It’s not every day that you make a home purchase, so taking extra time to research, review, and choose an agent to support you is imperative.
Ask Around & get Referrals
There are a lot of real estate agents out there. And there are a lot of bad real estate agents out there. The very best way to find a good agent is to get a personal referral.
No one knows better than clients whether an agent does a good job. So ask the clients.
Did you buy a house in the last 5 years? Who was your agent? Would you recommend them? Why or why not? Would you use them again?
Anyone can put their ad on Zillow, but only some of us have a happy network of past clients. Don’t trust just anyone on the internet. Do your homework to find out if the agent is reputable, reliable, and respected.
Read Review – Everywhere!
If you can’t seem to find a good referral, you may need to rely on internet ads or other promotional material. That’s not a bad thing—everyone advertises somehow.
But make sure you do your homework. Google the agent and their brokerage/office. Read reviews and testimonials about the agent. Use websites like Zillow, Facebook, Google Plus, Yelp, and LinkedIn to research them.
Look for specifics
Most reviews are genuine and detailed. If a client had all their questions answered thoroughly, they will often describe their agent as “helpful,” or say things like “they really know what they’re doing!” These are good signs that the client had a genuine positive experience, and that the review is legitimate.
Look for patterns
Do the reviews mention a wide range of skills and benefits? Or they only mention one thing? For example, if ALL of an agent’s reviews talk about their low fees, but never mention their responsiveness or customer service, that may be a red flag.
If possible, try to contact the agent’s past clients. No one knows an agent like their clients. If you can email the review authors to ask for more information, you’ll often get a very detailed answer telling you everything you need to know about the agent.
No one’s perfect
You’ll probably find at least one negative review. You can’t please everyone all the time. Sooner or later, you’re bound to have an unhappy client. And that’s ok, as long as it’s not too many!
Buyer’s Agent v. Seller’s Agent v. Dual Agent
All real estate agents are legally obligated to act in their client’s best interest. It’s illegal for them to try to get you to do things that are bad for you and your homebuying situation.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably a home buyer. That means you’ll want your agent to represent your interests and help you find, negotiate, and purchase the best home possible for you.
Every real estate agent signs a contract with their client. The contract explains what the agent will do for the client and what they won’t do. In a buyer’s agent contract, the bottom line is this:
The buyer’s agent will do everything in their power to get you the best deal possible on the best house possible. But this is key: YOU get to decide what “best” means. You, the client, have all the power.
Acting in your interest obviously means helping negotiate offers and other financial matters on your behalf. But it also means doing a good job—getting paperwork handled and signed properly and quickly, advising you with accurate information, and advocating for your interests—not theirs.
The seller’s agent sits across the table from you and your agent: they’re working for the other team. They may understand your needs and wants, but they don’t work for you.
It’s easy to think of the seller’s agent as the bad guy (or lady) when you’re the buyer. They’re clearly not bad just because they’re playing for the other team, but it can sometimes feel like they’re competing against you.
Their job is fight for their client. And in many cases, trying to get something FOR their client means they’re trying to get something FROM you. But it’s only their job. And they’d be bad agents if they didn’t.
In these cases, zoom out a level and put yourself in their shoes: this is what they do for a living, and they’re legally bound to go to bat for their client. They’re not competing with you—they’re just trying to do a good job!
When they see a listing or For Sale sign, lots of people think they can work with the listing agent directly and get a better deal.
The idea is simple: one agent to represent both sides (buyer AND seller). If you cut out one middleman, the whole process will run faster and smoother. And for things like scheduling and logistics, it does have its benefits.
And with one less hand in the pot, many buyers think a dual agent will save them money by lowering their commission from the customary 6% to something like 5%.
But there are some problems.
Since a dual agent works for both buyer and seller, s/he has to be careful not to betray the confidence of either side. That means that they might stay silent about problems or opportunities that you would have learned sooner if you had your own agent in your corner.
And, since an agent’s commission is based on sale price, it’s in the agent’s best interest to get a high selling price—they make more money that way. That’s good for the seller, but not for the buyer.
Even if the agent discounts their commission, how do you know you wouldn’t have negotiated a better price if you had your own agent?
Bottom line: TRUST
Buying a home is probably the single largest purchase any person will make in their life. Sure, lots of people do it a few times over the years, but the fact remains: several-hundred-thousand-dollar purchases don’t come along every day.
Make sure that you’re working with the right person to help you make that purchase.
Do your homework. Be diligent. Be thorough. Be sure. It really does matter who you work with. Make sure you’re happy with your agent.