How to Choose a Real Estate Agent
First, you need to know the differences in the terminology. The term "real estate agent" and "broker" are often interchanged and can mean the same thing depending on geography. The term "agent" is often the blanket title used when referring to most real estate professionals, though it may not reflect the highest level of training they have completed.
An "agent" is licensed by the state's real estate commission, which means they have completed prerequisite courses and passed an exam.
A "broker" has experience as an agent, completed additional training courses, earned certifications, and usually has some managerial responsibility within a real estate company.
- A "REALTOR®" is an official member of the National Association of REALTORS®, a voluntary step that makes them a part of an organization of over 1.3 million agents, brokers, and appraisers involved in the business of residential and commercial real estate. They abide to a high standard ethics and have access to a wealth of training available to association members.
Finding the Right Fit
Look at several agents' interests, career focuses, trainings, and certifications and then narrow it down to a few that seem to best fit your requirements and needs. For example, if you are looking for new construction, there are training designations that an agent can earn that provide extra knowledge in the details of working with a builder, contractors, and specific bank financing. If you are looking for bank-owned property. there are agents that have specialized experience in Real Estate Owned (REO) property, which means the home is owned by the bank.
When you've narrowed down your list, interview those agents to see how their personality fits your own. Ask about their level of experience, their track record, referrals or reviews, what skills they have that will assist your individual concerns or needs, and how easily they can be reached by you during the overall process.
After you choose your agent, take some time to review both you and your real estate agents expectations, both in terms of what you are looking for in a property and what you are looking for in terms of communications. This will help things get off to a smooth start and keep the process moving. Here are some topics to discuss:
- Communication: How often do you want to be contacted? What is your preferred method of staying in touch?
- Motivation: Why are you looking to buy a home at this time? What is most important—location, size, features, or community?
- Time frame: Is there a certain date that you will need to be in your new home? How flexible is that date?
- Price: Have you determined a price range for your property search?
- Relocation assistance: Would you like relocation assistance in moving to or from a new area?
- Home buying decisions: Are there any other people who will be involved in the decision making process? If so, who will be the main point of contact during the process? Whose name will be on the deed & mortgage note?
- Home search plan: Do you have a plan to find your next home (online searches, attending open houses, etc.)? Your agent can help.
- Previous home purchases: Have you ever purchased a home before? You can apply the positive aspects to the process this time around, and change any negative ones.
- Concerns: Are there any concerns you have or challenges you are worried about? Your agent is there for you.
How is my agent paid?
When a seller sells their home, a portion of that sale price is paid to their listing agent as commission. That predetermined percentage of commission will be split with the buyers’ agent, usually evenly. This means that your agent does not get paid until the closing on the sale has taken place and the home changes ownership.