How to Find a Good Realtor

Buying a new home is one of the most significant  — and largest — transactions you’ll ever make, especially if you’re buying a home for the first time. There is lots of room for mishaps and mistakes during the home buying process, which can lead to unexpected costs down the road.

That’s why so many homebuyers choose to work with a Realtor to walk them through the process of buying a home. Realtors and other real estate agents are experts at finding homes that fit their clients’ lifestyles. They can be instrumental when making an offer on a home, and they can assist with all the legal and financial procedures associated with homeownership.

That said, there are hundreds, if not thousands of Realtors in any given area. Finding the best one for you can be a challenge. If you’re ready to buy a home, here’s how to find a good Realtor for your needs.

What is a Realtor?

First, it’s important to recognize that a Realtor (with a capital “R”) is someone different than a regular real estate agent. A Realtor is a licensed real estate salesperson who belongs to the National Association of REALTORS®, the largest real estate trade association in the United States.

Realtors are held to high ethical standards and must adhere to a strict Code of Ethics in order to be part of the association. This makes working with licensed Realtors a safer prospect for homebuyers.

Realtors may be real estate broker or agents, but if you’re shopping for a home, you’ll likely be working with a real estate agent. A real estate agent’s job is to sell homes — but working with a Realtor also means that they are ethically bound to represent you and help you find the best property for your needs at the best price.

How to find a good Realtor

Nonetheless, just because you’re working with a Realtor doesn’t mean you’ve got the best real estate agent for your needs. There are a few factors you should pay attention to and some specific steps you should take when searching for a Realtor.

Talk to a lender first

Before working with an agent, you’ll need to know what type of house you can afford. If possible, try to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start reaching out to Realtors so you have a clear idea of your home budget. This will also prevent you from disappointment if you fall in love with a home you can’t afford.

Decide what’s most important to you in a Realtor

Take some time to determine what you want in a Realtor. You’ll be working directly with this person for some time, so you don’t want to get stuck with someone who doesn’t suit you.

If you prefer someone who communicates with you regularly, you’ll need to take this quality into consideration as you search. You might want a Realtor who is proactive about finding good listings if you’re looking to buy soon, or you may prefer someone who takes a more passive approach if you’re just browsing the housing market.

If you’re a busy person, you may prefer a Realtor who takes a hands-off approach and only contacts you when necessary. Other qualities, such as the ability to listen to your needs and knowledge of the local area, are also factors to consider.

You can also look for certain Realtor accreditations to assist you in your search. For example, a Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) is someone who completed training in residential real estate. Meanwhile, an Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR) has a specialty in representing buyers during transactions and a Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) has training in helping buyers aged 50 or older.

Ask friends and family for a recommendation

If someone within your circle of friends or family had success with a Realtor, you might find success with them as well. Ask the people around you for recommendations before searching the open marketplace.

Choose agents who have several listings in your target area

Realtors who maintain several listings for homes in the area you’d like to buy are more likely to be knowledgeable of that area. They’ll also have more options to choose from.

Ask about their experience and success

As with any profession, real estate agents must start somewhere, and you can’t be sure if the Realtor you choose has years of experience in the field unless you ask them.

“What makes a good Realtor is first and foremost someone with experience […] you don’t want someone who just got their license to be representing you. You shouldn’t simply judge someone’s experience based on the number of years they’ve had their license but instead ask how many transactions they successfully completed in the past twelve months. If the number is less than ten, I would steer clear,” Tyler Forte, CEO of Felix Homes in Franklin, Tennessee, said.

Be sure to ask your potential Realtor for references from previous clients, and don’t hesitate to call these clients to ask about their experience with the Realtor.

Create a shortlist

You’ll want to interview several Realtors and eliminate the ones you know you don’t want to work with. At the very least, consider interviewing three agents. Once you’ve narrowed down your search, you can choose the Realtor that works best for you.

Trust your instincts

There is also something to be said for what your instincts tell you. Anyone who is successful in their profession should operate professionally, which means they communicate effectively and are there for their clients. More importantly, your Realtor should be dedicated to your interests, not their own.

Philip Georgiades, chief real estate agent at FedHome Loan Centers in San Diego, California said you should “use your gut instinct. If the agent is more concerned about themselves than you, this is a huge red flag. Ask them about their personal values. Find out what is important to them. If it’s all superficial or money-driven, then they probably won’t have your best interests at heart.”

The bottom line

Buying a home is a deeply personal experience, and it’s possibly the largest financial transaction you’ll make in your lifetime. It’s not a process you can entrust anyone with. Follow these steps when searching for a Realtor, and you’ll be sure to find an agent who can help you find the perfect home.

Michael Rand

Personal Finance Contributor

Michael Rand is a business and personal finance writer based in Beverly, Massachusetts. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Salem State University and spent years producing content for financial services clients as an agency writer. His work has been featured in publications like Interest.com, The Simple Dollar, and Monetize.info.

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