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Key Things to Look for in a Real Estate Agent

What you'll learn: How to find the best real estate agent for your needs


Your real estate agent is one of the most important people in your home buying or selling process. If you have a great agent, that person will act as your guide, finding you excellent deals and shielding you from those that don’t stack up to your requirements. Your agent can also connect you with all the other professionals you’ll need, such as home inspectors and mortgage brokers. On the other hand, if you pick the wrong agent, your experience may be wrought with miscommunications, unexpected fees, and ultimately a fruitless search. Use the guide below as a checklist to find an agent you trust.

What’s the difference between a real estate agent and a realtor? What’s a broker? Which should I choose?

The three basic types of agents are real estate agents, brokers, and realtors. Agents have passed all necessary state qualifications, hold an active license, and work for a broker. Brokers manage real estate agencies, employing agents. A realtor is a certified real estate agent who belongs to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which means they adhere to a code of conduct and ethics and also have access to listings that real estate agents can’t see. Agents are also defined as seller’s agents (working on behalf of the seller); listing agents or buyer’s agents (working on behalf of the buyer); or dual agents (acting on behalf of both the buyer and seller). Make sure to choose an agent that fits your situation.

Who’s best suited for my real estate needs?

The first thing to look for when vetting an agent is someone who is qualified to take on your case. Are you buying? Find someone with a lot of experience with home buyers. The same goes with selling, or in helping clients with the particulars of your situation, such as VA loans, buying or selling condos, or whatever your individual needs are.

Is the real estate agent licensed?

Check your state’s real estate licensing board or verification databases like Arello to make sure the agent holds a valid license. These sources will also help you verify the agent’s position or title — broker, salesperson, or other — and other details such as license issue and expiration dates.

Does the agent work in real estate full time?

You want to work with someone who is experienced, available, and committed to finding you the best deal. It’s not uncommon for real estate agents to work part-time or sell real estate on the side, but a full-time agent is more likely to be up to date with properties and trends in your area.

Are there great reviews for the agent online and from the local real estate network?

Many real estate agents have robust online presences, so take advantage of this. Look at their website and professional profiles and pay attention to client reviews. Not only is it important to use the internet to find an agent with glowing reviews, but you can also get a sense of their level of professionalism and how they respond to negative feedback by searching through comments. Ideally, your agent will have positive reviews across multiple websites.

Does the real estate agent have experience working with cases like yours?

Experience alone is not necessarily a predictor of success when it comes to picking an agent. Focus on those who have worked recently in your target neighborhood, bought or sold properties in your price range, closed deals in the timeline you’re aiming for, and worked on behalf of clients like you, depending on whether you’re buying or selling.

Does the agent listen to your needs and ask questions?

Choose a real estate agent who displays sincere curiosity about your needs and preferences. If you feel like an agent is pushing you toward certain properties or buyers, it may be a sign that they’re in a rush to close the deal and move on. To find an agent who has your best interests at heart, take note of whether they respect your concerns, and ask you plenty of questions to build a clear picture of your wants and needs.

Is the agent a straight shooter who avoids sugarcoating things?

Everyone wants to hear that their house will sell for above the listing price or that they’ll find the perfect home in weeks but be wary of agents who seem to be giving you too much good news. Like most things in life, buying and selling property has its ups and downs, and working with a real estate agent who is upfront about both can save you from disappointment later on. Ask the agent about the difficulties they foresee in handling your case and listen for a sincere answer.

Does the agent discuss expectations up front?

Do you want to close in two weeks, one month, or three months? How would you like your property to be marketed if you’re selling your home? How long will the contract with the agent last, and who on their team will you be working with? These kinds of questions should be addressed up front so you can enter into an agreement with a clear picture of what the process will, and will not, entail. Go with an agent who is willing to sit down with you, discuss the fine print, and answer all of your questions before you sign a contract.

Does the agent make you feel comfortable?

With seemingly endless logistics, paperwork, and showings involved in real estate transactions, it’s easy to become stressed and exhausted. Do yourself a favor and choose an agent who makes you feel comfortable, so you have one less thing to worry about. This includes checking that you’re a match in terms of communication (in platform, frequency, and style), but also simply that you like the person. You may end up spending a lot of time together throughout your search, so pick a person who you feel good around, and who you trust to work on your behalf.

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Apply before becoming a member.

After your application, we’ll help you:

1. Discover you’re eligible to become a PenFed member

2. Open a Savings/Share Account and deposit at least $5