Pick your area first, then your Realtor, then your home.
You can rely upon Realtors for initial guidance for general information without committing to an exclusive relationship. It is best to be up front; it will take you a long way in both achieving your goals and getting the best service. As you explore some general areas, let the agents that you speak with know that you are simply learning about the communities and when you decide which areas are right for you, and not willing to commit to one agent, yet. Let them know it is your intent to choose one agent to work with, but you talking with various agents for the purpose of selecting your representative. At that moment, you can hear what they have to say about why they should be your selection.
If you look at a property at an open house, you have not established any relationship with that host agent as a result of your stopping in. Agents are paid on commission at closing, so if an agent makes an appt to show you a specific property, that agent will assume that the two of you have established a relationship, at least for that specific property. When I make an appointment to show property to a new buyer, I ask my buyer customers to sign a limited buyer agency agreement with me, stating that I would be their representative for that property. My limited agreement also allows them the oppty to â€˜fire meâ€™ if I fail to perform. As I establish a stronger working relationship w/ buyers, we enter into a written buyer agency agreement that specifies they are working exclusively with me from that day forward. Not all buyer agents work by written agreement, but we see this becoming more common. Even absent a written agreement, the expectations follow suit as described above. Therefore, only make appointments to see property with agents you are comfortable to have represent you. Dialog on the phone or email does not commit you.
If you chat with agents via phone and email, you will gather some sense of whether you have confidence in that agent, if the person is knowledgeable and hard working. You should feel free to ask the agent questions about themselves. A buyer agent is more than a keycode to a lockbox. Ask agents about their experience, availability and support. You are trusting this person to negotiate on your behalf, advise you and be your advocate. You want to feel confident about them. You can find potential agents online, through Trulia, open houses, and even print ads.
Be open about your criteria of what is important to you; both about the agent and about your ideal property. The more the agent knows, the better he/she will be able to respond. I know you posted a question about what area was â€œgood for familiesâ€, but â€œgoodâ€ is subjective in the eyes of the buyer. To one buyer, a parcel of land with 3 acres is wonderful for their family to enjoy. To another buyer, a cul-de-sac with neighbors to chat with is better. Without knowing your criteria, an agent guesses based on limited hints.
Once you know the area you wish to live, pick one agent, let that agent, and the others know you selected one person to represent you. Be clear on your mutual expectations of each other. Give lots of feedback about properties and communities, expressing what you liked and disliked. This will allow the agent to do a better job for you.
A good buyers agent needs to be able to advise you about pricing and competition and in order to negotiate on your behalf. In Warren Count, you could buy property that has septic or well. If those types of properties are under consideration, make sure your agent is knowledgeable in those areas, too. A good buyers agent will also have sales skill and training when presenting offers, probing for competitive details, and probing for seller motivation. Look for theses skills when talking with prospective agents.