You’ve seen the “For Sale” signs and you’re anxious to buy a home. But, how do you navigate all the various kinds of home loans and figure out how much house you can really afford? Plus, how will find out the inside scoop on each home and how to submit an offer? A real estate agent can help you with all of these decisions and more.
Real estate agents work to make buying and selling houses easier for the general public. As experts in the local real estate market where they work, agents can make a difficult transaction worry-free for you. Unfortunately, some people still say that real estate agents are a “dime a dozen.” This doesn’t mean that the profession is full of lazy or incompetent people, but there’s no denying that some real estate agents do a much better job than others.
So, how do you find the perfect real estate agent? Start by checking credentials.
The Realtor Difference
There are many active real estate agents, but not all of them are “Realtors”. To use the term Realtor, a licensed real estate agent must also be a member of the National Association of Realtors. This requires additional training above the licensing requirements that all agencies must meet. Realtors:
- Complete ethics courses and exams, and
- Make a commitment to uphold the association’s ethics standards, which are more stringent than both federal and state laws.
Realtors also hold themselves to higher standards regarding client rights. That means when hiring a Realtor, you’ll ensure you have a trustworthy professional on your side. You can do this by asking friends for referrals or searching for local Realtors in your area on Zillow.
Interviewing Prospective Agents
The next step is to call any Realtors you find through word of mouth or advertisements and conduct an interview. The Realtor will be working for you, so you’ll want to be comfortable with her personality, energy level, typical work hours and plan for helping you find the perfect home. Also ask how many properties she owns. If the answer is “none,” you might want to keep looking. Realtors who own at least one property may have special insights based upon their personal experience. Find out how many years she has been a Realtor and the type of property and area of town in which she specializes. (The more frequently the agent works in the areas and/or with the kinds of properties you want to buy, the more helpful she’ll be). Make sure she is a member of the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) as well, as that will give you access to the most homes that meet your criteria. You may even want to meet the Realtor face to face before deciding if she is the right one for you.
Before you sign a contract, check the Realtor’s history to be sure there are no legal or ethics violations on her record. You can do this by going to the Department of Real Estate website for your state. For example, search for “California Department of Real Estate”. You’ll see a link which says, “Look up Agent’s License,” or something similar. Enter the Realtor’s first and last names, or the company she works with.
Get Down to Work
Once you interview the Realtor and check her background, you should be ready to make a decision. If you have a difficult time choosing between two Realtors, make a “pros” and “cons” list. What did you like, or dislike about each? When your final decision is made, you’ll need to meet with the Realtor to sing an agency contract. The contract states that the Realtor is working for you, for the purpose of finding a house which meets your criteria.
Be prepared to tell the Realtor your criteria. She needs to know how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’d like, the area of town you prefer, any special amenities you’d like and, of course, the price range you can afford, and have been pre-qualified for. If you haven’t received a lender pre-qualification for a loan, the Realtor should be able to give you references for qualified, honest lenders whom she has worked with previously. After completing these steps, you’ll be ready to look at houses, submit offers and purchase the perfect home.