How to Choose a Real Estate Agent

Kristie Lorette McCauley
Couple with real estate agent

Whether buying or selling a home, working with a professional real estate agent can benefit you. They have the knowledge and professional experience you can use to find the home of your dreams, or to find a buyer who thinks your home is the best one for them. If you have little or no experience finding a real estate agent, however, you might wonder where to start and complete your search.

Start Your Search

Before you can choose your real estate agent, you have to compile a list of your options. Fortunately, there are several different options for gathering he names and contact information for the real estate agents you can work with in your area.

Ask for Referrals

One of the best sources for finding real estate agent options is to ask people you know. Talk to friends, family members and coworkers that have recently bought or sold a home. Find out who they worked with on their transaction. If they had a positive experience working with the professional, ask for the agent's contact information.

If you are selling a home, gather referrals from other sellers. If you are buying a home, gather referrals from buyers. While an agent can buy or sell real estate, it is two different sides of the transaction, so the experience can vary depending on which side you are.

Search Online

Websites like RealEstateAgent.com allow you to conduct a search of real estate agents in the area where you are looking to buy or sell a home. Start your search with the neighborhood, zip code or address of the home. Once you have some of the agents that work in your area, you can start to narrow down your options.

Signs Around Town

Keep your eyes open for real estate agent signs popping up in your neighborhood or the neighborhood where you want to buy. Many agents specialize in specific neighborhoods or areas of town.

It is likely that you can find the same agent responsible for several buying and selling transactions in a particular neighborhood. Copy down their name and phone number so you can do your research and contact the agent you are considering.

Agent Characteristics

Real estate agents have different backgrounds and different experiences. In short, one real estate agent does not fit everyone's needs and desires. You can shop and compare real estate agents just as you would choose any professional you work with in life. You want them to help you in one of the biggest financial moves you make in life - buying or selling a home.

Once you have a list of possible agents, it is time to do your homework on each of them.

Licensing

Check the website where you find the agent or ask the agent directly if they are licensed as a real estate agent in the state where you are buying or selling. You can also check state licensing bureaus to ensure that the agent you want to work with holds a current real estate license.

Experience

Consider the agent's experience. Length of service is not necessarily the deciding factor. Someone new to the business might just be hungry enough to sell your home faster than someone who has an established business and 20 years of experience in the industry. The type of experience you are looking for centers more on the type of home you are buying or selling or the area.

For example, if you are looking to buy an art deco home in the Miami Beach area, look for a real estate agent that specializes in these types of properties in Miami Beach. If you are looking to buy a condo rather than a single family home, find an agent that deals only in the buying and selling of condos.

Personality

At the end of the day, you have to work closely with your real estate agent. If you are buying a home you may spend hours in the car driving around looking at properties. You spend hours on the phone and going back and forth via email. If you are selling a property, you spend a lot of time working with the agent to get your house ready to go on the market and to coordinate showings of the property to potential buyers.

Similar to dating, working with the right real estate agent means that the two of you are compatible and that your personalities jive with one another. Along with their licensing and their experience being up to par, make sure that your personalities work well together because you are going to be spending a lot of time together.

Conduct an Interview

Choosing a real estate agent is a lot like conducting a job interview. You want to talk with the agent by phone or meet with them face to face. Talk with them about their experience, their licensing and what they specialize in or what makes them different from the other agents from which you can choose to work.

Ask for references. Have them provide you with references of previous clients that have a similar situation to your own situation. If you are seller, ask for a seller the agent worked with in the last three to six months. Ask for sellers where the homes sold and for ones where the homes are still on the market.

During your interview, ask all of the questions that are important to you. This can include experience questions or how much of a commission they charge.

Check References

Once you have references from the agents you have interviewed, check their references. Call or email the clients the agents have provided. Introduce yourself and ask the clients questions about their experience working with the agents. Talking with clients that are in similar situations to your own can help you uncover what your experience is likely to be working with the same agent.

Check with the state attorney for the state where the agent is licensed. See if the agent has any complaints lodged against them. If they do have a complaint, find out the status of the complaint. If the status is closed, find out what the outcome of the complaint was. If the agent worked to resolve the issue or it was found that the agent wasn't at fault, it possible to still have a positive working experience with the agent.

The Better Business Bureau is another place to check for complaints against the agent. Take the same steps and conduct the same analysis of complaints lodged with the BBB as you do with the state attorney's office.

Narrow Down Your Options

After doing your homework, conducting your interviews, checking references and running a background check on your list of potential agents, you are ready to narrow down your list. Rank each agent according to the characteristics that are important to you. Mark agents off your list that do not meet your minimum criteria.

Continue to delete agents until you have one left - the one that meets all or the majority of your requirements.

Make Your Choice

Working with the right real estate agent can make or break your real estate transaction. Choosing the right one simply takes a little work on your part and can make your experience a positive one.

How to Choose a Real Estate Agent