1) What is their background? What did they do before Real estate?
2) What specifics do they know about the market? Do they have the ability to run reports on the fly about your specific area?
3) Do they understand construction tools and techniques?
4) When are they available?
5) What continuing education have they completed beyond the required yearly classes?
6) Is their website custom built, specific to the New Orleans area, or a cookie cutter version from their broker?
If you ask question #'s 5 & 6, you will quickly identify those agents in the top 5% of being able to help you most effectively combining knowledge with quick current answers to your needs.
Tom Inglesby, Broker
ABR,CRS, CLHMS, EA S.T.A.R eco broker
RE/MAX Equity Group
Portland, Or 97239
Even though realtors are compensated by the seller at the close of the transaction, you should be "hiring" your own buyers agent. Ask friends, coworkers, and church members for recommendations and then interview a few agents before selecting one. In your vetting process you should ask how many homes they actually tour each month. Many agents rely exclusively on the MLS Database and its photos and do not enter a home unless they are showing it to a client or listing it.
Ideally you want someone that you feel comfortable with and who is well connected within the realtor community. With the large inventory, it is next to impossible to preview every home that comes on the market, but many areas have regularly scheduled agent tours so that several homes can be toured in a short period.
Be upfront with your realtor and let him/her know what specifics are important to you. The more details you provide, the easier it will be for your realtor to pinpoint the properties that may fit. Most importantly, let your agent know that you want him/her to preview homes before you set an appointment to see them together.
Keep asking questions! If you are in the St. Tammany area, I'd love to interview for the opportunity to represent you.