Buying or selling a home is a significant life decision, and finding the right real estate agent can make all the difference.
These professionals play a crucial role in helping you navigate the complex world of real estate transactions, making it essential to choose the right one.
In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what real estate agents do and the differences between real estate agents, realtors, and brokers.
From there we’ll review the differences between buyer’s agents and seller’s agents and what to look for in a real estate agent.
We’ll then provide step-by-step guidance on how to find a real estate agent and how to choose a real estate agent, whether you’re looking to buy or sell a property.
Read on to learn more about real estate agents, what they do, and how you can choose the best real estate agent to represent your real estate interests.
What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?
Before diving into the process of choosing the right real estate agent, it’s important to understand what these professionals do. Real estate agents are licensed individuals who represent buyers and sellers in real estate transactions. They act as intermediaries, helping clients navigate the complexities of buying or selling property.
Real estate agents perform various tasks, including:
- Property Research: Agents help buyers and sellers research properties, providing information on market trends, property values, and neighborhood statistics.
- Pricing Guidance: For sellers, agents help determine an appropriate asking price, while for buyers, they assist in assessing whether a property is priced fairly.
- Negotiation: Agents negotiate on behalf of their clients to secure the best possible deal. They handle offers, counteroffers, and other negotiations with the opposing party.
- Paperwork: Real estate transactions involve a significant amount of paperwork. Agents ensure that all documents are properly completed and filed, helping clients avoid legal complications.
- Property Showings: For sellers, agents organize property showings and marketing strategies. For buyers, they arrange property viewings based on their clients’ preferences.
- Market Insight: Real estate agents stay updated on market trends, helping clients make informed decisions about when to buy or sell.
Real Estate Agent vs. Realtor vs. Broker: What Are The Differences
In the world of real estate, you may come across several terms that describe professionals in the field. It’s crucial to understand the differences between real estate agents, Realtors, and brokers.
Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent is a licensed professional who has completed the necessary training and state requirements to represent buyers or sellers in real estate transactions. They work under the supervision of a real estate broker and can guide clients through the buying or selling process.
A Realtor is a real estate agent who is also a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Realtors adhere to a strict code of ethics and are committed to upholding professional standards. While all Realtors are real estate agents, not all real estate agents are Realtors.
A real estate broker is a higher-level licensed professional who has undergone additional education and training. Brokers have the authority to work independently or oversee other agents. They can also conduct real estate transactions on behalf of clients.
Buyer’s Agent vs. Seller’s Agent
When choosing a real estate agent, you’ll often encounter two primary roles: buyer’s agents and seller’s agents (also known as listing agents). Each has a distinct set of responsibilities and focuses on different aspects of the real estate transaction.
A buyer’s agent is an agent who represents the interests of the homebuyer. Their primary responsibilities include:
- Property Search: Buyer’s agents help clients find suitable properties that match their preferences, budget, and requirements.
- Negotiation: They negotiate on behalf of the buyer, striving to secure the best deal and terms possible.
- Market Insights: Buyer’s agents provide valuable insights into market conditions, helping clients make informed decisions.
- Coordination: They coordinate property viewings and inspections, ensuring a smooth home buying process.
Seller’s Agent (a.k.a. Listing Agent)
A seller’s agent, on the other hand, represents the interests of the home seller. Their main tasks include:
- Pricing Strategy: Seller’s agents help determine an appropriate asking price for the property, considering market conditions and property values.
- Marketing: They create marketing plans to promote the property, including listing it on multiple platforms, hosting open houses, and showcasing its best features.
- Negotiation: Seller’s agents negotiate with potential buyers and their agents to secure the best possible deal for the seller.
- Paperwork: They handle all the necessary paperwork, ensuring it is completed accurately and submitted on time.
What To Look For in a Real Estate Agent
Now that you have a clear understanding of the roles in real estate, let’s explore the essential qualities and attributes to look for when choosing a real estate agent.
One of the first things to consider is the agent’s expertise in the local real estate market. Look for agents who have in-depth knowledge of the specific neighborhoods or areas where you want to buy or sell a home. They should be aware of current market trends, property values, and any upcoming developments that could impact your decision.
