How to Find the Best Real Estate Agent Near You
Whether you’re looking to buy or sell a home, learning how to find a real estate agent can be overwhelming. It takes time, but it’s important to pick the right agent to help you avoid headaches and scams.
Understand what a real estate agent does
A real estate agent is a licensed professional that can help you either buy or sell a home. A good real estate agent is a “local expert” with a wealth of neighborhood knowledge and negotiation experience.
Real estate professionals serve homebuyers and sellers differently. Also, there are title distinctions that you should know before hiring a real estate agent.
What do real estate agents do for homebuyers?
For homebuying, a real estate agent serves as a buyer’s agent, who helps you find a home and negotiate the purchase price. Your real estate agent can advise on current market conditions, help you make an initial offer and can even help with the closing process.
What do real estate agents do for home sellers?
For home selling, a real estate agent serves as a listing agent, which helps you with pricing, listing, home staging and showings.
What is a real estate agent vs. Realtor® vs. broker?
A Realtor® is a real estate agent who is also a member of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Meanwhile, a real estate broker is licensed to manage their own real estate business; real estate agents will typically work for a real estate broker.
5 tips on how to find a real estate agent near you
With more than 1.5 million Realtors® to choose from, you’ll need guidance to narrow your search. Whether you’re buying or selling your home, the following tips can help you choose the right real estate agent for your needs.
1. Talk to your lender
Before you find a real estate agent to buy a home, you should talk to your mortgage lender to find out how much you can afford. Your lender will decide your price range so that your real estate agent can match you with a home you can afford.
2. Use referrals
Personal referrals are a great way to find trustworthy local agents. More than two-thirds (68%) of sellers use an agent recommended by a friend or family member, according to a 2020 NAR survey. The survey also uncovered that 75% of buyers would use their real estate agent again or recommend their agent to others. Ask around to see if anyone you know has had positive experiences buying or selling a home.
3. Find a local realtor association
Another tip for finding an agent is to contact your local Realtors® association, either online or by phone. They’ll have a list of agents who work in the area in which you’re looking to buy. NAR also has a free online search tool.
4. Look at online listings
Online real estate listings can put you in contact with a range of agents. More than half (51%) of buyers purchased a home they first found on the internet, according to NAR survey data. If you find an agent you like through an online listing, you’ll want to check with your local Realtors® association or real estate licensing entity to verify their qualifications.
5. Interview several real estate agents
Once you have several real estate agents to consider, you should vet them with an interview. It’s important to interview several agents to make a good comparison and get a better idea of how knowledgeable they are about your neighborhood. The questions below can help you test the real estate agents’ knowledge.
Questions to ask your potential real estate agent:
→ What certifications, experience or training do you have in my area? Find out how long they’ve been in practice, how many transactions they’ve done in your area and the certifications or licenses they’ve earned. You’ll want an experienced agent, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer.
→ Would you please share contact info for a few references? References can tell you more about the agent on a personal level. You’ll want to know if the agent did a good enough job that the buyer or seller would use them again. An agent with no references could be a red flag.
→ How does your commission work? What are your fees? Knowing all the fees an agent can charge might help you make a better decision. Real estate agents make most of their income from the sales commission, which is divided amongst the buyer’s agent, seller’s agent and broker. The typical commission is 5% to 6%, paid by the home seller, but there is no standard commission rate. Realtors® can also charge consulting, brokerage or transaction fees, but they must have a prior agreement with you first.
→ How will you match homes in my price range? Find a real estate agent that will show you houses that you can afford. Otherwise, you risk wasting time in your search and can lose out on the perfect house in your price range.
→ What is your knowledge of the housing market today? A real estate agent should have local housing knowledge that you can’t simply get by searching online. A local expert can help you buy or sell your home at an optimal price.
→ How long are homes on the market in this neighborhood? Real estate agents should have a sense of how quickly houses turn over in your area to help you make a competitive offer or list your home to sell.
→ How will you help negotiate prices and make attractive offers? Negotiating prices is one of the most important skills to look for in a real estate agent. Knowing an agent’s game plan to help you buy or sell your home at the best price can make it easier to choose the right real estate agent for you.
Find a real estate agent you can trust
While the questions above help to test your real estate agent’s knowledge and qualifications, personal chemistry and communication skills also play a crucial role. You need to feel comfortable enough to trust this agent to buy or sell your home with your best interests in mind.
What should I look for in a real estate agent?
A good real estate agent has trustworthy referrals, a game plan for your home sale or purchase, extensive knowledge about the local housing market and excellent negotiating skills. While these are the green flags to look for, you should also know the red flags to avoid.
Red flags to watch for
Complaints: Similar to checking business reviews and ratings, you can check a real estate agent’s license and/or find out what complaints have been filed against them by contacting your state’s licensing board. This step can help you avoid scammers or people misrepresenting themselves as real estate agents.
Understand who the real estate agent is working for: Your agent might not be acting in your best interests if they represent both the buyer and seller of a home, which is called dual agency. The National Association of Realtors® requires its members to disclose whether they are acting as dual agents to their clients. You should find an agent that is working solely for you.
Weird fees or forms of payment: You shouldn’t have to pay an upfront fee or deposit to view a property. Also, payment should go to the agent’s broker on record, not the agent directly. Lastly, never pay in cash — use a credit card or check to leave a paper trail. An agent that requests an upfront fee, cash or payments made in their name are likely scammers.
How to hire a real estate agent
Once you’re feeling confident about the real estate agent you want to hire, follow these steps to work with them:
Agree on the commissionAs noted previously, there is no such thing as a standard commission. Before hiring an agent as a home seller, you should discuss and negotiate how much the commission is and when in the process payment is due. Making an agreement upfront can help prevent conflicts later.
Set goals Be clear and open with your agent about your goals. Do you need to find or sell a home fast, or are you willing to wait for the perfect opportunity? Is your budget strict or flexible? What about the neighborhood is most important to your family?
Sign a written agreement A buyer’s agent agreement, which some states require by law, lays out the services the real estate agent must provide and defines the agreed-upon commission. Sellers should also have a written agreement about the terms of the sale. These documents should also spell out whether the agent can represent both the buyer and seller, and what information must be kept confidential.
Understand exclusivity While a written agreement can be one way to guarantee an agent is working solely on your behalf, it can also hinder you from working with another agent. If the written agreement is “exclusive,” then you agree to have the agent solely represent you for a certain period of time. In other words, even if you find a home without your agent, you still owe the agent money.