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How to Find the Best Real Estate Agent or Realtor

Make sure your real estate agent is the right one.

How to Find a Real Estate Agent or Realtor

If you are already pre-approved, you are probably feeling pretty empowered right now. How hard can it be to go look at a house and put in an offer? A question that many homebuyers face is whether or not they should even hire an agent. After all, you could just pocket that commission for yourself.

Well, home buying or selling can be a difficult and winding road. It helps to have someone in your corner who knows the ins and outs of the process. If you’re unfamiliar with real estate contracts, negotiations, or the housing market, it’s a good idea to hire an expert. The expertise a realtor or real estate agent provides can be invaluable.

It’s easy enough to hire a realtor, but making the best choice for you could require some leg work. You could call any licensed agent and ask them for a listing or buying contract, but that could be an expensive mistake. Instead, if you’re a serious buyer or seller, weigh your options carefully, and identify what it means to be a good real estate agent.

Realtor talking with clients what sets a realtor apart from others.

A good real estate agent will be communicative, a strong negotiator, and knowledgeable about the market. A bad real estate agent will be a weak negotiator, and won’t provide much insight about the area or the home.

Becoming a real estate agent is no small task, it requires months of training online and in person. Real estate agents learn about contracts, financing, home inspections, and everything in between. If you want the best home buying adventure for yourself, you are going to need to work with people who are experienced and understand the common pitfalls that can happen during the home buying process. With one of the biggest purchase decisions in your life, you don’t want to settle. You want to make the best choice for you.

What Does a Real Estate Agent or Realtor Do?

There are over 2 million active real estate licenses in the U.S. In every state, the requirements to get your license can require anywhere from 30-90 hours of training, finding a broker to work under, and passing the state licensing exam. A real estate agent is trained in contracts, ethics, and more. Quality training and experience are what you want to look for in a realtor or agent.

A real estate agent’s role changes based on the day and the client. With some clients, an agent might need to act as a therapist, and with others, they might need to act more like a researcher, leveraging their access to resources and finding the perfect home for you. In every case, an agent should be uncompromising in finding you your ideal home or buyer. The best realtors are ones who will listen to you and understand exactly what you need.

A real estate agent will help with everything from your initial purchase offer, to being there at closing. Most of your communication from the seller or buyer will be relayed through your realtor, so anytime you are changing contract conditions or going back and forth about the price, you will be doing that through your realtor.

Although it’s clear your real estate agent is there to help you through the process and make sure you get the best deal possible. A misconception many people have is that realtor is just another word for real estate agent. When selecting an agent you should know their proper title.

What is the Difference Between a Real Estate Agent and a Realtor

Although a real estate agent and a realtor have the same job, there is a big difference between them. Both a real estate agent and a realtor have received 30-90 hours of training and are licensed in the state that they work. A realtor, however, is a member of a local real estate association and also a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). In order to become a NAR member, you need to pass their code of ethics training and belong to a local real estate association. This is the only distinguishing difference between a realtor and a real estate agent.

When you begin searching for an agent, talk to local associations to find out who works in the area and if they can give you recommendations. Members of community associations who stand out, can be great resources. That isn’t the only place to discover quality realtors, though. Next you can try taking your search online.

Where to Find a Good Real Estate Agent

Finding a real estate agent or realtor depends on how much research and time you want to devote to the process. For some, picking a realtor is as easy as plugging their information into Zillow or Realtor.com and seeing who calls them. For others, you may want to be a bit more discerning.

You can use the following methods to find a realtor:

  • Ask Friends and Family
  • Research Online
  • Use a Referral Program
  • Contact Local Associations
  • Attend Open Houses
  • Drive Around the Neighborhood

If you are looking for a realtor who has a record of success with people you trust, then consulting with friends and family would be a great way to find your potential agent. Combine that with online research and you will get a good sense of whether or not the realtor might be a good fit for you. A realtor with a strong online profile is a great indicator that the agent is professional and capable.

You can also find a potential agent by discovering who is active in the area you are thinking about purchasing a new home. Attend open houses to meet agents who are out and about and willing to put their feet on the ground. You can also drive around the area and look at for sale signs to find selling agents who are actively working in the neighborhoods you might be considering moving into. If you see an agent with multiple listings this can be a great indicator that they are successful and trusted by the community.

Questions to Ask a Realtor

Every real estate agent you meet and talk to should give you a better idea of what you are and are not looking for. Prepare beforehand and give yourself the chance to make an educated decision. When you are talking with a potential agent, you should know what questions to ask.

Use These Tips and Interview Questions to Help

Download Tip Sheet Here

Interviewing a few different agents is a great way to get a sense of who you get along best with, and gives them an opportunity to earn your business. The first thing you want to do when discussing business with a realtor is to get a sense of who they are and how long they have been licensed.

Find out how good of a deal they have gotten for their clients in the past by finding out what their average list price to sales price is. It’s important that you get a sense you can not only trust the agent you work with but that they are fully transparent and have your best interest at heart. Find out from them on average how long it takes to close, how they are going to communicate with you, and when they are going to be available to help. You can even ask them how they handle sales in a competitive market. Asking these specific questions along with the questions in our tip sheet should do a great job of helping you understand whether or not they will be the right fit for you.

How to Tell if a Realtor or Real Estate Agent is Good

One of the easiest ways to see if an agent is qualified and successful is by investigating their reviews online. Although you should take reviews with a grain of salt, a lot of negative reviews can be a serious red flag. Look at their online reviews on Google, Facebook, and the Better Business Bureau. If they have penalties or actions against them, this can be another major red flag.

