In the last blog, we made the case for why it’s definitely helpful to hire a real estate agent. But how do you find the right one?

 

Buying a home can be exhilarating and gratifying if you have the right agent by your side throughout the process, but it can be stressful and overwhelming if you don’t. So how do you find someone who has experience, integrity, and your best interests at heart?

 

Here are five tips to keep in mind, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer:

 

Check online reviews

 

In this day and age, you can find reviews for any realtor online (and if you can’t, that’s probably a red flag.) Look for things like satisfaction level among their previous client base. Were people particularly pleased or displeased, and for what reasons? Dwell real estate agent Mike Zeller recalls:

 

“I once heard financial guru Dave Ramsey say: ‘a good real estate agent is worth more than their commission, and a bad real estate agent is worth less than their commission.’ That’s true. A really good agent is going to help you negotiate a better value, and potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars. But a bad one could make mistakes that set you back years. Remember, buying your first home can be a big set-up, or it can be a big setback.”

 

Seek out an agent who is full-time and credentialed

 

Compared to a part-time agent, a full-time agent will be a stronger negotiator, have more knowledge of the market, and have closer relationships with the best inspectors, lenders, title companies, and contractors (since they all constantly interact with each other). They will also be better educated. The CRS accreditation, for instance, is the highest credential a real estate agent can earn. You can be confident someone with this credential will give you a well-rounded experience that will also leave you better off financially.

 

Find an agent who listens and actively seeks to understand what you’re wanting

 

The truth is, the barrier to working in real estate is low. There are plenty of “order takers” out there; agents who let you point them in the direction of what you want, but make no real effort to exceed your expectations. Make sure to choose someone who is adding more value to the process than that, someone who is a guide you can learn from and trust. Because when you’re working with a top 5-10% agent, they’re not an order taker, they’re a difference maker. And that means the difference between finding the home of your dreams (or not), between saving you lots of money (or not).

 

Choose an agent who takes the long view

 

Especially when it comes to buying your first or second home, it is crucial to work with an agent who helps you realize how to set yourself up to have the best chance for future investment potential while still living in a home and neighborhood you enjoy. Mike Zeller explains:

 

“I’ve seen clients who bought their first home either on their own or with an agent who didn’t really protect their best interests in terms of investment or a long-term view. Seven or eight years later, instead of walking away from their home with an equity of $100-150K, they were still underwater. Their home was worth even less than what they paid for it. Meanwhile, their friends were getting big checks and buying their second home with a nice equity swing because they bought right.”

 

Interview a few agents until you find someone highly competent

 

Keep in mind you are not obligated to work with the first agent recommended to you or the first one to give you a pleasant-sounding sales pitch. If you’re not happy with the first couple agents you find, keep interviewing until you find the right one! Don’t worry about being nosy or rude. This is someone you’re going to be working with for months and who will affect your finances for years to come.

 

Ask them how long they’ve lived in the area, what types of properties they specialize in, if they work with a team or by themselves. Take note of their answers and general demeanor. If you don’t feel comfortable with someone for any reason, keep looking! It won’t be long before you find the agent you’re meant to work with, someone who goes above and beyond to find the house that fits your style and goals, and sets you up to reap the rewards of your investment in the future, all while sporting a great attitude.

 

And that will be the real estate agent who’s right for you.