Real estate agent showing couple a house

How To Find The Right Real Estate Agent Near You

Carey Chesney6-Minute Read
October 14, 2021

When it comes to buying or selling a home, professional experience pays off. Navigating the search for a home or the search for buyers for your home can be daunting. Furthermore, the financial paperwork involved is a major endeavor, and you need to find the best real estate agent for the job.

If you're new to the home buying process or if you’re looking to sell, it can be challenging to know what qualities and factors make someone the best candidate. So, we've narrowed down the key traits of an all-star agent to help you reach your ultimate real estate goals and find the right real estate agent for you.

Real Estate Agent Basics

It may come as a surprise, but there are quite a few different types of real estate agents home buyers and sellers might encounter during their house search. Some represent only buyers, others represent only sellers and some represent both. Regardless of their specific focus, traits like experience, negotiating skills, market knowledge and communication skills are some of the key traits to look for. The type of agent that you will need to hire depends on the type of transaction you are making and what your particular needs are.

Buyer’s Agent

A buyer’s agent can help you find, negotiate for and ultimately purchase your new home. This includes searching for on- and off-market homes, strategizing around making a competitive yet financially responsible offer, managing the inspection and appraisal process and working with the title company to make sure you get to the closing table.

Some of the key traits home buyers should be on the lookout for in a good buyer’s agent are market knowledgeability, performance track record, communication and negotiation skills, attention to detail and personality fit. You want a buyer’s agent who is on top of their game and works well with your specific needs and style.

Seller’s Agent

Selling a home is a complicated process, and finding the right selling agent is an essential piece of the puzzle. A great seller’s agent, also known as a listing agent, represents you as the seller. If both parties have representation, the listing agent will work alongside the buyer's agent to negotiate pricing, concessions and sometimes repairs.

A seller’s agent's top priority is to list your home, communicate any changes or documents that need to be signed and provide you with timely details about the closing process. They can guide you through the steps to sell your home so you can move on without breaking a sweat. Think of them as your go-to guide to finding you the perfect buyer.

Some of the key traits home buyers should be on the lookout for in a good buyer’s agent are knowledgeability, performance track record, communication and negotiation skills and a relentless attention to detail.

REALTOR® Vs. Real Estate Agent

Although they sound similar, there's a significant distinction between real estate agents and REALTORS®. A real estate agent is a professional that is licensed in the state to help their clients buy and sell real estate. A REALTOR® is not only a licensed agent or broker but is also a member of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), one of the largest trade associations in the United States. REALTORS® must follow the NAR’s strict Code of Ethics and have a squeaky-clean record to be a member. The National Association of REALTORS® also has thousands of local associations across the country, so you're never too far away from someone who can help.

Working with a REALTOR® gives you the peace of mind that they are held to a professional standard and have received high levels of continuous professional training. They are held accountable by NAR to make sure they are doing real estate the right way. With a real estate agent who is not a REALTOR®, you don't have these same assurances.

Real Estate Broker Vs. Agent

A real estate broker is someone who has advanced beyond the agent level. Like agents, brokers have also completed their state-required training and passed an exam to become licensed. However, a broker has completed additional training that is needed to obtain their real estate broker’s license. With this license, a broker is able to oversee other agents or work for their own independent firm. They can also mentor those just figuring out how to become a real estate agent.  

Where To Find A Good Real Estate Agent

Social media posts and billboards are proof that there's no shortage of real estate professionals in your neighborhood, but where and how do you find a good real estate agent? There are several ways to find your perfect match:

  • Ask for referrals. If you have a friend, colleague or family member who recently bought or sold their home, this is one of the easiest ways to start your search. You can also utilize your social media connections to find a reputable agent. Personal referrals can have a significant impact on who you want to work with.
  • Use a referral agent. If you have a local agent that you've maintained a relationship with, but wish to purchase property out of state, they may be able to refer you to someone. If you use the agent that they referred you to, they may receive a cut of the commission as payment.
  • Check local listings. Use a home search tool to review active home listings, which typically show the name of the real estate agent selling the home. While many online services offer listings of homes for sale, the Multiple Listing Service is the most accurate resource for finding complete and up-to-date information. If you’re debating whether you need a REALTOR® to buy a house, this is a part of the process where working with an agent can be very useful, as one is needed to access the MLS.
  • Research reviews online. In the digital age, reviews are an easy litmus test to see how other clients have rated a real estate agent's working relationships. Try searching Google, Angi, Yelp and even Facebook.
  • Use referral services. You can utilize the chamber of commerce in your local town or city to find certified agent’s or you can utilize online resource like Rocket HomesSM to connect you with a Verified Partner Agent in your area. Within this tool you can search by name, state, city and even designation.
  • Attend local open houses. Experienced real estate agents who know the neighborhood are worth their weight in gold. Plus, you'll be able to learn more insights not only about the agent but the surrounding area by visiting local open houses.

