The world of buying and selling real estate has changed in recent decades. It used to be that prospective homebuyers would find an open house in their target neighborhood or go down to their local real estate office to meet with an agent. Those methods are still good practice, but technology has added a lot to the entire process of shopping for a house. Here are some tips for finding the right real estate agent for you.
- References: Prospective employers often call references when deciding on whether or not to hire someone for a job. It’s the same thing with finding a real estate agent. Ask for the phone numbers or emails of former clients who can tell you about their working experience with the agent. Also, take advantage of technology and read reviews about the agent online to see if they match up with what the references said or if they differ in any way. Don’t be afraid to ask friends or relatives if they have recommendations about agents they’ve worked with recently. Friends and family are a great source of information, but still meet with the agent to see you’re on the same page. Just because an agent was perfect for your best friend doesn’t mean he or she will be right for you.
- Interview: This sounds a little formal, but really you just want to meet with an agent first before any work starts. Meet with more than one agent. Agent Number 1 might seem like the right fit until you meet Agent Number 3, who, it turns out, knows your target neighborhood even better than the other options. Ask a lot of questions about what you’re looking for in a home or neighborhood. The prospective agent should be able to answer your questions thoroughly and to your satisfaction.
- Research an Agent’s License: Agents are required to have a license so check with your state’s real estate board to make sure he or she is licensed. Make sure there aren’t any legal issues or disciplinary actions either.
- Specialties: Most prospective homebuyers have a list of requirements or wishes. Some of those requirements might take an agent who specializes in specific things. A lot of agents focus their attention on specific areas, so if you’re looking into a neighborhood you can find someone who knows it well. Some people like certain types of architecture or vintage houses (and we love you, by the way!) and there are agents who can also help with that.
- Networking and Connections: Top real estate agents are usually pretty dialed into their communities. They have good working relationships with other agents, lenders, escrow companies—you name it. It’s a sign that they work well with others. It also means that they can give you a referral if you need one. A real estate agent probably won’t be an expert in all of these fields but that’s OK if they know people who are.
- Tech Savvy: This has been one of the biggest game changers in buying and selling homes. Real estate agents are now online. You can look through their listings, read about their successes and learn if they have specialties. It makes the process of finding a real estate agent a little easier. Tech-savvy agents also gain access to new listings and trends quickly. That said, still meet personally with an agent before agreeing to work with him or her. Computers are great tools but they’re not a substitute for a personal connection.
- Listening: This might seem obvious, but it’s so important that an agent really understands your needs, wants, budget and boundaries. If you’re buying or selling a home, it can be big endeavor and the right real estate agent can help make the process easier and less stressful. Is your agent gathering information that will help the process? Do you they understand why you have specific requirements? For example, how many kids you have, how many bedrooms you’ll need or what the school district is like? Do you want a backyard for your dogs? Do you need to be close to public transportation for your job? Is the agent keeping these things in mind when looking for properties? A good agent wants to find the best property possible for your family.
- Contact: The best real estate agents are good at keeping in touch and returning messages. Agents usually keep their clients in the loop of whatever they’re doing, what they’ve found, what they’re looking for and what their next stop is. They’ll also get back to you in a timely manner. (Although give them a reasonable amount of time to respond in case they’re in the field with another client or having dinner with the family. Not to worry. A good agent will get back to you.)
At the end of the day, remember that you’re making a big financial investment and you’ll likely live in a house for years to come. Don’t settle for a house that doesn’t work for you or an agent that can’t help get you the right home. When making a commitment this big, you deserve to get exactly what you want.