This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.
I don’t know about you, but when I am looking for a house to buy I do it from the comfort of my own couch. In my pajamas.
With so many online real estate websites, it has definitely become easy to look for houses.
You can compare prices, see photos and inspect virtual neighborhoods all from your iPad.
However, you still need a professional on your side, a real estate agent you can trust. But not just for the paperwork and legalities.
They can give you the edge you need in a booming market. A good agent can potentially save you thousands by fiercely negotiating your price in a competitive market.
So, here are some tips on how to find a good real estate agent you can trust that will help you navigate the murky waters of the home buying process.
1. Ask around for a good agent
Forget the fancy marketing and online advertising from real estate agents and look for some good old-fashioned, word-of-mouth referrals instead.
The best advertising an agent can have is a referral from someone who has worked with them. Ask your friends and family who they recommend. Place a “Looking for recommendations” post on Facebook or your local Next Door neighborhood app.
Make sure you ask about how knowledgeable an agent is. Personality is great, but you want someone who knows the industry, what to look for in potential issues with a house and how best to negotiate.
And beware of anyone recommending a family member or friend. They might be making the recommendation only to help them out, not because they are actually a good agent.
If you already have a specific agent in mind, ask them for referrals from past clients. An agent with nothing to hide will not object. The only ones who will mind are the ones with something to hide.
2. Look for a knowledgeable real estate agent
You want an agent that knows what is going on in the market in general and with houses in particular.
My current real estate agent will walk around each home with me, looking at everything from cracks in the walls to signs of potential foundation issues. An agent that has been around for a while and really cares will be looking out for the details.
Before you sign on with an agent talk to them. Ask them questions and listen for hard data in their answers.
They should be giving you answers based on intelligent research and real data. Experienced professionals will be able to mitigate risk when you are looking for a home to buy.
Look for a real estate agent with several years of experience. The more experience they have, the more knowledge they will have that you can take advantage of.
It is also a good idea to look for signs that they are a hard worker, and passionate about their business.
3. Visit open houses
A great way to meet potential agents in person is by attending open houses.
It gives you the chance to basically interview them on the spot. Use that time to ask them some questions and see how well they know their stuff.
Even if you are not in the market to buy, visiting open houses can help you find a great agent to sell your home.
It is also a good idea when you find someone you like to google them. Look to see if they have ever won awards for instance as agent of the year.
Look for recommendations they may have received online from others, or on the contrary look for complaints or bad reviews.
Again, don’t let personality or chemistry be why you decide on an agent. Just because they gave you cookies at an open house doesn’t mean they are a good real estate agent.
The wrong agent could end up costing you money, or even make you miss out on your dream house.
4. Find someone easily accessible
I live in Nashville which is one of the hottest real estate markets in the U.S. right now.
In the summertime a house can get listed on Monday and go under contract by Tuesday, typically with multiple offers.
Having an agent that responds quickly and will schedule showings right away if needed is crucial. It can mean the difference in getting the chance to buy your dream house before someone else does.
Agents typically have many clients and you want to know that you’ll be able to reach them when you need them. Having the chance to see a house right away can also mean the opportunity close the deal quickly and avoid multiple offers that drive the price (and stress) up!
Will you be able to reach your agent if your dream house is listed and you need to see it right away? If you are selling your house, will other agents be able to reach your agent when they have a potential buyer?
It is also important that you find someone local, to help make sure they are quickly available. Using your mom’s best friend who lives fifty miles away isn’t going to help you.
5. Look for honesty
Many agents’ primary concern is making the sale and getting the commission.
If an agent is trying to persuade you to buy every house you see, steer clear of them. They should be looking out for your best interests, not just trying to make a quick buck
You need a real estate agent that will give you their honest opinion about the condition of a house and the neighborhood it is in.
6. Aggressive is good
If the agent knows that the neighborhood has been in a slow decline for the last few years, you want them to tell you that before they let you buy a house in it.
An aggressive agent can make all the difference, both with selling or purchasing a home.
When you are selling a home, your agent should be pushing that home to the market and to other agents. They should try to get multiple offers, which can drive the price way up.
In addition, an aggressive agent can help with the purchasing process. You don’t need an agent who is only aware of homes that have already been officially listed.
In many cases agents can find out about a house before it hits the market. This can give you the opportunity to buy a house with no competition.
They should be reaching out to other agents on your behalf, looking for “pocket listings”-(a listing that hasn’t hit MLS yet) and coming soons.
7. Don’t be afraid to dump the wrong agent
First of all, beware of signing any official documents with an agent if you are just looking to purchase and not sell.
This not only gives you an out, but keeps your agent working hard so they won’t lose you to someone else.
I once was working with a real estate agent that seemed great. He was nice (he had given me cookies at an open house!) and seemed professional.
But it quickly became obvious that he was not a hard worker.
I would ask for him to schedule a showing so I could see a house I was interested in and get push back from him.
He didn’t think I would like the house, or his schedule wasn’t open.
It just wasn’t working so I quickly sent him a “Dear John” email and parted ways. I then looked up an agent I had met a prior open house who I was impressed with and she is fabulous.
If I had been too nice and stuck with the other guy, I would really have missed out.
Look out for yourself and your best interests! Finding the best real estate agent is so important when you are trying to find the right house.