Real Estate Agents 7 Tips to Find a Realtor for Referrals
Whether you’re buying or selling a home, finding a real estate agent you can trust might just be the most important decision you make. After all, they’ll be helping you manage a transaction that’s worth hundreds of thousands of dollars!
It may be tempting to hire the first real estate agent you talk to, just to save time and effort. We get it. Life is busy, especially when you’re making a big transition. But fight the urge to skip this crucial step!
A real estate agent can easily make or break your home-buying or home-selling experience. You don’t want to hire a rookie agent who might just be winging it. You want a seasoned agent who has what it takes to get the job done.
But how do you find the right real estate agent for you?
How to Find Real Estate Agents Near You
Okay, there are many ways to find a real estate agent. But to find a great one near you, you need to look in the right places:
- Do extensive research online for the best agents in your area or where you plan to move.
- Use a referral program you trust that vets for the best agents—like our Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program.
- Ask people who had a great experience buying or selling a home for the agent they used.
- Visit open houses so you can meet potential agents in person.
If you think you’d feel more comfortable working with someone you know on a personal level, just be warned that hiring a friend or relative as your real estate agent could create some uncomfortable problems.
Find a trusted real estate agent we recommend in your area.
For example, they’ll probably be peering into your personal finances (like how much money you make and how you manage it all) and that might not be information you want lingering around your social circles. And what if something goes wrong with the sale? Housing mistakes are worth tens of thousands of dollars. Even if you have the courage to give them the boot, who knows how long the tension will last?
Don’t make the mistake of settling for a mediocre agent when you could easily find a top performer who has helped hundreds like you get the job done smoothly and for the best deal.
6 Tips to Help You Choose a Great Real Estate Agent
So, now that you know where to find a great real estate agent, how do you choose the right one for you? You’re not going to choose the best one by playing “Eeny meeny miny moe.” You need to take the agent interview process seriously. That’s right—we said interview process. Don’t forget, this is a huge transaction! The good news is that separating the experts from the amateurs isn’t rocket science. You just need to know what to look for.
Tip #1: Evaluate Their Real Estate Experience
Remember that you have hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line when you buy or sell a house. You wouldn’t trust an amateur with that kind of money. If you want an expert, don’t be afraid to set the bar high.
How many years of experience should an agent have?
Helping people buy or sell a home is a tough job that involves difficult negotiations and market fluctuations. So you’ll want to find an agent who has a ton of experience. How much experience is enough? Well, that answer depends on whether you’re buying or selling.
- Buyer’s agent: If you’re buying a home, look for a buyer’s agent who has at least two yearsof full-time real estate experience. Otherwise, you’re just a guinea pig.
- Seller’s agent: Selling, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated. You want an agent who’s been working full-time for a minimum of four years.
Believe it or not, the typical real estate agent has a median experience of eight years.1 And if an agent has 10 or more years under their belt, you can trust that they’ve sold in the best and worst of times.
What real estate certifications should an agent have?
Okay, there are several fancy-sounding certifications and specializations a real estate agent may have, depending on their area of expertise. We’ll break down some of the most common ones. Hope you like acronyms!
- CRS (Certified Residential Specialist): awarded to top-performing agents (highest credential)
- ABR® (Accredited Buyer Representative): given to professionals who have completed specific training for representing buyers in a real estate transaction
- ASR® (Accredited Seller Representative): given to professionals who have completed specific training for representing sellers in a real estate transaction
- SRES® (Seniors Real Estate Specialist): given to those who have completed training to help buyers and sellers over the age of 50
- Realtor®: given to members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR)
You shouldn’t choose an agent based solely on their certifications, but knowing what kind they have and what exactly they mean can give you confidence that your agent is qualified at helping people in your particular situation.
Tip #2: Make Sure They Know Your Local Real Estate Market
General real estate experience is a big factor, but it’s equally important that your agent has helped people buy and sell lots of homes in your area. If you live in Birmingham, Alabama, you want an agent who knows what the real estate market is like in Birmingham. It doesn’t do you much good if they know all about real estate in a suburb or a town an hour away.
Here’s what to look for to determine whether or not the agent you’re interviewing has the local expertise you want:
Do they close a lot of homes?
