As an Exclusive Buyers Agent, one of my services is to help my clients evaluate loan programs to determine what is best for them and to SAVE them money.
100% for Home Buyers - 100% of the Time!
Once you've identified a short list, contact them and interview them. Look for an agent that works the way you do. As an example, here you are on Trulia, I suspect you - like the majority of buyers - like to work online. So would recommend you work with an agent that embraces the internet as well. Think about the qualities in a resource that matter - I'd put full time, commitment, responsiveness, service focus, knowledge, experience, analytic skills at the top of the list. Ask for references - and call them.
A great agent will be so beneficiail to you - hope this is helpful guidance in finding yours!
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Congratulations on being ready to make your first home purchase. First let me say that you are correct in beginning with the financial piece. Once this is accomplished you will have a better understanding of your price range and the general locations you may be able to target.
In terms of identifying an agent, we often recommend that porential buyers visit open houses not for the purpose of identifying a home but finding an agent.
The open house environment will give you the opportunity to see how the agent operates and interacts with people. A few general well thought out questions may help break the ice. You want to know if this is someone you could work with and if they really know the local RE market well enough to support your interest.
This is a most exciting time and one that can be very rewarding with the selection of the right agent.....our best advice, is to take your time making your choice....you'lll know when you have the right person.
I used to live in the Duluth area, and although I'm not going to point you to a specific agent, I can tell you what to look for. Duluth is a beautiful area, and congratulations on your choice! Realtors in Duluth will claim they can show you the entire city, and sell you a home anywhere. While this is true, the level of knowledge varies quite a bit with the Realtors there, and in Duluth this can mean a big difference in where you end up.
Do not go by online rating systems. Example: I haven't connected my profile to any of our team's listings on Trulia and yet if you search Pros in Colorado Springs I show up #2 out of hundreds of agents. Why? Because I blog and answer questions.
There are a couple of things you can do to verify your agent's experience and knowlege. First, MN has the license lookup tool online so you can see how long they have been licensed. Second, if a Realtor claims to be a specialist in the area, name off a few addresses and ask what the prices are in addition to how long they have been on the market. If they are truely specialists, they will know this in Duluth because it is easy. You might hear, well let me look that up. That means they don't know.
A few people I went to school with (Hibbing) live in Duluth and used realtors who "specialized" in an area and now they are in a crime ridden community never to see the Realtor in the area again. I myself am a realtor, and knowing what I do of Duluth I wouldn't have the guts to sell homes in some areas because I know what people would be getting into.
Good luck in your search. The experienced and knowing Realtor is the safe one. Go Bulldogs!
Myself, I would ask the loan rep for a handful of referrals, and I'd interview them. I'd have a short list of questions - are you a full-time agent, how well do you know the area, how many buyers like me have you helped, what kind of clients are you working with now, how well do you like the company you're working for. You may have other questions.
The thing is, the agent-client relationship is like most other relationships; the way it works best depends on the people involved.
Some things are not scorable. I've worked with agents who are disorganized, sloppy with their paperwork, total space cadets - but they advise their clients well and negotiate well on their behalf. And I've worked with very "professional" agents who you could push around with a gentle breeze.
All the best,
Hope this is helpful. Best of luck in your homebuying search.
Terry Bell, Realtor,CPS RE, Santa Rosa, CA
Referrals from others who had positive experiences with their agents is always a good source, but don't stop there. I encourage people to interview agents, ask for documentation of whatever claims they make. Discuss how they like to work with clients and find an agent who you believe will be looking out for your best interests, do a great job of negotiating on your behalf and that you both trust.
There are good agents and like all fields, not so good. Don't settle for less than the best you can find. You are spending a lot of money and years of your life in wherever you choose to buy.