Your home is one of the biggest investments you’ll make during your lifetime, and the process of buying and selling can be emotional and stressful. So whether you’re a first-time home buyer, buying a second home, or an investor or a seller in any of these stages, you want to work with the right real estate professional for your situation. Choosing the right real estate agent or Realtor (and there’s a difference between the two) will make the process easier and more secure. But how do you choose?
First, you’ll want to know the difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor®. According to Realtor Fallon Traylor of Berkshire-Hathaway HomeServices, Georgia Properties, “A Realtor® is a real estate agent who has met the additional educational requirements and national standards to earn this special designation.”
She says that Realtors are held to higher ethical and national professional standards than real estate agents, who are individuals licensed to sell real estate in a particular state. Every Realtor is a real estate agent but not every real estate agent is a Realtor.
There are also multiple other designations and certifications real estate agents and Realtors can get that make them even more specialized in their service to you, including qualifications for serving seniors, families, military personnel, buyers, sellers and property owners. These professionals have received additional, focused education in these areas and are identified by an acronym next to their names.
So with all of these different types of real estate professionals, how do you choose the one that’s right for you? Well, here are 7 tips for doing so:
1. Choose a real estate agent who specializes in your type of property.
If you’re a first-time home buyer, buying a large, luxury home, or an empty-nester who is downsizing, you may want to work with someone who focuses on those areas. Those real estate agents are likely to have done many such transactions and know their nuances.
2. Pick one that concentrates on your type of transaction.
Whether you’re a residential home buyer or seller, an investor, a renter or dealing with a commercial property, consider hiring a real estate agent who specifically understands those transactions. The agent is going to have in-depth knowledge and be able to negotiate the best deal for you. The agent will understand the contracts better than one without similar experience, which is critical for such a large deal.
3. Select a real estate professional that knows your current or desired area.
If you’re trying to sell your house or buy one in a particular area, you want a real estate agent that knows the area especially well. This is particularly true if you’re moving to the area from some distance away. The agent will know the homes, schools, neighborhood history, amenities and comparable pricing of homes in your current or desired area. If you’re a seller, the agent will help you realistically price your home and get it ready for sale to those interested in your area.
4. Find one that suits your personality and life stage.
There’s nothing like working with someone who doesn’t “get” you. In the case of a real estate transaction, where you’re likely to be dealing with more money than you might in any other, you definitely don’t want to be in that situation. If you’re tech savvy and want to communicate by text or use apps to search, choose a real estate agent who does, too. If you’re eclectic or want to live in a tiny home, find a real estate agent who understands your unique needs. If you’re a millennial buying your first home or a baby boomer downsizing from a large home to a small condo, make your experience easier—hire a professional who works with your “type.”
5. Get one that will focus on your specific needs rather than their own.
Real estate agents have goals, too, and they don’t always consider your best interests. But you want them focused on your objectives. There are few things worse when you’re buying or selling a property than having a real estate agent who is working towards their own ends. You want someone who will show you only the properties you want to see, in the price range you’re comfortable with, when you’re available to see them, while knowing when and how to be honest with you about your needs and interests. In other words, find an agent who wants to sell your home or sell you a home, not just make high commissions or meet sales quotas at your expense.
6. Choose a real estate agent who has a clean transaction history.
Research any real estate agents you’re considering carefully to avoid hiring one who is known to be unethical, has had disciplinary action taken against them or makes shady deals. Check agents’ license status with your state’s real estate regulatory agency and see if there are any complaints about them (or their agency) on consumer rating sites like Yelp, Redfin, Consumer Affairs and Angie’s List or with the local Better Business Bureau. Then, interview them and ask them specific questions related to the transactions they’ve done in the past (beyond how many and what type) and go with your gut. If their answers make you uncomfortable, hire someone else. Remember, this transaction is one of the biggest you’ll do and you want it done legally and ethically. So make sure your real estate agent is reputable.
7. Ask your friends or family for recommendations.
This is one of the best ways to choose a real estate professional. You trust your friends and family and they know you, your personality, tastes and communication style. They are most likely to know who you’ll work best with. They may also have used a great real estate agent in the past when buying or selling a property or lived in the area where you do or where you want to live. Ask them to suggest a great real estate agent for you.
Choosing a real estate professional is serious business because buying or selling a house is serious business. Make sure you take as much time to choose one as you take researching and choosing a home to buy. The right real estate agent can make or break your transaction.