How to find the right buyer's agent
Buying a home is one of the most important financial and lifestyle decisions you’ll make in your life, so finding the right real estate agent to shepherd that process is crucial. While it may be tempting to use a friend or family member who got their real estate license on the side, there are a lot of factors to consider before you make your decision.
Nothing beats word of mouth when it comes to finding a reputable buyer’s agent. Talk to family, friends and coworkers who have bought or sold a property in the last few years. Make note of the agents and agent offices they wholeheartedly endorse—as well as the ones they warn you to steer clear of.
When personal recommendations are lacking, online reviews are the next best thing. Look for customer reviews on third-party sites like Google, Realtor.com and Trulia. Avoid the reviews on the agent’s business website, as those have most likely been curated to paint them in the most favorable light.
Check their website
Any agent worth their salt knows that their website will be their first impression on many potential clients. Perusing their site for a few minutes will give you a clear indication of the way they handle business. Is the site up-to-date and typo-free? Are all the links working? If so, great. If the site looks like it was designed in 1996 and hasn’t been updated since, and half the links take you to a 404 Not Found page, be wary.
Schedule time to talk
Real estate is a people-driven business. A great agent is a master of networking, schmoozing and handling delicate social situations. Agents can’t just be competent and organized. They have to be personable. And the only way to find out if they are is to talk to them directly. Face-to-face is lovely, but not as common these days as a phone call or video chat.
Are they gruff and curt, or warm and patient? Do you find them trustworthy? You need to feel comfortable with them because working with an agent is a very personal relationship. Above all else, trust your gut.
Before you chat with a prospective agent, have a list of questions prepared.
What to ask
Among the questions you should ask a prospective agent are:
Which states are you licensed in?
Not every agent is licensed in multiple states. If you live in New York and are speaking with a New York agent, you can assume they’re licensed in New York. But if you’re also planning to look for places in New Jersey, check that they’re licensed there as well. If not, they can recommend a second agent to handle your New Jersey showings; having more than one agent for this reason is common.
Are you a full-time or part-time agent?
If you’re in a hurry to find a great home, you will need a full-time agent who can act quickly. If you’re not in a rush, then a full-time or part-time agent would both be fine for you.
Do you charge any upfront fees?
The vast majority of agents only get paid when you close on a home, but some do charge upfront fees to protect their time and energy. If this is a deal-breaker for you, best to find out now.
Do you specialize in the area I’m most interested in?
If you’re dying to live in one specific area or neighborhood, try to find an agent who is hyper-focused in that specific region and has their finger on the pulse of the real estate scene there.
A note on dual agents
Many real estate agents act as buyer’s agents and listing agents. There’s nothing unethical about that. If you’re selling and buying a home at the same time, a dual agent can list the former and help you find the latter.
But if an agent is acting as listing agent and buyer’s agent for the same property, that is a huge conflict of interest. The agent will make their money entirely on commission, so it’s in their best interest to get the highest price for the home they’re selling. But a buyer’s agent’s job is to help you get the best price for the property you want, and those two goals are in direct opposition. Avoid this situation at all costs.
When to sign with an agent
You’re not obligated to sign a contract with a buyer’s agent until you’re ready to make a bid on a property. However, it’s common courtesy to sign with them when you’re ready to seriously look at houses. It gives them peace of mind that the time they spend working for you without compensation won’t end with you giving the sale to a different agent at the eleventh hour.
Most agents allow you to terminate the contract within 48 hours if you’re not happy with the service you’re receiving. Review the contract carefully for specifics.
After you sign
After you sign with an agent, you’re still able to cut ties with them if things aren’t working out. If you’re not satisfied with their response time, if you feel pressured to make a bid because they’re just chasing a commission, if they do or suggest anything unethical, terminate that contract and find another agent.
Finding the perfect agent is the first step in finding the perfect home, so take your time and do your homework.
A note from your lending specialist
If you’re ready to finance your dream home, I can answer any questions you have and help you review your options.
MAP5523114 | 03/2023