while knows that interviewing is part of the hiring process, so most should be happy to talk to you and answer any questions you may have.
However, if an agent gives you push back on this, it's generally a red flag. After all, odds are you'll want to hire someone who will communicate with you throughout the entire buying or selling process. With that in mind, if you don't get a positive response to your request, don't hesitate to move on to other options.
How do you interview a potential Realtor?
Out of all the steps in the process of finding a buyers agent or listing agent, the interview is arguably the most important. This is where you'll truly be able to get a sense of each agent's personality and be able to determine which one is the right fit for you. With that in mind, follow the steps below to ensure a productive and enlightening interview:
Be honest about your needs
Start the interview by telling each real estate agent about who you are and what your needs may be. Think beyond the obvious issue of needing to buy or sell your home and get specific.
If, for example, you're moving for a new job, mention that you're on a semi-tight timeline. If, on the other hand, you're specifically looking to sell your home as-is, you'll want to be upfront about that as well.
Listen to their pitch
Real estate agents need to know how to sell themselves to potential clients, so most real estate professionals have perfected their sales pitch. The good ones, however, will know how to tweak their pitch to tailor it to your needs. Listen with an open mind, but evaluate how well the information seems to suit your needs.
After you've both had the chance to talk, take the time to ask questions and listen to the agent's responses. Keep in mind how satisfied you feel with each answer.
If you aren't quite sure what to ask, we've compiled a list of suggestions below:
- How many years have you been in the real estate industry?
- On average, how many transactions do you close per year?
- Do you have any designations that set you apart?
- Are you a full-time or a part-time agent?
- Are you part of a team? If so, who will be my main point of contact?
- How will you find properties that meet my criteria?
- What is your plan for marketing my listing for sale?
- How does your commission work? What do you typically charge?
- How can I exit your contract if I'm not satisfied?
Review their contract and marketing materials
In most cases, your best bet is to wait to make your final decision until after the interview. The majority of agents will come with marketing materials in addition to their contract. You should take the time to review them all carefully before ultimately deciding who to use.
Making your final decision
Once it's time to choose your real estate agent, our advice is simple: Go with your gut. At this point, you've done your research and should have a firm idea of how each of your top candidates handles their business. Ultimately, you should choose the one you trust the most, the one you believe will have your best interests in mind when selling your home or helping you buy a new one.
Keep in mind, too, that if it turns out you made the wrong decision, you can always switch, or buy a house without a real estate agent. Most real estate agency contracts have fairly simple exit clauses. Be sure to ask each agent you interview about theirs so you'll know what your options are if you end up wanting to make a change.
The bottom line
The process of picking the right real estate agent for you may feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be that way. With a little legwork on your part, you should be able to streamline this process into a few simple steps. Use the tips above as your guide to help you along the way. With any luck, it won't be long until you find an estate agent who will be on your side.
Get the 'Dirt on the real estate market
Are you looking for the next hot real estate market? Want to know how new rules and regulations could impact your next home purchase or real estate investment? Would you like to find out which improvements to your property will get you the most bang for your buck? We cover all these things and more in our newsletter, Paydirt.
Sign up here to get our best insights delivered to you.