Tips for choosing the right real estate agent

When it comes to buying or selling a home, having the right real estate agent by your side can make all the difference. But with so many agents out there, how do you choose the one that’s right for you? Here are some tips to help you find the best agent for your needs.

Ask around for recommendations.

Chances are, you know someone who has bought or sold a home in the past. Ask them who they worked with and if they were happy with their experience. Word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to find a good agent because chances are, someone else has already done all of the hard work for you!

Check out online reviews.

If you don’t know anyone who has ever bought or sold a home, or if you’d like more options than just one name, take a look at online reviews. They can give you an idea of what past and current clients think about the agent. Just make sure to keep in mind that most online review sites allow people to post positive and negative comments regardless of whether they had any contact with the real estate agent under discussion—so don’t assume that all negative reviews are fair!

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Word-of-mouth is important, but not always available.

Perhaps you met someone at an open house over the weekend who said he or she was looking for an agent but then didn’t seem too interested when you asked for their contact information. Or maybe you’ve simply moved to a new area and don’t know anybody who has ever bought or sold a home before. For these reasons, it’s always a good idea to check out online review sites like to find an agent with great reviews. It’s the next best thing to word-of-mouth!

Get numbers!

When meeting with agents, be sure to ask them about their experience in your specific area. The more experience they have in the type of property you are looking at, the better chance they will give you of finding exactly what you want. Be wary of agents who say things like, “No problem!” as they toss around superlatives like “easy,” and “just like that.” For example, be careful of any agent who tells you that he or she can sell your home for top dollar within a week; those types of claims need to be backed up with hard numbers and years of experience in your market.

Find out what others think!

Ask about the number of homes the agent has sold during the past year. How many times has this agent listed a property? How often does he or she list homes at or above the asking price? And how many contracts led to sales? If an agent says all their clients love them but admits that none of their clients actually bought a home or that they “fell through,” find another agent. If the agent doesn’t keep track of these numbers, move on.

Avoid the “flash in the pan.”

Beware of agents who are new to your area or have only been selling real estate for a short time. They may not have enough experience, or their inexperience could lead you to make costly mistakes down the road. Stick with agents who have had at least five years of experience if possible, which is how long it typically takes to build up strong working relationships with clients and other members of your community (e.g., attorneys, mortgage brokers).

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Look for someone who fits in with your style—and that of your home!

You want an agent who can promote both you and your property effectively; most likely that will mean someone posting complimentary photos on social media, attending your open houses, and clearly understanding how to market homes for maximum appeal. If you’re an active couple who loves to entertain, look for an agent who can help you find a home with lots of room so that guests always have a place to sleep. Or if you’re newlyweds looking for your first home together, look for someone who understands the needs of young families.

Ask about their work ethic.

Look for agents who will be accessible and responsive during business hours (not just Monday through Friday 9-5); those agents may make time in their busy schedules to answer emails and phone calls whenever it’s convenient for you (e.g., evenings and). Equally important, check out how they present themselves—do they have a professional website and blog? Or do they rely on free services like Facebook or Instagram to promote themselves? Finally, find someone with whom you can build an honest rapport that is based on mutual respect.

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Get referrals from trustworthy sources.

If possible (and if those referrals are available), ask for agent recommendations from homeowners who bought homes in your price range and neighborhood over the past year; those buyers will be able to offer insight into which agents were most responsive and helpful throughout the process. You might also want to contact people whose homes you’ve admired online (e.g., through social media) and ask them about their experiences working with an agent. Maybe even reach out to your own trusted real estate agent. If you have a friend who recently bought or sold a home, ask them if they’d recommend their agent.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

While it might not be the most comfortable thing in the world, no one will think any less of you for asking questions about pay structure and commission splits during an initial consultation with an agent. Although many top-notch agents are willing to work with buyers on deals that don’t include agents’ fees (e.g., through a simple “for sale by owner” deals), others may still want six percent even on deals where there is no buyer’s agent involved—so find out exactly what the fee structure is before you spend time with someone you’re not sure about.

Get your paperwork in order.

Once you choose an agent, it’s essential to get started on the documentation early so that everything goes smoothly when it comes time to place an offer on a home (we’ll discuss this in more detail later). Make sure you know exactly who will be responsible for each document so there are no surprises down the road; typically either the buyer or seller (but not both) can handle most of these papers, but be vigilant and ask every question that pops into your head before signing anything. Who pays for title insurance? What happens if one party won’t sign their part of the contract?

Don’t be shy!

The best agents get to know their clients and help them find exactly what they’re looking for, so don’t hold back during showings. Even if you think an agent might not understand every last one of your needs, it helps to communicate openly about your likes and dislikes (e.g., “I need lots of storage space in the kitchen but I also want to be able to see the street from my windows without having too many neighbors close by”). After all, no matter how much research any prospective buyer does online or on foot, there is no substitute for hands-on experience when it comes time to decide which home is right for you.

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Don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal, either!

If you’re having trouble finding a neighborhood that has all of the amenities you want but you don’t want to compromise your budget, an agent can help find a home within your budget in a different location that does have everything you need. That said, ultimately it’s up to you whether or not a particular house is worth the price tag and the longer commute—and if you decide that it isn’t right for your family, let your real estate agent know as soon as possible so they can make time for another showing or two before someone else snaps up the place.