If you’re getting ready to buy a home, then you’re most likely looking for a real estate agent. Some people use sites like Redfin to look for homes themselves, but I prefer to use an agent who can guide me to the right home and help me work through all the fine points of the deal. Finding real estate agents is easy. This is how to find a good real estate agent.

Step 1: Find Real Estate Agents
I know, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the first step is just collecting lots of information about different agents. Here are four ways we’re looking for agents:

  • Go to open houses and collect cards from agents you seem to connect with.
  • Ask friends for referrals.
  • Search online for agents who specialize in your prospective area.
  • As you drive through your prospective neighborhood, write down the names and phone numbers on for sale signs.
  • Look at online listings and note the agent representing them.

Step 2: Whittle Down Your List
Your next step is to whittle down your list. First, look at the agent’s website. How many listings do they have? How many years of real estate experience do they have? Do they indicate a specialty? How many recent sales do they list?

Exclusive buyer’s agents won’t have listings, but they should show the number of recently closed deals on their website.

Step 3: Interview Three Prospective Agents
You can interview more, but three seems like a reasonable number. Use this time to get a feel for the agent’s style and to see if you feel comfortable with him or her. You should ask at least these ten questions:

  1. Are you a full-time agent?
  2. How do you inform clients of new listings?
  3. How do you guide me to the right homes for me?
  4. What’s your typical commission?
  5. How often do you close a sale for less than list price?
  6. How do you handle offers?
  7. How many houses will I see before I buy a home?
  8. Do you have references?
  9. Do you have a list of recommended vendors?
  10. What else do I need to know?

Step 4: Call the References
Most agents won’t provide you with unhappy references (you wouldn’t do this with an employer, either.) Don’t expect to hear a list of complaints. Instead, ask the reference what it was like to work with the agent. How were concerns addressed? How quickly did he or she respond to phone calls or emails? Was he or she on-top of the offer and closing process?

Step 5: Choose Your Agent
Choose the agent who best suits your needs. The agent may request a contract, but it’s not required. If this is a sticking point for you, choose a different agent. Then sit down to discuss your needs in a home, potential neighborhoods, and price range.

Your real estate agent is both a partner and a guide in the home buying process. You should be comfortable with your agent, but you also want someone who is professional and experienced. A home is the most significant purchase you will ever make (unless you collect Picasso’s), so take your time finding the right person who will help you find the right home.


3 Responses to “How to Find and Hire a Real Estate Agent”

  1. Shelley on January 22nd, 2009 4:01 pm

    I just wanted to point out that, although a contract, aka a Buyer’s Representation Agreement, is not required, it is a good idea for several reasons. Realtors work for the seller, regardless of whether or not it is their listing, unless they have a buyer rep with a prospect. Therefore, they are not in the best position to advise buyers. Also, many people do not understand that Realtors usually work strictly on commission and therefore do not get paid unless they actually sell you a home. I have seen time after time buyers who will work an agent to death, and then not buy from that agent. I believe that happens more because people are not aware of how it all works and less because they are unhappy with the agent. Buyer Reps simply state that if an agent shows you a home and you decide to buy it, they will represent you and get paid. By the way – sellers pay Realtor commissions, not buyers. So, sign the contract and assure your agent that he or she will get paid for the work that they do for you, and know that they will be just as committed to you as you are to them. Most of us do not want to work for free! By the way, I am not a Realtor, but am close to several.

  2. George Black on January 23rd, 2009 8:26 am

    Frankly, only a fool buys a home, “the most significant purchase you will ever make”, using a conventional real estate agent if an exclusive buyer agent is available (EBA). Exclusive buyer agents represent only buyers—never sellers—and thus have no ax to grind nor any prior entangling obligations to sellers.

    EBAs offer clients (yes, there is always a signed employment agreement) fiduciary level assistance and counsel in all phases of the home buying process:
    • finding lenders & evaluating loan options;
    • assisting clients in locating appropriate properties—even for-sale-by-owner properties (FSBOs)—suitable to the client’s needs, desires and budget;
    • evaluating prospective homes with an eye to protecting the client from deceitful sellers or their agents;
    • fiercely negotiating to achieve the best contract price and terms possible for their clients;
    • assisting with (unaffiliated) inspectors or other third-party experts for more thorough evaluation and possibly further negotiation to remedy previously unknown hazards or deficiencies and finally,
    • coordinating all the parties to the transaction to assure mandated repairs are performed and other contract terms are met.

    In short, the unique EBA value proposition is to do everything necessary to assure their clients vigorous 100% loyal representation from the beginning of the home buying process through closing on the property and beyond.

    No conventional agent or broker who represents home sellers can make that promise.

    More can be learned about EBAs at their association website: www. NAEBA.org.

  3. MoneyHacks Carnival–Frugalista Style! « LittleMissKnowitAll on January 28th, 2009 3:14 pm

    [...] presents How to Find and Hire a Real Estate Agent posted at Sound Money [...]

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