Most agents these days, represent both buyers and sellers, mostly separately, but can do dual agency in many states. After 25 years in the business, and having referred my buyers out of the area, I have found that it is not just: are they certified ABR (accredited buyers agent) or are they a certified relocation agent. The real test is do they do the job, do they listen and are they committed to getting you what you want. I often pick the agents for my buyers myself when referring out of the area. I am looking for agents that have some experience (however some newer agents have more time and committment than the busier, more well known agents). I look for agents that match their personality, aggressive or patient, facts or feelings, hand holder or hands off, etc. Talk to other people you know and see if they have a favorite and why, what is good for one is not for another. Once you have established one-three people to interview, meet with each one and have them go over the process and the paperwork. If there is a buyer broker contract, ask if you can take it home to look it over, be sure that you can get out if they don't do their part. Look for any financial obligations, be sure that the money goes towards the contract on ratification, or is returned to you if the agent does not find you a house (In some areas, the buyer broker fee is non-refundable, in this case be sure to talk to at least 3 agents and find out what their policy is.) Be sure that the agent goes over these important areas:
1. Upfront: get a pre-approval letter from a reputable lender or even two, not an on line broker that will promise the world, and charge big fees. Don't fall for any "we can fix your problems" get a second and third opinion.
2. Upfront: the lender will give you a "Truth and Lending" which outlines all the fees they charge and the "estimates" for the rest. Be sure your agent also does a cost sheet and compare them. A good agent is more familiar with the actual fees. Often lenders guesstemate low.
3. The agent should be able to explain the entire process:
a. What upfront money is required: Earnest Money or Deposit (ranges from $500 to 10% of Sales Price and should refundable if the offer is not accepted or loan denied-but depends on how the contract is written), home inspection fee (ranges from $350-$800 depending on the property & the area & is not refundable), appraisal fee (ranges from $350-$500 depending on area) is not refundable, credit report ($50-$100 per report- not refundable), and any other inspections required by buyer, get the ALL the fees in your estimated cost sheet, ask for the "worst case scenario" which should include at least 1 point or origination fee.
a. Market conditions: % of list price to sales price in your area, it varies all over the country.
b. Are sellers paying closing costs, how much.
c. Are there any special programs that sellers are offering.
d. They should also be able to show you the property history : which includes reductions or other changes. What can you expect: find the house, review the comparables, check the property history, write the offer, negotiate, home inspection, review of any home owner docs, appraisal, get mortgage complete, walk thru, go to closing, for instance.
4. Find out if the agent is availabe frequestly to show you property. (Some agents are so busy, they have to "fit" you in or pass you to a team member, you want someone who can devote a reasonable amount of time).
5. Ask the agent what form of communication during the process they use, who does the follow up (some times it is an assistant) and who do YOU talk to the assistant or the agent.
6. Ask if the agent attends the home inpsection, walk thru and closing personally (this is very important that the agent is there personally to be able see what is being done.
Hope this helps, if you need any help just call. Jan Lowery/Broker Associate/Virginia Beach, Va, 757-434-7174 - Email: Realestateangels@aol.com - http://www.janlowery.com