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Choosing The Best Real Estate Agent: 5 Tips For Success

So, let’s dive a little deeper with a step-by-step process for successfully choosing the right real estate agent when buying or selling a home.

1. Talk To Your Lender First

If you’re a prospective home buyer, make sure you get preapproved for a home loan before selecting an agent to work with. Applying for a mortgage is one of the first steps toward buying a home. In many cases, real estate agents may not begin working with you until you've received a thumbs up from your lender. Agents will want to see a mortgage preapproval letter before searching for homes or at the very least before putting an offer on a home. This letter shows your buyer’s agent and, most importantly, the sellers of homes you are interested in that you are likely going to be able to follow through on the offer you make for a specific property.

2. Know What To Look For In A REALTOR®

During the process, it’s important to know what you should be looking for. One very valuable thing you can do during this process is to review the skills and credentials of each agent that you’re considering. This includes, but is not limited to, their licenses and certifications, years of experience, local market knowledge and success rate. Take all of these factors into consideration when choosing who to work with while buying or selling a home.

3. Set Up An Interview

Once you narrow down your selections, it's time to set up a quick interview with each agent to understand their experience and background. Buying or selling a home is a significant investment of time and money, so having an empathetic listener is an essential part you don't want to overlook. Consider whether they make you feel at ease about the process without ignoring the risks associated with buying or selling a home. Look beyond a long resume and listen carefully to how they explain each step of the process. Having an advocate who can clear up confusing details and negotiate better pricing and concessions on your behalf is much better than choosing someone simply because they have years of experience or a cheaper rate.

Before you sign on the dotted line, consider these questions to ask a potential real estate agent:

Buyers

  • How many years have you been a real estate agent?
  • How will you find me properties that match my criteria?
  • What are your commission fees?
  • How well do you know the local area?
  • How many clients do you work with at one time?
  • Do you have any recent clients that I can contact as references?

Sellers

  • Could you describe your overall marketing strategy?
  • What is the average selling price of similar homes in the area?
  • Do you have any recommendations about staging my home?
  • Do you have recommendations for photographing my home?
  • Can you explain your commission percentage and any other REALTOR® fees?

Don’t hesitate to ask potential agents as many questions as you need to in order to make a confident decision.

4. Review The Fine Print

Not every agent will explain their commission or fees, so make sure you understand how your agent gets paid before it becomes official. If you are working with a buyer’s agent, their commission is most often paid for by the seller of the home you eventually buy. However, some buyer’s agents charge their buyers additional fees, so definitely ask about that. If you are working with a seller’s agent, you will typically pay a percentage of the final sale price (6% is the standard rate) that they will split with the agent who brings the buyer. Make sure these commissions and fees are clear and transparent before moving forward with any agent.

5. Have An Idea Of What You're Looking For In A House

If you’re buying, knowing what type of house you want/what your wish list items are can be a critical component of selecting an agent. Agent specializations can range from old houses, new builds, luxury and more. Find an agent who is most qualified to help with your specific needs by knowing what they are ahead of time.

6. Trust Your Instincts

If an agent doesn’t feel like they would be the best fit for you in your home buying or selling journey, that’s OK. Politely let them know that you’ll be working with another agent and move on. Selling or buying a home can be stressful, so it’s important to have a trusted professional by your side that can help you navigate the bumps in the road.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to finding a good real estate agent, the best fit is often someone who places your needs as a top priority. Getting to the bottom of how to choose a real estate agent all depends on your preferences for professional expertise and communication style. After weeks of looking at Google and Yelp reviews, attending open houses and asking for referrals – sometimes it's as simple as following your gut.

Chemistry can go a long way when difficult conversations arise, so finding the right agent won't look the same for everyone. It's crucial to find someone who can combine experience with exceptional listening and communication skills. Negotiation skill set aside, you'll need someone who can clearly and patiently explain each step to you. Once you consider these tips on how to choose a real estate agent, you'll have the confidence you need to find the perfect home. Still not sure where to begin looking? Consider buying with an agent through Rocket Homes.

Carey Chesney

Carey Chesney brings a wealth of residential and commercial real estate experience to readers as a Realtor® and as a former Marketing Executive in the fields of Health Care, Finance and Wellness. Carey is based in Ann Arbor and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he majored in English, and Eastern Michigan University, where he recieved his Masters in Integrated Marketing & Communications.