Experience matters in real estate. While new agents can be highly motivated, seasoned agents often have a deeper understanding of the intricacies of the market and the negotiation process. Consider how long an agent has been in the industry and whether they have a track record of successful transactions.
Check the agent’s credentials and certifications. Ensure they are licensed to practice in your state and are in good standing with the local real estate board. Additionally, some agents may have earned specialized designations that indicate expertise in certain areas. You can find more details on additional credentials in the “Ask friends & family for referrals” section below.
Honesty & Integrity
Trust is paramount in any real estate transaction. Seek an agent who demonstrates honesty and integrity in their dealings. They should be transparent about potential issues with a property and provide straightforward advice. Avoid agents who prioritize their commission over your best interests.
Effective communication is crucial throughout the buying or selling process. Look for an agent who is responsive and readily available to answer your buying questions, selling questions or address any concerns you have. They should keep you informed about the progress of your transaction and provide regular updates.
A deep understanding of the local area is a significant advantage. Agents with local knowledge can provide insights into school districts, amenities, commute times, and other factors that may influence your decision. They can also help you identify neighborhoods that align with your lifestyle preferences.
Real estate is a network-driven industry. A well-connected agent can open doors and provide valuable resources. They should have a network of professionals, including inspectors, appraisers, contractors, and other experts, to assist with various aspects of the transaction.
How To Find A Real Estate Agent
Now that you know what qualities to look for in a real estate agent, let’s explore how to go about finding the right one for your needs.
1. Compare Agents Online
The internet has made it easier than ever to research and compare real estate agents in your area. Numerous websites and platforms list agents, along with reviews and ratings from previous clients. Take advantage of these resources to create a shortlist of agents who seem promising.
2. Ask Friends & Family for Referrals
Word-of-mouth recommendations can be incredibly valuable. Ask friends, family members, or coworkers if they have had positive experiences with any real estate agents. Personal referrals often come with insights into an agent’s work ethic and customer service.
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. Designations include:
- CRS (Certified Residential Specialist): Completed additional training in handling residential real estate
- ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative): Completed additional training in representing buyers in transactions
- SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist): Completed training aimed at helping buyers and sellers aged 50 and older
3. Interview Qualified Real Estate Agents
Once you have a list of potential agents, schedule interviews with them. This is your opportunity to ask questions, assess their expertise, and determine if you feel comfortable working with them. Interviewing multiple candidates allows you to compare and contrast agents to find the best fit. According to the National Association of Realtors, 80% of sellers pick the first agent they meet with. We do NOT recommend that approach! Consider preparing a list of questions that cover your specific needs and concerns. In the sections below on how to choose an agent to buy/sell a house, we’ve included a few questions you should ask.
Questions to Ask Buyer’s & Seller’s Agents:
- How long have you been an agent?
- Do you work full-time or part-time as an agent?
- How many clients do you have right now?
- Can you tell me about some of your recent transactions?
- What price range and neighborhoods do you typically work in?
- What does the market look like for buyers and sellers right now?
- How quickly are homes in my price range selling?
- What’s your availability?
- How will we communicate?
- Will I be working with you individually or with a team?
- Do you have references I can call?
4. Ask Agents for References
Don’t hesitate to request references from the agents you’re considering. Speaking with previous clients can provide valuable insights into an agent’s performance, communication skills, and overall satisfaction with their services.
How to Choose a Real Estate Agent to Buy a House
Choosing the right real estate agent to help you buy a house requires a tailored approach. Here are some additional considerations when selecting a buyer’s agent:
- Knowledge of Buyer Needs: Look for an agent who understands your specific needs as a buyer. They should be able to identify properties that align with your budget, location preferences, and lifestyle.
- Negotiation Skills: A strong negotiator can make a significant difference in the outcome of your purchase. Inquire about the agent’s negotiation style and their track record in securing favorable deals for buyers.