You can also call up their past clients, or reach out to the reviewers to get the full story and hear firsthand about their experience. If most of an agent’s past clients are happy and satisfied with their work, this is a great sign that the realtor is good. Another source of info could be the state realtor database, which houses information on every licensed real estate agent in the state.

A truly outstanding agent has also continued their education and may have one of the following certificates:

This certification gives the agent additional education about dealing with residential real estate.

This training provides additional information on helping buyers with their transactions.

This training provides additional information on helping sellers with their transactions.

This training helps agents improve their services for buyers and sellers that are over 50 years old.

A good realtor is a negotiator who puts their client’s needs and interests before their own. Although there are certain laws and regulations that create a fair environment for home sellers and buyers, there are agents who will prioritize their client’s needs over a commission or anything else to make sure you get the best deal possible. Most first time home buyers or sellers make the mistake of using the first person suggested. Whoever your realtor is, you will be spending a lot of time with them. Doing a little research can not only save you money but improve your entire experience. Those aren’t the only common mistakes people make though.

Common Mistakes When Finding a Realtor

Since this is such a big decision it might seem a little scary, the good news is you can learn from other’s mistakes. We have put together a list of common pitfalls that home buyers and home sellers encounter when they don’t have much experience.

You can make the experience a lot easier on yourself if you know what questions to ask, and what to expect.

Hire Professionals With Experience – Not Your Close Friends

Even though it may be tempting to hire a close friend or family member to help you sell or buy a home, this may not be the best choice. You want to work with someone who can get you the best deal possible, and although you may know someone who is a real estate agent, it does not mean they are necessarily qualified. While they might be, it’s important to treat every candidate the same. You shouldn’t just jump into a relationship with a realtor because you know them. Sometimes your friend or family member may not have the connections or the ability to negotiate the best deal possible for you. Years of negotiation experience is going to pay off in the long run for your costs.

Know the Difference Between Buyer and Seller Agents

If you’re selling your house, you are going to look for different qualifications in a realtor compared to someone who is buying a home. While both a buyer and a seller’s agent should have a strong grasp of contracts and negotiations, a seller’s agent and a buyer’s agent are specialized.

A seller’s agent is someone who should have a marketing plan for your home. They should be working to make sure the listing is in front of as many potential buyers as possible, and they should be able to get you the most amount of money when you sell the home.

A buyer’s agent on the other hand should know the history of a home and an area, and should be excellent at understanding and knowing exactly what their buyer needs are. They should have a strong grasp of the buying process and be able to help you find the best deal possible when it comes to inspection and title companies. Selling agents don’t have to worry about financing whereas buyer agents do.

Read Over Your Contract

Without a doubt, to many people, contracts are one of the most boring parts of the process, but it is also one of the most important. You should know how long your agent is under contract with you and how much they will get paid.

Traditionally, the seller pays real estate commissions somewhere along the lines of 6%. The payment info should be explained in your contract. Also, your contract should describe exactly how long the contract is for. If your agent isn’t doing a satisfactory job and you want to utilize someone else, you want to give yourself the freedom to change your mind after a few months. That is why you should make sure you won’t be under contract for too long. It’s standard to be under contract for anywhere from a few months to a year, but after that, you may want to consider revising the deal if you don’t want to be locked in forever.

Hire a Strong Negotiator

One of the biggest requirements of being a successful realtor is being able to negotiate. This abstract art form is what separates elite agents from their less experienced counterparts. Knowing when you can and can’t negotiate is also part of the art. If you want to get the best deal possible, you have to hire someone who can negotiate on your behalf and has a strong ability to talk the price up or down. Risky negotiation tactics such as lowballing or rejecting an offer can be handled skillfully by more experienced negotiators, so make sure you are hiring the best.

Ask For References and Use Them

This is the one step that many buyers and sellers are either unaware of or unwilling to do. However, having a ten-minute conversation with a few people during the week is well worth your time. It is a great way to collect information about the agent you are currently thinking about working with. The more information you have, the better educated you are going to be, and the better your decision will be.

In Conclusion

Go with your gut. Although it’s important to consider different options, ultimately the choice will be based on instinct. Consider everything, but when you’re ready to decide you should.

There are 2 million licensed real estate agents in America, so identifying potential candidates can be difficult. If you trust your gut it will usually take you in the right direction. A good real estate agent should be able to help you sell or buy your home quickly. A great real estate agent will hold your interests above their own and make sure you have an amazing experience.

After you have found a great agent, the next step is the fun part, house hunting! Read the next chapter to find out more about shopping for a home , and how you can make the experience as smooth as possible.

Ready to Start House Hunting? Be Prepared to Make an Offer by Getting Pre-Approved

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Resources

Braverman, Beth. “How To Find The Best Real Estate Agent.” Bankrate,
Bankrate.com, 11 Sept. 2019, www.bankrate.com/real-estate/finding-best-real-estate-agent/.

Way, Natalie. “How to Find a Real Estate Agent: Where to Look, What to Ask.”
Real Estate News and Advice | Realtor.com®, Realtor.com, 31 Oct. 2018, www.realtor.com/advice/sell/find-a-realtor/.

Continue on Your Home Buying Journey

After you have found a great agent, the next step is the fun part! Our House Hunting Guide is the next chapter of your Home Buying Journey. Continue reading to find out more about shopping for a home and how you can make it as simple and enjoyable as possible.

Next Step: House Hunting Guide