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How to Find the Best Real Estate Agent

What you'll learn: Expert tips to find the best real estate agent

EXPECTED READ TIME: 4 MINUTES

Buying or selling a home can feel like a tremendous job, even if you’re familiar with the process and have purchased and sold homes in the past. Having an experienced real estate agent whom you can trust can reduce your homebuying workload and stress. It can save you money, too. Follow the guide below to make sure you choose the agent who’s right for you.

How do I find a great real estate agent?

  1. Start your search in the neighborhood itself. The best way to get an initial list of agents is also the simplest: go for a walk in the neighborhood you’re looking to buy or sell in and take note of the names on for sale signs. Location matters when choosing a real estate agent, and you’ll benefit from picking an agent who knows your target neighborhood well. In just a few minutes, you can poll the neighborhood without asking a single question, getting local intel from others who have been in your shoes.

    While you’re out, write down any information you see about local open houses as well and attend them. You’ll learn more from watching an agent interact with buyers than you would by reading their profile online. If you like what you see, introduce yourself and ask to set up a short interview.
  2. Take your search online. Once you’ve created an initial list of potential real estate agents, take advantage of popular review websites like Yelp and Zillow to learn more. Read the reviews carefully, looking for patterns, and paying special attention to any responses that the agent writes on the reviews. You can also search for additional agents online.
  3. Reach out to your network for a referral. Let your family and friends know that you’re in the market for an agent, and post to your network via social media as well. Be sure to reach out to people who live in or know others in the neighborhoods that are right for you, specifically those who have bought or sold a house in the past year. Try to steer clear of referrals to family members, friends, boss’ sisters, etc. — hiring a family member or friend may seem like a great option at first, but it can also lead to uncomfortable situations if something goes wrong. With a high-stakes decision like selling or purchasing property, stick to highly experienced, objective professionals.
  4. Interview three or more agents. Arrange phone calls, or brief in-person interviews if possible, with those on your final list of candidates. You’re going to be working closely with your eventual choice, so it’s important that you speak with them before signing a contract. Prepare a list of questions before your first interview and ask each agent the same questions so you can compare their answers later. If an agent can’t make time for an interview, it’s not necessarily a dealbreaker but take this into consideration when making your final choice. You want to find someone who prioritizes your concerns; if they don’t at the beginning, that’s often a pretty good indicator of what’s to come.
  5. Ask for references and contact them. At the end of each of your interviews, ask for references whom you can contact for more information. Ideally, these references will be recent, within the last twelve months. Call them to learn about their experience working with the agent; ask them what they didn’t like as well as what they did. If they had to do it all again, would they go with the same agent?
  6. Communication is key. If it comes down to choosing between two similar agents, pick the one you communicated with most easily. Your agent is going to be your source for advice and knowledge throughout this process, and the last thing you’re going to want to worry about is miscommunication. Choose the one you think you’ll be able to communicate with most effectively, even in uncomfortable or awkward circumstances. 

How far in advance should I get a real estate agent?

Generally, you can begin looking for a real estate agent as soon as you know your moving timeline. This is a good time to start narrowing down the field, putting out feelers, and creating a preliminary list of potential agents. You can pick a real estate agent at this stage if you’d like, but you may be able to save time if you wait until you contact a mortgage lender and get a loan estimate. Once you know what you’re able to afford, you’ll be in a better position to choose a target neighborhood and find a local agent who specializes in that area.

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