- Availability for Showings: Ensure that the agent can accommodate your schedule for property viewings. Timely access to new listings is crucial in competitive markets.
- Familiarity with Financing Options: If you require financing, consider working with an agent who has experience with various mortgage loan types and can provide guidance on the mortgage process. Your agent can also provide recommendations for a mortgage lender and help you avoid common mortgage shopping mistakes.
Questions for Buyer’s Agents:
- How long do you usually work with buyers (from first meeting to closing)?
- How many homes do you help buyers purchase each year?
- Have you helped buyers in these areas?
- Have you worked with buyers in this price range?
How to Choose a Real Estate Agent to Sell Your House
When selling your home, the right listing agent can make the process smoother and more profitable. Here’s how to choose the best agent to sell your house:
- Marketing Strategy: Ask potential listing agents about their marketing plans. They should have a comprehensive approach to showcase your property, including professional photography, online listings, and traditional marketing methods.
- Track Record of Sales: Review the agent’s history of successful sales, including the average time properties remain on the market and their list-to-sale price ratios. This can help you gauge their effectiveness as a seller’s agent.
- Understanding of Local Market Conditions: A seller’s agent should have a deep understanding of the local market and be able to provide data-driven insights on pricing and timing.
- Staging and Presentation: Inquire about the agent’s recommendations for preparing your home for sale. A good agent may suggest staging or upgrades to sell your home faster and for more money.
Questions for Seller’s Agents:
- How much is my house worth?
- Have you sold other homes in this area?
- How many homes have you sold this year?
- What kind of listing agreement do you use?
- How long will it take to sell my property?
Final Thoughts on How To Choose a Real Estate Agent
Choosing the right real estate agent is a critical step in your home-buying or selling journey.
The process may seem overwhelming, but by following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your goals and needs.
Remember that expertise, experience, and a commitment to integrity are key attributes to seek in an agent.
Take your time to research, interview, and compare agents before making a decision.
With the right agent by your side, you can navigate the complexities of the real estate market with confidence and achieve your property-related goals.
Helen Painter Group Realtors is here to offer our knowledge and expertise to help facilitate your home-buying or selling journey.
With over six decades of success behind us, you’ll surely have peace of mind knowing your best interests are being represented throughout the home-selling process.
How much do real estate agents typically charge for their services?
Real estate agent fees can vary, but they are typically paid as a percentage of the final sale price. The exact percentage can vary by location and may range from 5% to 6% of the sale price, with half going to the buyer’s agent and half to the seller’s agent. It’s important to discuss and clarify fees with your chosen agent before entering into an agreement.
Can I work with more than one real estate agent at the same time?
While it is technically possible to work with multiple agents, it is not recommended. Doing so can lead to confusion, conflicts of interest, and potential legal issues. It’s best to choose one agent who can fully represent your interests and provide dedicated assistance throughout the transaction.
How long does it typically take to buy or sell a home with the help of a real estate agent?
The timeline for buying or selling a home can vary widely depending on market conditions, the complexity of the transaction, and other factors. On average, it may take several weeks to several months. Your agent can provide a more accurate estimate based on your specific circumstances.
What happens if I’m not satisfied with my chosen real estate agent’s services?
If you’re not satisfied with your agent’s services, it’s essential to communicate your concerns and expectations clearly. You can discuss your issues with the agent and, if necessary, their managing broker. In some cases, you may be able to terminate the agreement and seek a different agent, but be sure to review the terms of your contract and any potential penalties for doing so.
Can I Buy a Home Without a Real Estate Agent?
Yes. You’re not legally obligated to hire an agent to help you buy a home — but it’s typically in your best interest to do so. Agents are experts; they know the market inside-out and can provide crucial assistance in both finding a home and negotiating a deal. This includes submitting offers, reviewing the purchase agreement, coordinating the real estate closing process and more. Plus, they can smooth the path if you encounter any hiccups along the way. In fact, 86% of homebuyers in 2022 used a real estate agent, according to NAR data. In addition, real estate commissions are typically paid by the seller, so as the buyer, their payment won’t come out of your pocket.