How to Choose a Real Estate Agent

November 20, 2023 - 5 min read

When you’re buying a home, choosing the right real estate agent is incredibly important. They’ll guide you through the entire process and use their expertise and knowledge to help you navigate the real estate market.

But how do you find the right real estate agent for your needs?

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In this article:

What is a real estate agent?

A real estate agent is a licensed professional who plays a crucial role in helping people buy or sell properties. They provide valuable assistance during real estate transactions and are responsible for a wide range of tasks.

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Experienced agents have in-depth knowledge of the local housing market, including property values, market trends, and neighborhood specifics.

As a side note, real estate agents may or may not be Realtors, who are members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

When working with home buyers, agents actively search for properties that match their client’s needs, arrange viewings, and provide guidance during the purchasing process. For this reason, selecting the best real estate agent can ensure a successful transaction.

Why do I need a real estate agent?

You may ask, “Why do I need a real estate agent?”

Here’s a deeper look at why good real estate agents are helpful in the home buying process:

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Expert guidance

There’s a lot to navigate—both legally and financially—when buying a home. That’s where a real estate listing agent comes in. They’re experts in these areas, so they can explain the paperwork, contractual obligations, and other legalities to help you feel confident about your decisions.

Extensive market knowledge

Real estate agents have a deep understanding of the local housing market too. They’re up-to-dated on current trends, pricing, and inventory. With their knowledge, they can provide insights into neighborhoods, school districts, amenities, and even future development plans.

Access to off-market listings

Real estate agents have access to a wide range of listings through multiple listing services (MLS) and their professional networks. They can filter and narrow down properties that match your criteria, saving you time and effort in the home search. They might also have access to properties that aren’t available to the general public yet.

Skilled negotiation

Negotiating the purchase price and terms is a critical aspect of buying a new home. Real estate agents are skilled negotiators who can advocate for your best interests. They have experience assessing market value, identifying negotiation opportunities, and making counteroffers.

How to choose a real estate agent?

Choosing the right real estate agent can ensure a successful home buying experience. Here are tips to pick the right professional:

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Search for potential agents

Get referrals or recommendations from friends, family, or coworkers. If they had a positive experience with their agent, you might have a similar one becoming a homeowner.

Additionally, take advantage of real estate websites, directories, and social media to find reputable real estate agents. If possible, choose one who specializes in your desired neighborhoods or property types.

Interview multiple agents

You should also arrange interviews with potential agents to discuss your real estate goals and assess compatibility. Use this time to inquire about their years of experience, knowledge of the local market, communication style, and availability. Also, ask about their negotiation strategies.

Verify credentials and certifications

Importantly, pay attention to any red flags. Make sure the agent has a valid real estate license and no major code of ethics complaints filed against them. Each state has a regulatory board or agency that oversees real estate professionals. This allows you to search for complaints or disciplinary actions against a specific agent.

You can also ask about their professional affiliations and read online reviews and testimonials to gauge their reputation.

Assess Compatibility

It’s also important to ask about the agent’s communication and working style and decide if it aligns with your preferences. Other questions to ask include: What is your current workload like? How many clients do you typically work with simultaneously? What are your preferred methods of communication? Do you have a team or assistants who can support you?

Cost-benefit analysis for real estate agent

While it’s not mandatory to use a real estate agent when buying a house, it’s important to consider the potential benefits and drawbacks of not using one. This can help determine whether their services are worthwhile. Here is a brief cost-benefit analysis:

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Benefits of not using a real estate agent:

  • Cost savings: If you don’t use an agent, the seller saves on real estate commission fees (which is typically between 5% to 6% of the sale price split between both agents). Since the seller saves money, you can ask them to lower the purchase price.
  • Independence: You can handle property searches, negotiations, and paperwork without relying on a middleman.
  • Flexibility: There’s freedom to explore different types of properties and make decisions without outside influence. You can set your own pace and prioritize your preferences.

Drawbacks of Not Using a Real Estate Agent:

  • Limited market knowledge: Without the expertise of a buyer’s agent or seller’s agent, you may struggle with understanding the housing market and determining the listing price of a property. Their knowledge can prevent overbidding and underbidding for a home sale.
  • Reduced access to listings: Without a real estate agent, you may have limited access to property listings. Also, agents have a network and resources that give them access to properties not widely advertised or publicly available yet.
  • Lack of negotiation skills: Agents are skilled negotiators who can advocate for your best interests and help you understand the legal aspects of the real estate transaction.
  • Time-consuming: Buying a house involves property searches, scheduling appointments, and handling paperwork. If you don’t choose a real estate agent, you’ll have to manage these tasks yourself.

The Bottom Line

Learning how to choose a real estate agent successfully can make or break your home buying experience. The expertise, knowledge, track record and support they bring to the table can make a big difference in the process, so don’t underestimate the importance of working with an agent. Therefore, take the time to find a professional who can guide you before starting the home search.

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Valencia Higuera
Authored By: Valencia Higuera
The Mortgage Reports contributor
Valencia Higuera is a freelance writer from Chesapeake, Virginia. As a personal finance and health junkie, she enjoys all things related to budgeting, saving money, fitness, and healthy living.
Aleksandra Kadzielawski
Reviewed By: Aleksandra Kadzielawski
The Mortgage Reports Editor
Aleksandra is the Senior Editor at The Mortgage Reports, where she brings 10 years of experience in mortgage and real estate to help consumers discover the right path to homeownership. Aleksandra received a bachelor’s degree from DePaul University. She is also a licensed real estate agent and a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR).