I am doing a "cut and paste" from a question that I answered about a month ago. I think it still might be helpful for your situation.
For home buyers, I think that questions related to how this agent is going to work for you are the most important.
As you probably know, a buyer's agent gets paid her/his commission at the close of the transaction. This commission comes from the seller, not from the buyer.
That being said, you want to know how this commission based agent is going to find you the best property that fits your criteria. Here are some of the questions that I've been asked or that I've talked to previous buyer clients about in order that they got some of the vital information about the realtor/client working relationship. For me it is important that clients what my business philosophy is and that it meets their needs.
Are you in this with me for the long haul? If I it takes me 6 months to a year to find the right place, will you still work with me? (KEY: Look for commitment)
How much contact (i.e., frequency) and in what format of communications (e.g., email, text msg, and/or phone) should I expect from you. (KEY: Look for what fits you the best and how you like to get communications. Also, it tells you a lot about how they communicate too and their flexibility)
Give me some examples of your negotiation skills or past client negotiations that you've undertaken on their behalf and what was the outcome? (KEY: This should give you an idea of how they think and how they work for their clients)
What has your client base been like? What types of people have you worked with in the past? (KEY: This will provide you with an understanding of what people have gravitated to working with them in the past, also the calibre of people that have been attracted to working with this realtor)
What's your experience/work background? How has that helped you in the past with your clients? (KEY: This should give you an idea of their professionalism)
I hope this helps you. Let me know if you've got any additional questions.
OK, OK, in all seriousness... back to the topic at hand. Nick, do a little homework and then show the agent you are a serious buyer and not another lookie-loo. Let them know you are not going to buy something until he/she brings you the right deal. Might even take signing an exclusive buyer's rep agreement and sending them a financial statement.
Another possibility is to call a reputable real estate firm in your area and ask to speak with the managing broker. Explain your situation and needs to that person and ask for a recommendation among their agents for the person who would best fit them.
If you say that you're not ready to buy now, even if someone helps find the right property that meets all your stated needs and schedules to get you there; to help you make a winning offer, then you've set yourself up for this sort of "either or" dilemma. Either the pro will try to find you something now, or you will be working with some kind of real estate newbie or dilettante for the next year as they spend their time showing you property after property in an ever changing market.
Anyone who is good at what they do will look at the goal or job description first and if it is not possible, they will let you know why, even if it's unpleasant and not what you want to hear. The simple reason a pro would have to decline to work with you is it would be a waste of everyone's time.
It seems what you really want is to get intimately familiar with the market. It's great you are honest about that and being up front that you're not interested in buying now but a more realistic plan will be to partner with an agent and let him/her know that you will buy in a year and want to get the auto generated statistics and open house times in your area of interest and if they will work with you, (sending you info so you can do your homework), they will spend a little time now as your agent and you will be loyal.
It cost too much to be in business to drive people around who admittedly aren't going buy unless the agent is a dilettante rather than a professional. A professionals bread and butter business is satisfying ready home buyers by helping them find and purchase a property that best meets their needs. If you considered your time worth $100 or more per hour, wouldn't you have discretion about how you spend it?
When I hire people, I always want to know how I can make their job easier because I realize I am hiring professionals because I believe they can produce better results than I could do for myself.
Go to the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents' (NAEBA) website for more information:
You need to talk to the agents to find someone with whom you are comfortable. Everyone, including me, will tell you that we are "the one." You should talk to clients of the agent and see if he/she works in a manner you would like. Reading what someone says on Trulia is good -- but does not really show the personality and style of the realtor.
I suggest you make a few calls. Naturally, I am available.... you can go to my website and see some "testimonials." I can also give you names and telephone numbers of my clients.
If not, good luck. I am sure you will find an agent to your liking.
Any good Realtor will work with you on your schedule and in your time frame. We are after all your agent. I was going to say and not salespeople, but I had to stop myself and reflect that I had just hit on what you are asking.
The answer is to find youself an agent not a salesperson.
We feel that you can never start early enough when looking for a place. And every client has their own process and way in which they make big decisions.
We have had clients take over a year, but they always felt that we were around for questions or help, but that we let them set the pace for going out and looking at properties etc.
You can read my recommendations on LinkedIn here: http://www.linkedin.com/in/sfcondomap
Have a great day.
My business partner and I like to have meetings with our new buyer clients before we start actually searching for the property. It is a good way for us to get to know each other and decide if it is a good fit.
We like honesty and people with opinions; it makes our jobs easier!