Despite the increased access to housing information the Internet provides these days, a Real Estate Agent still plays a vital role in the home buying process. Many buyers and sellers believe they can do it alone, but it is nearly impossible to match the experience and expertise of a seasoned Real Estate Agent.
The Importance of Real Estate Agents
Expert agents discussed why you still need them in the Washington Post.1
When working with a professional Real Estate Agent, Karen Brown, an agent out of Reston, Virginia, indicated they can recommend good lenders. In addition, these industry professionals can even vouch for interested buyers when lending firms evaluate home loan applicants.
Suzanne Des Marais, an associate broker, said the sheer number of properties full-time agents have seen makes them extremely valuable in helping you understand how much different homes are worth and the extent of repairs a property might need.
Real estate professionals also have the right knowledge and right connections. They may show you properties you would have never otherwise found, and how to handle making an offer based on whether or not you are shopping in a highly competitive market.
How to Choose the Right Agent
If you decide to work with an agent, it is important to take your time in selecting the right one. Even a wildly popular and successful agent may not be the right one to serve your unique needs, so make sure to do your homework and evaluate many agents before choosing who to work with.
As Redfin said, just because you know someone who is an agent does not mean that person is the agent you need.2 Real Estate Agents have a variety of strengths and skills, and there are many factors to consider before deciding who to work with:
1. Determine their specialties
Make sure to look for a Real Estate Agent who specializes in your unique needs, both in regards to the area in which you're looking to buy and the type of home you want. U.S. News & World Report explained every neighborhood possesses unique qualities, and a Real Estate Agent - no matter how talented - may not be able to help you if he or she is not well-versed in the area you want to live.3
Some agents also may have more experience working with certain types of properties or certain types of clients (such as first-time homebuyers, for example), so make sure the agent you choose specializes in exactly what you're looking for.
2. Note their qualifications
Re/Max emphasized the importance of noting the letters that often come after a Real Estate Agent 's name.4 Of course, you need to make sure your agent is fully licensed, but if an agent has acronyms after his name it means he has received extra training and certifications. A few examples of certifications include:
- ABR - Accredited Buyer Representative, trained to help buyers
- CNHS - Certified New Home Specialist, trained in newly constructed homes and has advanced understanding of the home-building process
- SRES - Seniors Real Estate Specialist, trained to help seniors buy and sell property
- CRS - Certified Residential Specialist, trained in residential real estate
3. Test their knowledge
A good agent should be aware of what's happening with real estate in the area you're looking. When you are interviewing potential agents, ask them questions about properties in the area. If they can't answer without looking up the information, it may be a red flag that they are not informed enough.
4. Speak to past clients
A potential Real Estate Agent should be able to provide a list of past clients willing to speak with you. Mirtha Barzaga of Davidson Realty told U.S. News & World Report she even sends potential clients out to lunch with prospects. That way, they can speak openly and not feel like they have to hold back.
You can ask past clients whether the agent maintains efficient and clear communication throughout the entire buying and selling process. Another good thing to ask about is whether the agent works directly with the clients or typically passes them off to other members of his team. It may not be a problem to work with someone on his team, but you will certainly want to know who will be handling your affairs before you make a commitment.
5. Make sure they are experienced
Many agents only work part-time and may not be equipped with enough knowledge or experience. It is important to find a full-time agent; one with at least five years of experience is a good rule. Time explained that while five years is a generally excepted length of time, there are always exceptions.5 Someone who has not been around as long may have fewer clients and thus can devote more time to you.
The important thing is to confirm your agent has the expertise and specialties you need. Beyond all of that experience and knowledge, it is also about chemistry. If you and your agent don't mesh, you'll have a hard time working together.
Where to Start
Asking friends, family, and coworkers for recommendations is a great place to begin looking for the right Real Estate Agent. In addition, you can meet professionals working in the industry by attending open houses going on in the neighborhood in which you plan to buy.