Finding a real estate agent is a lot like dating. Well-meaning neighbors, friends, and family members try to set you up with someone they know, you meet to see “if it’s a good fit,” and maybe enter a relationship — or in this case, a buyer-broker agreement.
But be wary of picking someone you’re too close to. You’ll spend a lot of time with your agent, so you need to be able to have serious conversations with them and be confident in their negotiation skills. There’s nothing worse than not being able to look Aunt Edna in the eye next Thanksgiving because you weren’t able to make it work with her best friend and real estate agent.
Besides using your own network, you can use tools such as Trulia’s Find an Agent Directory to find highly recommended agents who know how crazy the Boston real estate market is, or have a special skill set (say, speaking a foreign language) to assist you in buying.
Your agent’s personality should also be compatible with yours. Do you need someone easygoing or someone aggressive? Personally, I’m a self-proclaimed overachiever and I like working with someone similar, as long as they have a calm personality and great sense of humor. You may think you want a bulldog who will fight for a deal, but if you don’t like your agent, chances are, no one else will either.
So choose the most qualified person for the job, but also someone you think will make a good partner at every step of the journey. You need someone you’ll feel comfortable disagreeing with and that you can trust — remember that this person will become quite intimate with your home and finances.
Your ideal match will be an experienced professional who knows your market, acts ethically, answers all of your questions, addresses your concerns, and, perhaps most important, will listen to you and be your teammate throughout the entire process.
Here are 10 questions to ask a potential real estate agent or broker.
1. What percentage of your clients are sellers (versus buyers)?
Agents who mostly work with buyers will have a different set of skills from those who primarily represent sellers. You want to make sure this person is an expert at knowing how to land a home in your desired neighborhood.
2. In which neighborhoods do you primarily work?
You want someone who can spout off neighborhood stats like a true local. Your agent doesn’t just need to know the market valuations in Dallas, TX, they also need to know the valuations for each specific neighborhood, from Oak Lawn to Lakewood.
3. Will I be working with you directly?
In other words, will your agent handle all aspects of the transaction or will they delegate some tasks to a sales associate or administrative assistant? A knowledgeable assistant can be invaluable, but you want to make sure you can connect regularly with your agent.
4. Do you work full time or part time as a real estate agent?
Many agents work part time — and that’s fine. But if you expect them to respond to your queries in a timely manner, it’s worth asking how available they can be when you have questions or want to tour a property — especially if your schedule isn’t very flexible.
5. How many home sales have you closed in my desired area?
Success counts. You want someone who has a proven track record of closing deals.
6. How many other buyers are you representing now? How many sellers?
Hint: The busiest agents often are also the most efficient.
7. Is your license in good standing?
You can check an agent’s certification with your state’s department of real estate. Many states provide this information online.
8. How many years of education and experience do you have?
Experience and continuing education typically make for better agents. And it doesn’t hurt to ask if they own their own homes: A Trulia Trends study shows that 85% of brokers and agents are homeowners.
9. Are you also a broker?
What’s the difference? Well, a broker is usually someone who has pursued education beyond what’s required by state laws. This person will probably have passed a broker’s license exam, which can indicate a commitment to real estate as a career — and to above-and-beyond customer service.
10. Can you provide me with the names and phone numbers of past clients who have agreed to be references?
Insights from past customers can help you learn more about an agent and give you a greater comfort level.
Picking a real estate pro is a key decision in the home-buying (and selling!) process. So many great real estate professionals are out there willing to work hard for you, so consider the advice above as you make your selection.