Picking the right agent can make all the difference in finding a comfortable home and making a sound investment.
There are many benefits to enlisting an expert. Realtors – agents who are members of the National Association of Realtors and who adhere to its Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice – are versed in which homes are a good value in the current market, what locations are most desirable, what characteristics determine resale potential and how real estate law and contracts work. “If a buyer doesn’t have extensive knowledge of all the aspects of a real estate transaction – such as negotiating price terms and conditions of purchase – they can easily be taken advantage of,” says Mark Minnis, a broker/owner and buyer’s agent with InSight Real Estate Portland, Ore. “But a Realtor is obligated by law to protect your interests.”
Retaining a Realtor usually requires no out-of-pocket expense on the part of the buyer, says Brady Moore, a Dallas-based Realtor with Dave Perry-Miller & Associates. An agent’s commission will depend upon the listing and the contract.
To find a licensed broker or real estate agent, your best bet is to start with referrals from friends or family, says Minnis, especially if they are located where you are looking. If new to a city, use the “Find a REALTOR” function at Realtor.org, the website for the NAR. Sometimes new buyers are tempted to find Realtors by calling listing agents for properties they like or stopping by open houses in favorite neighborhoods, but be cautious. Working with an agent who also represents the seller may not be in your best interest. Consider finding a buyer’s agent first and have that person help you pick out properties, Moore says.
To ensure this process goes as smoothly as possible, the experts agree it’s also important to find someone who is a good personality fit. “Buying a house is probably the biggest financial transaction most people will make in their lives, and it can take a while,” says Moore. “You should do it with someone you can trust [and] enjoy spending time with.”
A good way to gauge if you will get along is by interviewing potential agents in person.Ask about their areas of expertise, the neighborhoods in which the majority of their sales occur, if they own any real estate themselves and how long they’ve been in the business.
Keep in mind that many (not all) agents may require you to sign an exclusive-representation agreement, says Moore, the details of which can vary. In addition to reading over the contract, have a friend who understands real estate also read it over. Keep in mind that a good agent will work hard to meet your needs. They may put in a lot of time helping you search, and they won’t get paid until the sale. When they see that you are committed to working as a team, they know they can dedicate all their effort to your home search.