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How to Select a Real Estate Agent
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How to Select a Real Estate Agent

Michael Jensen, Mortgage and Finance Guru
, Mortgage and Finance Guru

Selecting the right real estate agent is a key step in the home purchase process.  An experienced and capable real estate agent can help you successfully find, negotiate and purchase a home and avoid potential pitfalls.  Selecting the wrong real estate agent can end up costing you money or you could miss out on the home you are looking for so spending the time and effort to find the right agent or realtor is important.

The good news is the for home buyers, the property seller actually pays the commission for both real estate agents involved in the transaction -- the commission comes out of the property purchase price. So having a qualified agent costs you the same as an unqualified agent - nothing. Even though you do not pay their fee, a home buyer's real estate agent can add tremendous value to the process. For example, the agent may be able to negotiate a better purchase price based on market insights and knowledge.  Agents with deep local expertise and relationships may be aware of certain property listings before they hit the market, which are also known as pocket listings.  Or the agent may be aware of certain issues with the home or the neighborhood where the property is located.

A good real estate agent represents your interests when negotiating the property purchase agreement. The purchase agreement not only includes the property price but other important terms including the length of the escrow period and what happens if the transaction falls through. While most home purchase transactions are relatively straightforward, you want to make sure that you are protected in the event something unexpected occurs as there is a lot of money on the line.

In short, a real estate agent's expertise and experience can help you find the home you want, save you thousands of dollars on the purchase and help you avoid unnecessary hassle and frustrations. While selecting a real estate agent is more art than science, we recommend that you use the pointers below to guide your selection process. There are a couple of important points in the list that we want to emphasize.

First of all, request client references for the agent. You want to understand the transactions the agent has worked on in the past and the level of customer service he or she has provided. Even the willingness to provide references says a lot about an agent. If they are unwilling or cannot provide references then this is a red flag and you should choose a different agent. Positive references can be very informative and enable you to gather more insight into the real estate agent’s area of focus and attributes.

You also want to speak with multiple real estate agents before making a selection.  Even if you already know a qualified agent or have a personal referral from a friend or colleague, contacting several agents never hurts.  You may be able to pick up pointers or learn something about the housing market that applies to your situation.  You may also learn about upcoming listings or pending sales that may influence your home search.  A good real estate agent has in-depth understanding of current market conditions and dynamics.  Plus, the more information you have, the more likely you are to find the home that is right for you. 

Another important point to keep in mind when selecting a real estate agent is that experience counts. You want to hire someone who has experience in the area, property type and price range you are interested in. For example, some real estate agents focus on specific neighborhoods and may be more familiar with market trends and property values in that area. Other agents may focus on a specific property type such as condominiums or co-ops. Some agents may focus on higher-end properties or starter homes. Hire an agent with the transaction experience that is most relevant to your home search.

We also recommend that you start contacting lenders at the same time you start your real estate agent selection process. Selecting a lender and getting pre-approved for your mortgage before you select a real estate agent puts you in a stronger position to act quickly to purchase a property.

Below we outline key tips for selecting a real estate agent.  Always remember to interview multiple agents, focus on their relevant experience and get references. 

How to Select a Real Estate Agent
1

Interview Multiple Real Estate Agents

Keep your options open and run an interview process. Remember to ask lots of questions – you are in control of the selection process, not the other way around.  It can be helpful to get a sense of the agent's communication and negotiating style to see if it fits with your personality and approach.  Buying a home is an important transaction so you need to be comfortable working closely with the agent you select.  We recommend that you contact at least three-to-five agents for your selection process. 

2

Experience Matters

Make sure the real estate agent has extensive experience in the area in which you are looking to buy a home.  Ideally he or she has been involved in recent transactions in that neighborhood.  An experienced agent may also be aware of new listings before they hit the market, which provides a competitive advantage in a competitive housing market.  Additionally,  If you want to buy a specific type of property it may be helpful to select an agent with relevant expertise.  For example, there are different considerations if you buy a condo as compared to a single family home.  It is important that your agent possesses the right experience to help you accomplish your home buying goals.

3

GET REFERENCES!

We cannot emphasize this point enough – any good real estate agent will happily provide multiple client references.  If he or she refuses, interview other agents.  We recommend that you request at least five references and contact one-to-two.  A real estate agent's willingness to provide references is a positive sign that he or she has multiple satisfied former clients.  You may also want to check with your local and state department of real estate to confirm that the agent is licensed and that there are no complaints or actions against the individual.

4

Understand How the Real Estate Commission Works

As the buyer, you do not pay a commission to your real estate agent.  The home seller pays the commission (which comes out of the purchase price that you are paying) which is split between the seller's agent and your agent.  Although it does not directly impact you, note that total real estate agent commissions typically run between 4% - 6%.  It is important to understand the commission your agent receives so that you can ensure he or she is property compensated and motivated to do an outstanding job for you.

5

Never Use the Property Seller's Agent as Your Agent

When the same agent represents both the property buyer and seller this is also called dual agency.  We always recommend that the property seller and buyer each have their own real estate agents because this approach eliminates any conflict of interest.  Having your own real estate agent also ensures that you are working with someone who is working 100% on your behalf.  An agent who only works for you can save you money, help you avoid pitfalls and offer truly independent advice, which is why you hired the individual in the first place.

Use our get pre-approved form to get approved and mortgage quotes from multiple lenders. The form is free, no obligation and requires minimal information.  Getting pre-approved gives you a competitive advantage for your home search by making your offer stand out.

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The table below shows mortgage rates and fees for leading lenders in your area.  In addition to interviewing several real estate agents we also recommend that you shop multiple lenders for your mortgage.  Contact several lenders in the table below to compare loan terms.  Comparing lenders and proposals enables you to find the mortgage and program that are right for you.

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Current Mortgage Rates in Ashburn, Virginia as of January 17, 2021
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Data provided by Brown Bag Marketing, Inc. Payments do not include amounts for taxes and insurance premiums. Read through our lender table disclaimer for more on rates and product details.

Related FREEandCLEAR Resources


Sources

"Finding and Working With Your Real Estate Agent."  My Home by Freddie Mac.  Freddie Mac, 2019.  Web.

About the author
Michael Jensen, Mortgage and Finance Guru

Michael is the co-founder of FREEandCLEAR. Michael possesses extensive knowledge about mortgages and finance and has been writing about mortgages for nearly a decade. His work has been featured in leading national and industry publications. More about Michael

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