You want more than a series of listings—here’s what to look for.
Buying a home, especially for the first time, can be both exciting and overwhelming. A house probably costs more than anything you’ve ever purchased. This is just one of many reasons you’ll probably want the help of a real estate agent—and choosing the right agent is crucial.
An experienced, trusted agent can help you identify and tour houses or condos that are in your price range and in the neighborhoods you prefer. Your agent will represent your interests when you make an offer and negotiate a price, and can help you find a mortgage, hire a home inspector, and make sure all of the paperwork is done by legally mandated deadlines and within your timeline. Without that necessary help, you could miss seeing your perfect house, lose out on a house you want, or end up in a poor deal.
Here are some agent-finding tips:
- Find an agent who works only for you. Laws about real estate agents’ responsibilities to their clients vary from state to state. But in general, listing agents represent sellers’ interests. In contrast, you need a buyer’s agent, a specialist in finding and showing properties, explains Derek Tye of Keller Williams: The Tye Group, in Cincinnati, Ohio†. The same agent can fill either role, serving as listing agent for one house while helping buyers look for others. Because that can create a potential conflict of interest—especially if the listing and buyer’s agents work for the same firm—you might want to consider an exclusive buyer’s agent. These professionals represent buyers only and don’t work in firms that represent sellers.
- Consider a specialized agent. An agent you’re considering may also have completed additional training to earn one or more of these designations from the National Association of REALTORS®:
- ABR® (Accredited Buyer’s Representative). A specialist in buying, not selling.
- CRS (Certified Residential Specialist). These agents specialize in homes, not commercial properties.
- SRES® (Seniors Real Estate Specialist®). Knowledgeable about issues facing buyers ages 50+.
- Think local. Look for someone who is really active in the local market you’re considering, says Karen Pitkin of RE/MAX Realty Professionals in Bloomington, Indiana‡. One gauge of agents’ involvement is how many home sales they participated in during the past year—a figure they should be happy to provide, and that you can compare with the records you get from other agents you are considering, says Pitkin.
- Interview an agent before deciding. Talk to several agents before deciding on the agent you will hire to get a full sense of the available options. See if you’re comfortable with the agent’s style and knowledge. Tye suggests asking how many buyers an agent works with every month, how many houses that person shows each week, and how many closings an agent has personally facilitated. “Ask for references—buyers who’ve worked with them recently and can tell you about the experience,” says Tye.
- Look for agents who ask good questions. A good agent will want a detailed list of your priorities—home versus condo, size, neighborhood, price range, and other make-or-break priorities such as access to public transportation or good schools. Other important questions include whether anyone else will need to sign off on an offer you make, “Whether you’ve been preapproved for a mortgage and for how much, and whether your offer will be contingent on selling another house,” says Tye. (Find out more about pre-approval here.)
The journey to making one of the biggest purchases of your life can take months. With the right agent working for your interests, you’ll feel much more confident about getting the right house at the right price.
Learn more about the home buying process and check in with your local Huntington banker for help.