By “a lot,” we mean dozens of houses. This is where the experts really shine. Trust us, you don’t want to hire your Aunt Nancy who sold three homes last year. You’ll regret it, and that’s the kind of drama you don’t want at Thanksgiving dinner.
Find a seasoned real estate agent who either closes at least 35 homes a year or more homes than 90% of the agents in their market. It takes hard work and a good reputation to get that kind of business. A high-volume agent like that eats, sleeps and breathes real estate. Now, that’s who you want!
If you’re selling your house, an agent who is that successful can afford to provide a full marketing plan and may even hire extra support to make sure home sales don’t miss a beat.
When it comes to buying a house, working with an agent who’s an expert negotiator ensures you aren’t overpaying on your new place. A high-volume agent also has access to many available homes and may even know about homes before they hit the market.
Are they invested in your local community?
Obviously, an agent who’s sold a lot of homes in your area has proven expertise. But you want an agent who does more than just rattle off facts. You can usually tell if they have personal ties to your community and understand what makes your particular corner of the world special. Do you live in a hot market? That makes it even more important to work with an agent who gets it!
Tip #3: Check the Real Estate Agent’s Track Record
It’s important to know that your agent is a top performer. You’re looking for an agent who prices homes accurately and then gets them to the closing table. A few key metrics can help you know their skill level in these areas.
How accurate is their pricing?
It doesn’t take much to figure this out. Ask an agent the average asking price and final sales price of the homes they list. Then divide the final price by the asking price. This number—also known as the sale-to-list ratio—can help you predict how accurately your agent prices the homes they sell.
The closer an agent’s sale-to-list ratio is to 100%, the more accurate their pricing—and the better the chance of getting the asking price for your house. A ratio over 100% means an agent consistently gets above the asking price on homes they sell.
Now, if you’re buying a home, you can evaluate the sale-to-list ratio on the homes an agent helps clients purchase as well, which is a good indicator of how well they will negotiate on your behalf. For this ratio, a number below 100 means a buyer’s agent consistently gets below asking price on home purchases.
Find out how long it typically takes them to close a home.
There’s no guarantee that the agent will be able to help you buy or sell a home within a certain time frame. But having an idea of what to expect can be helpful, especially if you’re selling a house. If you’re trying to sell your home on a tight timeline, you want to choose an agent who will work hard to get it sold quickly.
Tip #4: Learn About Their Customer Service
If you’re entrusting a real estate agent with helping you buy or sell a home, you shouldn’t have to wait five days for them to return your phone call or respond to a text. These are the questions you need to ask to make sure they’re going to be by your side through every step of the process.
How do they communicate with their real estate clients?
Communication is key in any real estate transaction. If your agent isn’t responding to you in a reasonable amount of time and it’s costing you opportunities, you and your agent are missing out!
You need a real estate agent who is both highly responsive and honest to a fault. Look for someone who can be blunt in the nicest way possible. The last thing you want is an agent who will give you false expectations about your home. Whether you like it or not, it’s in your best interest for them to call it like they see it.
Real estate isn’t always sunshine and roses, so there’s no need to pretend like it is. It’s true that there will be bumps along the way. When that happens, you need an agent who isn’t afraid to get in the bumper car and drive it all the way to the finish line of your home’s closing.
Do you have options if you’re unhappy with the job they’re doing?
Be wary of agents who lock you into a lengthy contract that they can get out of—but you can’t. If you’re required to sign a contract, ask your agent if you can cancel without a penalty if you’re not satisfied with their service. And be aware that some agents charge a termination fee to cover out-of-pocket marketing expenses.
Talk with their past clients.
Want to know the good, the bad and the ugly? Nothing beats talking to a former client about their personal experience with an agent! When you interview real estate agents, make sure they provide a list of past clients for you to contact.
Tip #5: Interview at Least Three Real Estate Agents
Consider this a real interview! These types of questions will help you spot the truly great agents and set the right expectations for the process:
- How long have you been a full-time real estate agent in my market?
- How many homes do you close each year?
- Who will be my primary point of contact?
- What qualities or certifications set you apart from other agents?
- How will you help me sell and/or buy a home in a competitive market?
- What’s your commission fee?
- Do I have to sign a contract with you? Can I cancel without penalty?
- How will you communicate with me?
- How do you set realistic expectations for your clients?
- Who can I contact for a reference?
Looking for a handy checklist? Download our real estate interview worksheet!