You want to be sure you have the best real estate agent you can find when you start looking to buy a home. This is a person you must trust to be honest with you, to help you find what you want and need, and who will guide you through a complex process that can feel frustrating at times.
But beyond ratings, reviews, and recommendations, how do you know you have found a truly stellar broker? Here is a list of four qualities you should look for when considering a real estate agent.
1. Certification and Accreditation
Real estate agents are licensed by the realtor’s association in each state. This licensing is important because the state board oversees and disciplines realtors; you can check with that board to see if any official complaints or actions have been filed against the agent
with whom you are interested in working.
You also want to see what kinds of certifications your prospective agent has worked to get. If you see the letters CRS, ABNR, or SRES after the realtor’s name, it means he or she has gone through one of these specialty accreditation programs.
ABR stands for Accredited Buyer’s Representative and means the agent has been trained to handle the home buyer’s side of the deal and not just the seller’s. CRS stands for Certified Residential Specialist and means that the agent has been trained to deal with residential real estate specifically, as opposed to business or other kinds of properties.
SRES stands for Seniors Real Estate Specialist and implies that the agent has been trained to help both home buyers and home sellers who are older than 50.
Finally, any agent who refers to him or herself as a “Realtor” with a capital R, rather than a “realtor” with a lowercase R, is a member of the National Association of Realtors. This membership means that the agent adheres to the association’s ethics code and methodologies, and has plenty of opportunities for continuing education.
2. Listings and Specialties
Beyond the accreditation specialties your potential agent may possess, there are also basic specializations he or she may focus on. For example, some agents might specialize in gated communities or homeowners’ associations, first-time buyers, or luxury homes.
Similarly, different agents serve different locations. You can see where the agent’s listings are located to get a picture of this—does the agent focus primarily on one chunk of the city or certain neighborhoods? Sometimes the agent’s other areas of specialization can also give you hints about the areas he or she serves.
You can search the agent’s listings to get a good picture of his or her specialties, but you should also feel free to ask him or her what he or she specializes in. Part of the process of finding a good agent includes making sure that the agent can help you meet your needs. If the agent specializes in something that isn’t close to what you’re looking for, you probably want to find someone else who is going to be better able to help you find the right fit.
3. Expertise and Success
Specializations aside, you want to find an agent who is good at his or her job. Finding someone who has been working full-time for a few years will ensure that the agent knows the market and knows how to get the job done.
Don’t be afraid to ask the agent how many sales he or she has facilitated in the past few months or years, what kinds of sales those were, and how long he or she has been working in the field. You can also ask if the agent has received any awards for service in real estate.
If the agent has received any awards from real estate oversight boards, chances are good that you are working with someone who is excellent at his or her job. The National Association of Realtors’ “Realtor of the Year” award is probably the top award that agents can receive.
4. Communication and Presence
Since there are so many parts to the home-buying process, you want to be sure your chosen agent is a good communicator. If you feel out-of-the-loop at any point, or if your agent doesn’t know what’s going on, the transaction may be doomed to fail.
A good real estate agent is an excellent communicator with both the buyer and the seller, who isn’t afraid to get the information either party needs to feel comfortable and make the sale.
You might also want to see what kind of online or community presence the agent has. If he or she has a large web presence or is well-connected within the community where you are searching for a home, chances will be good that he or she has access to more listings and resources that will benefit you in the end.
Most importantly, you should meet with the agent and see how you feel about interacting with him or her. If you don’t feel good about the meeting, or if you don’t feel like you can trust the agent, then you should move on and find someone else.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask the agent for references from his or her last few clients. One of the best ways you can find out about the agent’s potential to successfully find you a home is by talking to people who have already gone through the experience with this person and come out on top.