With online home-finding tools at your fingertips, it can be tempting to go it alone when you’re buying and selling your home. While it might seem easy enough to DIY your home search, working with a licensed REALTOR® has distinct advantages.
Real estate agents adhere to a strict code of ethics and make it their job to be up to date on market trends and act on your behalf at the bargaining table. This is why, according to a National Association of REALTORS® report, around 88% of buyers used a real estate agent or broker to buy or sell their home in 2020.
It’s likely buying a home is the biggest investment you’ll make in your lifetime. Taking the time to pick the perfect REALTOR® is an essential step in this complicated and personal undertaking.
How to Pick the Perfect REALTOR®
Buying or selling a house takes time. Although every transaction is different, according to recent data analyzed by HomeLight, on average, homes took a little over two months to move from listing to closing in June of 2020.
So it’s important to pick a real estate agent who not only has a proven track record in your local market but who’s also someone you have a personal connection to.
Look for Referrals and Reviews
Asking friends and family for agent referrals is a great place to start. However, because picking a real estate agent is such a personal endeavor the REALTOR® who was a perfect fit for your friend, may not be the perfect fit for you. Ask yourself:
- Do you and your referring friend or a family member have similar personalities or are they laid back while you’re more hands-on?
- Do you have similar budgets?
- Are you home shopping in the same area?
If you’ve got big differences in personality, financial situation, or location their REALTOR® might not be right for you.
If you’re struggling to find a referral that seems like a good fit, take a drive around your desired neighborhood. Look for agents selling multiple homes nearby and check them out online. A good and trustworthy real estate agent will have references and reviews available for you to check out.
Prepare for Your First Meeting
Starting your home search with clear objectives will save you both time and stress. It’s a good idea to have a solid list of what you need in a home versus what you want in a home even before your first meeting with a potential agent.
If you’re struggling with this task, check out our First-Time Homebuyers Checklist: 3 Steps to Determine Wants vs. Needs for a detailed look at how to fine-tune your wish list.
You’ll also want to head into the REALTOR® interview with a curated list of questions that will help you understand the agent’s history and reveal whether or not they’re a good fit for you overall.
Set Up an Interview
Finding the perfect REALTOR® is not all that different from finding your perfect house. You do a lot of research and a little bit of soul searching, but oftentimes the final decision comes down to a gut feeling.
To get a sense of how your potential agent listens and communicates we suggest structuring the interview in four sections.
- Share your wish list: Be upfront and honest about what you want and need in a home. The more details you provide, the more confident you can be that your agent will find you your dream home. Use this time to observe how well your agent listens.
“A good agent should be able to match your wants and needs to your budget,” says the Zimmerman Group agent Kelly Boenzi “If your wish list is off base for your price point, the agent can help you prioritize your desires so you’re happy no matter where you end up.”
Red flag: Be wary of a real estate agent who’s trying to push you outside of your price range.
- Listen to their pitch: Real estate agents are great salespeople and they should have no problem pitching themselves to you. Use this opportunity to get a feel for the agent’s communication style and personality.
Red flag: “If an agent is pushing a particular property right out of the gates, that’s a sign they may be working as a dual agent,” says the Zimmerman Group’s Megan Ryan. “During this first meeting, an agent should be focused on how they can use their skills to assist you in your specific home search.”
- Ask your questions: Using your prepared list, plus anything else relevant to your home search, ask the agent a few questions. Listening to how confidently and adequately the agent answers the questions will help you make your final decision.
Red flag: If an agent hesitates to answer any of your background questions or is unwilling to show you their license consider that a sign to move on.
- Review the contract: You can ask to see the agent’s contract during this first interview. It’s best to take some time to review it on your own and then schedule a second meeting to sign the document if you’re interested in moving forward.
Red flag: Experienced agents know home buying is a big decision and they’ll respect your request to take time to review the contract. It’s probably a good idea to walk away from any agent who tries to pressure you into signing a contract during this first meeting.