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The Homebuyer’s Guide to Choosing a Real Estate Agent

– iStock 902167264 – The Homebuyer's Guide to Choosing a Real Estate Agent

A real estate purchase can be a tricky transaction with lots of moving parts. An agent can help you navigate the process better, while showing you how to avoid troublesome pitfalls. When choosing someone to aid in your home hunt, it’s important to find a qualified real estate agent you can trust. Here’s how you should vet the agents in your area.

Check the agent’s credentials. Good real estate agents will often seek extra training in particular areas. In addition to asking the agent directly about his or her credentials, you should look for specific designations, such as:

  • ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative): This indicates that agents have completed additional education designed to help them represent buyers in real estate transactions.
  • CRS (Certified Residential Specialist): This means the agent has completed additional training related to handling residential real estate.
  • SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist): An SRES designation means the agent has completed training aimed at assisting sellers and buyers above the age of 50.

If a real estate agent is listed as a “Realtor®”, it means he or she is a member of the National Association of Realtors.

Verify that the agent has a license.

States license and discipline real estate professionals. Check with the local regulatory body to confirm that an agent is actually licensed. You should also check to see if the agent has any complaints or disciplinary actions. Many times, this information is available online.

Determine the agent’s experience.

A state licensing authority can also tell you how long an agent has been in the real estate business. You can also ask the agent directly to make sure he or she is actively engaged in a particular area and price range. If the agent has only been in business for five years, he or she is probably still learning the ropes. Ideally, you want an experienced agent who can expertly represent your interests through every level of the buying process. An expert negotiator who is familiar with the local market can save you time, money and frustration by helping you make the right offer, staying on top of the process and playing hardball when necessary.

Make sure the agent understands your needs.

When interviewing a real estate professional, you want to make sure you will be able to work well with the person. A good agent should listen carefully to your priorities and not waste your time on houses that don’t fit the bill. Instead of hiring the first agent that seems acceptable, interview at least three. You can also ask friends, family and co-workers for references. Just be sure they aren’t recommending a friend or relative.

Test their local knowledge.

Real estate is a local game, requiring local experts who are familiar with the area. A good agent will be well aware of local market trends, while also knowing about commute times, local schools and any potential red flags, such as future developments that could reduce a home’s value months or years down the road.

Ask about other clients.

When agents have especially high volumes of clients, it’s more difficult for them to focus on each one’s individual needs. At the same time, if an agent has no current clients, that could be a bad sign. In a perfect world, you want a successful agent who will have enough bandwidth to serve your interests. You should also ask about the ratio of buyers to sellers in the agent’s client list to help you assess his or her experience and expertise.

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