10 Minute Read
Whether you’re buying or selling a home, finding a real estate agent you can trust might just be the most important decision you make in that process. After all, a house is likely your biggest financial asset, and you want to make the most of your investment.
It may be tempting to hire the first real estate agent you talk to, just to save time and effort. But fight the urge to do that! We recommend interviewing at least three agents before making a decision.
With so many real estate agents to choose from, it can be tough to know what to look for. Here’s how to find the real estate agent who’s right for you, whether you’re buying or selling a home.
How to Find the Best Real Estate Agent
Hundreds of thousands of dollars are on the line when you buy or sell a house. You wouldn’t trust an amateur with that kind of money, would you? These guidelines can help you find a rock star agent to guide you through the real estate process.
Look for someone who has been a full-time real estate agent for at least four years.
Helping people buy or sell a home is a tough job that involves difficult negotiations and market fluctuations. An agent with at least four years of full-time experience has learned things that can only be learned over time. And if an agent has 10 or more years under their belt, you can trust that they have sold in the best and worst of times.
They’ll know what it takes to super-serve you, no matter the market conditions.
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What real estate certifications should an agent have?
There are several certifications and specializations a real estate agent may have, depending on their area of expertise.
Here are some common real estate designations:
- CRS (Certified Residential Specialist): awarded to top-performing agents (highest credential)
- ABR (Accredited Buyer Representative): given to professionals who have completed specific training for representing buyers in a real estate transaction
- ASR (Accredited Seller Representative): given to professionals who have completed specific training for representing sellers in a real estate transaction
- SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist): given to those who have completed training to help buyers and sellers over the age of 50
- Realtor®: given to members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR)
You shouldn’t choose an agent based solely on their certifications, but these designations can still be a helpful measure of how experienced an agent is in different areas of real estate.
Make sure they are a top performer in their market.
Find a seasoned real estate agent who either closes at least 35 homes a year or 90% more homes than the agents in their market. It takes hard work and a good reputation to get that kind of business. A high-volume agent like that eats, sleeps and breathes real estate. Now, that’s who you’re looking for!
If you’re selling your house, an agent who is that successful can afford to provide a full marketing plan and may even hire extra support to make sure home sales don’t miss a beat—including yours.
When it comes to buying a house, working with an agent who’s an expert negotiator ensures you aren’t overpaying on your new place. A high-volume agent has access to many available homes and may even know about homes before they hit the market.
Can they sell your home for top dollar and help you get a great deal on your next place?
One way to find out if this is possible is to ask an agent the average asking price and final sales price of the homes they list; then, divide the final by the asking. This number—also known as the sale-to-list ratio—can help you predict how accurately your agent prices the homes they sell. The closer an agent’s sale-to-list ratio is to 100%, the more accurate their pricing—and the better the chance of getting the asking price for your house. A ratio over 100% means an agent consistently gets above the asking price on homes they sell.
You can evaluate the sale-to-list ratio on the homes an agent helps clients purchase as well, which is a good indicator of how well they will negotiate on your behalf. For this ratio, a number below 100 means a buyer’s agent consistently gets below asking price on home purchases.
Find out how long it typically takes them to close a home.
There’s no guarantee that the agent will be able to help you buy or sell a home within a certain time frame. But having an idea of what to expect can be helpful, especially if you’re selling a house. If you’re trying to sell your home on a tight timeline, you want to choose an agent who will work hard to get it sold.
Make sure they know the local market like the back of their hand.
Obviously, an agent who’s sold a lot of homes in your area has proven expertise. But don’t limit your view to neighborhood sales. Keep your options open! You want an agent who does more than just rattle off facts. You can usually tell if they have personal ties to your community and understand what makes your particular corner of the world special.
Do you live in a hot market? It’s even more important to work with an agent who gets it! If you’re selling, they should be able to help you score the best offer possible on your home. You don’t want to leave money on the table by trusting an amateur who doesn’t really know what your home is worth. If you’re buying in a competitive market, take a deep breath. It can feel overwhelming, but when you partner with an expert, they’ll help you navigate everything from bidding wars to negotiations over repairs.
How do they communicate with their real estate clients?
Communication is key in any real estate transaction. If your agent isn’t responding to you in a reasonable amount of time and it’s costing you opportunities, you and your agent are missing out!
You need a real estate agent who is both highly responsive and honest to a fault. Look for a pro who can be blunt in the nicest way possible. The last thing you want is an agent who will give you false expectations about your home’s value or what you can afford. Whether you like it or not, it’s in your best interest for them to call it like they see it.
Real estate isn’t always sunshine and roses, so there’s no need to pretend like it is. It’s true that there will be bumps along the way. When that happens, you need a pro who isn’t afraid to get in the bumper car and drive it all the way to the finish line of your home’s closing. A good agent uses proactive communication like a superpower to save the day.
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Do your personalities mix?
Chemistry matters. This is a person you’re going to spend a great deal of time with over the next couple months. Even if the real estate agent you’re considering checks all the right boxes, you still need to ask yourself: Is this someone I like and trust? You don’t have to be best friends with your agent. In fact, it’s probably better if you’re not. But you do need to gel with them, so to speak.
Do they make you feel even more stressed out than you were before? Do they seem to be dodging your questions and running around like a chicken with their head cut off?
The right agent will make sure you understand the process and carefully answer any questions you have. Regardless of your reason for moving, your agent should do everything they can so you feel educated and empowered about your move.
Make sure you have options if you’re unhappy with the job they’re doing.
Be wary of agents who lock you into a lengthy contract that they can get out of—but you can’t. If you’re required to sign a contract, ask your agent if you can cancel without a penalty if you’re not satisfied with their service. And be aware that some agents charge a termination fee to cover out-of-pocket marketing expenses.
Talk with their past clients.
Want to know the good, the bad and the ugly? Nothing beats talking to a former client about their personal experience with an agent! When you interview real estate agents, make sure they provide a list of past clients for you to contact.
Ask the agent a lot of questions.
Who you choose to represent you in the home-buying or selling process is a big deal. Your real estate transaction involves hundreds of thousands of dollars, so you need to make sure you’re partnering with someone you trust. You’re talking to your potential real estate agent, so consider this a real interview!
Make sure you ask these questions when you interview different agents:
- How long have you been a full-time real estate agent?
- How many homes do you close each year?
- Will you or someone else on your team be handling my transaction?
- What sets you apart from other agents?
- How will you help me buy or sell a home in a competitive market?
- What’s your commission fee?
- Do I have to sign a commitment with you, and what happens if I’m not happy with the job you’re doing?
- When will you communicate with me—and how often?
- Will you be honest, tell me what I need to hear, and give me realistic expectations?
- Who can I contact for a reference?
If there are other things you want to know, now is the time to ask. Don’t be afraid to speak up! Be sure to notice what certifications they have and how much they seem to know about your community. This is also a great time to ask about their average closing time and their sale-to-list ratio. A great agent will patiently and thoroughly answer all of your questions because they want you to have all the information you need to make a confident decision.
Find a Great Real Estate Agent Near You
You don’t have to look far to find a real estate agent to help you buy or sell a home. But there’s nothing like a personal recommendation to make you feel confident about your choice.
If you want a high-performance real estate agent who’s earned Dave’s seal of trust for excellent service and great advice, give our real estate Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) a try. Our ELPs put customers before commission.
Our team has already vetted the best real estate agents in your area. Let us help you narrow down the search!
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