A qualified real estate agent can streamline the homebuying and selling process, help you save money and serve as a liaison with your best interests in mind. But how do you find the right agent?
Here are five critical questions to ask when you're interviewing agents:
1. How many buyers or sellers have you helped in the past year?
An active agent is more likely to be up-to-date on the market, and local and state laws. Furthermore, an active agent with experience in your neighborhood, or the neighborhood where you'd like to move, is better positioned to help you.
2. Do you have advanced training?
Any licensed real estate agent can help you buy or sell a home. But an agent who has advanced specialty training is better qualified to assist you. For example, an agent who is an Accredited Buyer's Representative (ABR) has enhanced training to work specifically with buyers. An agent who is a Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE) has special training to handle short sales and foreclosures.
3. What services do you offer?
A buyer's agent should help you schedule showings, assist with negotiating the price of the new home, guide you through the paperwork, be there at the closing table, and provide insights through any contingencies during the process. For sellers, an agent should help set the price of the home, based on a comparative market analysis (CMA). Ask the agent how he or she will market your home (websites, videos, direct mail), and other expert advice on staging your home and other sales techniques. On either side of the transaction, your agent must be able to negotiate skillfully on your behalf.
4. Who else will be working with me?
Many successful agents work with a team. These teams are typically structured to provide top customer service and efficiency through the buying and selling process. You can clarify with the agent how his or her team operates. And if you'd like more information about what it's like to work with an agent, don't be shy about asking for references.
5. How often will I hear from you?
Make sure the communication plan aligns with your expectations. For buyers: Do you just want to hear when there's a new home that may interest you? Do you want regular check-in calls or emails too? For sellers: Do you want to hear from your agent only after a buyer has toured your home, or do you want to be kept in the loop on a weekly basis?
Remember, you want someone who will work hard for you, but also someone you're comfortable with. Find a RE/MAX agent in your area.