When you’re ready to buy your next home, you’ll want to build a dream team of professionals who can make the process seamless. Helping captain that team is a savvy real estate agent who understands exactly what kind of home you’re looking for and is eager to help you find it.
Because purchasing a home is such a huge financial decision, it’s a good idea to spend a little time researching and vetting real estate agents before hiring one.
An agent may come strongly recommended to you by a friend or family member. But before going on recommendation alone, it’s worth assessing if they’ll be a good fit for your unique needs.
Ready to start your search? Here are five qualities to look for in a top-notch real estate agent:
1. They have a strong pulse on market trends.
You want an agent who’s well-versed in real estate trends. Your real estate agent should be able to confidently discuss what type of inventory is available in your price range and the average number of days properties are staying on the market in the neighborhoods you’re looking to buy.
In your initial discussions, ask prospective agents how many homeowners they’ve gotten to the closing table in the last year.
Another important point to bring up in initial discussions? Ask about the agent’s sale-to-list ratio. A sale-to-list ratio compares the selling price of a home (how much a buyer actually paid) versus how much it was last listed for (what the seller was hoping to get).
The ratio is calculated by dividing the sale price by the most recent listing price. For example, if a house is listed for $100,000 and the agent helps negotiate the seller down to $70,000, their sale-to-list ratio on the home is 70%.
A quality real estate agent will ensure that their clients get the best deal possible, often resulting in a lower ratio.
Note that ratios are highly dependent on your housing market. In some markets, it’s rare to pay below listing price for a home. So make sure you understand your market before using a sale-to-list ratio to choose your real estate agent.
2. They know the neighborhoods well.
Once you’ve narrowed down your housing search to a specific area, you’ll want to go with a real estate agent who knows your target neighborhoods inside and out.
Can your prospective agent answer questions about the surrounding school districts and whether there are any upcoming HOA assessments in various neighborhoods? Do they know at what percentage of listing price houses in the neighborhood usually sell?
If you’re new to an area, can your agent give you a feel for the community, including which parks are popular nearby, what restaurants are opening up soon, what your morning commute will look like or what kind of volunteer groups you could join?
These are important questions — make sure whoever you hire can adequately answer them!
3. They come with rave reviews.
If you were going to make a hire at your place of work, you’d expect candidates to have a resume and references, right? That’s a fair expectation to have of real estate agents, too, since they’re looking to work on your behalf.
Ask your prospective agent out for coffee or schedule a phone call. Find out if they’re a member of a local real estate agent association, how long they’ve worked in the area, and if they’ve ever received any awards or acknowledgments. And always ask for references.
Did you know that according to the National Association of Realtors®, almost three-quarters of buyers would use their agent again or recommend their agent to others?
When people have a good home-buying experience, they care about the continued success of their agent and are likely willing to serve as references.
You can ask references questions such as:
- Did the agent listen to you and understand the type of home you wanted? Did they work to find homes that would fit your needs?
- What’s the agent’s communication style? How quickly does he or she return your calls or text messages?
- Did you ever feel rushed into making a decision? How many homes did you look at before making an offer?
- Were there any challenges that came up in the home buying process and how did the agent navigate them?
- Would you hire this real estate agent again?
4. They have the right credentials for your needs.
Beyond a license, some real estate agents earn credentials or affiliations that help them carve out a niche.
For example, a Senior Real Estate Specialist® has completed training that helps them better serve those who are 50 years and older. An Accredited Buyer’s Representative® has gone through extra training in representing buyers in real estate transactions. Agents who have a Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist™ are well versed in the luxury market.
Consider choosing a real estate agent with special training that can serve your individual home buying needs.
5. They have time for you.
One final question: Go ahead and ask how many other buyers your prospective real estate agent is working with presently.
Do they have enough time to invest in your property search? Are they available on the weekends to show you open houses?
You deserve to have an agent who takes your housing search seriously and is ready to act swiftly when you’re ready to buy.