Picking A Real Estate Agent

By Kristen Castillo

June 13, 2014 5 min read

Finding the right real estate agent is an important step for buyers and sellers. Because the agent guides you through the real estate process, you need a professional who's experienced and knowledgeable, as well as a good personality match.

*What to Consider

Before you start looking for a real estate agent, consider your property goals. Do you want to buy or sell? Are your real estate needs in a specific neighborhood? Are you on a fixed timeline, or do you have a flexible schedule? What pricing and properties can you afford?

Get referrals to agents from family and friends, especially if they've bought or sold property recently. Do your research, too.

"Ninety percent of potential buyers start the search online," says John Kmiecik, National Association of Realtors regional vice president, which serves Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

That means you'll want an agent who is "tech savvy and has a web presence," says licensed associate real estate broker Victoria Shtainer of Douglas Elliman.

Look for an agent who posts listings on real estate sites, as well as social media. Many Realtors also showcase videos of for-sale properties on sites such as YouTube. Use the Internet to get a sense of who the agent is and to learn about how he or she does business.

*Getting to Know You

Once you have an idea of which agents you like, schedule an appointment with each one.

"The customer should always interview their prospective agent in person and not by phone or email," says Shtainer, who urges buyers and sellers to check out the agent's response time, appearance and demeanor.

"Remember that the agent is your representative. Is this the correct person for you?" she says. "If not, keep interviewing."

*Q and A

Be inquisitive! Getting to know your would-be real estate agent is a must.

"Ask questions," says Kmiecik. "If you don't ask, then you don't know."

Andrea Berkman, a New York business consultant who recently bought a home, says buyers and sellers should ask the agent what he or she could do for them.

"There is a lot of competition in real estate, and it's perfectly fine to ask your potential agent, aka your new employee, why he is the best candidate for the job," says Berkman, who also encourages asking the agent how many transactions he's handled and over what period of time, as well as what kinds of deals he specializes in, such as commercial or residential.

*Experience and Familiarity

Make sure your potential agent has extensive real estate experience, especially handling deals like yours.

The agent should know the neighborhood where you'll be buying or selling and also possess knowledge about local schools, utilities, recreation areas and commute times, as well as retail and dining in the area.

"They need to know everything from the last sold home in the area to the nearest supermarket," says Shtainer. "If they do not know it, then they are not the agent for you."

He or she should be able to provide you with client testimonials, too. Don't be afraid to call or email those clients to ask questions about how the agent handled the deal.

Find an agent you like and trust. Make sure you and the agent get along well. If not, the buying or selling transaction might be tense and stressful.

Be sure you know how to get in touch with the agent, too, such as by phone, text or email. Ask whether the agent is available around the clock or only during business hours. Furthermore, you need to discuss your expectations of a reasonable timeframe for the agent to get back to you once you've hired him or her. For example, if you text a question to the agent at lunchtime, is it OK for the agent to respond by the end of the day, or do you want an answer sooner?

"The right agent will get you a good price, explain the market, facilitate a good experience and get you to your ultimate goal, which is the closing table," says Shtainer, who recommends interviewing at least three agents.

Take your time finding an agent, and rely on your instincts to make a hiring decision. "Interview as many agents as you need to so you can find someone you genuinely trust," says Kmiecik.

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