How to find the best real estate agent
- Always comparison shop. Pay attention to credentials, listings and reviews.
- Ask your friends and family if they have any agents they can refer to you.
- Make sure they know the neighborhood where you’re looking, and don’t be afraid to ask A LOT of questions.
Buying a home is a complicated process — one that can be physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially draining. You’re going to want to find the right real estate agent to help guide you, a close ally that will be your fiercest advocate from start to finish.
So how do you go about finding that right fit? Here are some steps you can take to find an agent who’s perfect for you.
1. Comparison shop.
Just like with lenders, you’re going to want to speak with multiple agents to find the best fit for you. The NAR reports that two-thirds of first-time buyers contacted only one agent before choosing them for their home search. That’s not the best way to move forward; the extra preparation you skip could cost you thousands of dollars in the long run.
For a solid start, check out Ask a Lender’s Best Real Estate Agents rankings. It’s a list of the agents doing the most business in your home city and home state. That’s where you’ll find the best of the best in your local area — and there’s no reason not to start from the top.
Find the best real estate agents in your hometown now >>
2. Know what their credentials mean.
You know how all those initials and acronyms after doctors’ names stand for different specialties and qualifications? Real estate agents have the same thing. Finding an agent with the right designation could give you a leg up in a competitive market.
If you’re buying a primary home, a few of those designations are especially useful:
- ABR: This is short for Accredited Buyer’s Representative, which is given to agents who have extra training in representing buyers at every stage of the homebuying process.
- CBR: This stands for Certified Buyer’s Representative. Similar to ABR, these are agents who have extra education in helping house hunters smoothly find and buy a home.
- GREEN: This is the Green Designation awarded by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), given to agents who have completed education in working with properties with green features.
- MRP: This stands for Military Relocation Professional, an agent who is trained in working with current and former service members.
- RENE: This means Real Estate Negotiation Expert, a certification for professionals who have sharpened their negotiation skills.
- SRES: This designates Seniors Real Estate Specialists who have completed additional training for helping buyers age 50 and over.
- CRS: This is short for Certified Residential Specialist, the highest credential awarded to residential sales agents and brokers.
3. Seek out previous clients.
Satisfied clients are a real estate agent’s lifeblood. Many maintain a healthy clientele simply because happy clients have referred them to family and friends. According to the NAR, 52 percent of first-time buyers find their real estate agent through a friend. Request referrals from people around you, and ask them to describe their experiences, positive or negative.
Online reviews are useful as well. Often, people don’t leave reviews unless they’re extremely satisfied or particularly displeased with their experience, so this is a good way to weed out bad fits or find agents who go above and beyond for their clients.
Once you’ve narrowed your search, feel free to ask agents for a list of clients from the past year or so. If you’re able to make contact, ask them what the asking price was and what the purchase price was. This will help you get a sense of how much money the agent helped the buyer save.
4. Look at their listings.
If the agent has online listings, check them out. Do they look like the house you’re envisioning? Is the price range similar? Take this step to see how well your wants and needs mesh with what the agent is experienced in working with.
Perusing listings will also give you a good idea of how much business the agent has. You’ll want someone who is tenured and familiar with the area where you’re looking. Speaking of which…
5. Make sure they know the neighborhood.
It goes without saying, but a good real estate agent for you should be familiar with the neighborhoods where you want to move. Ask them about the areas you’re interested. Talk price ranges, market conditions, advantages and disadvantages. Try mentioning a house there that is for sale or has recently sold. If the agent recognizes the property and can talk about it in detail, it shows that they are on top of the right market for you.
6. Ask the right questions.
Take the time to ask some questions that don’t pertain to the real estate market. Not personal questions, mind you — but questions that will help you make a better hiring decision. How long have they been in real estate? Do they live in the area you’re looking? Are they just a buyer’s agent, or do they represent sellers as well? How do they like to communicate — phone calls, texts or emails? Do they have a team, or do they work alone? (Here’s a good one: Do they have any vacations planned soon? You don’t want to hire an agent who’s going to be gone right as you begin your house hunt.)
Don’t be shy about asking a lot of questions (while you’re looking for a real estate agent, as well as throughout every step of the house hunting process). Your real estate agent is going to be your advocate, your negotiator, your scout, your therapist, and quite a few other things during your home search. Finding the right match will make a world of difference.