What to look for in a real estate agent


Robyn Parets

Robyn Parets

Blog author Robyn Parets

Robyn Parets is a personal finance and business writer based in Boston. A former writer for Investor's Business Daily (IBD) and NerdWallet, Robyn is also the founder and owner of Pretzel Kids, a children's fitness brand and online training course. You can find her on Twitter @RobynParets.

Published February 11, 2016|2 min read

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It’s almost spring and in the real estate world, this means flowers aren’t the only things coming out from under. Home sellers and buyers are out in full force.If you’re among those ready to buy or sell, finding the right real estate agent can help make or break your important financial transaction.

What to look for in a listing agent

Real estate agents depend on Multiple Listing Services (MLS) to maximize exposure for your home. Using MLS, your house information and photos will be available to real estate agents and home buyers searching the Internet. Yet, listing your house on MLS is only one step any good agent will take to garner top exposure for your house. An agent should be an expert negotiator and marketing professional. Keep in mind that even if an agent comes with great referrals or your best friend swears by him, that doesn’t mean he is the most skilled choice for you.It’s important to recognize that you will generally pay a listing agent a percentage of your home sale — usually about 5-6% — which is split with the buyer’s agent. This can add up to a lot of money, so be sure the agent works for this payout. To help you choose the best listing agent for you, here are our top factors to consider:

  1. What is the agent’s success rate selling homes in your neighborhood? For example, if an agent has sold two out of three of his last two listings in your area for more than asking price and one for slightly under list price, that’s a pretty good track record.

  2. Does the agent have an extensive digital presence and a marketing plan in place? About 98% of home buyers go online to real estate sites like Zillow and Trulia to view photos even before setting foot in a house, says Scott Farrell, partner and realtor at Atlas Properties LLC in Boston, which bills itself as a boutique real estate firm.

With this said, it’s imperative that your agent presents your house in the best light using a professional photographer. Besides stellar online photos, discuss your marketing goals with your agent before your house hits the market. For example, if you want the agent to hold open houses, send mailers and produce brochures, make sure this is communicated clearly and the real estate agent is prepared to follow through.

  1. Will the agent help prepare your home for sale and see your deal through every step of the way? A good agent will help you stage and declutter your home long before you list it. To this end, be wary of realtors who are eager to immediately throw your house on the market the day after you meet, says Farrell. Once your house is ready to list, an agent should be honest in helping you pick the right asking price. This means you should think twice about listing with someone who tells you he can sell your house for a higher price than every other agent recommends. Your agent should then be prepared to show your home to prospective buyers and negotiate top dollar for your house.

What to look for in a buyer's agent

If you’re about to buy a house — especially if you’re a first-time buyer and this is new territory — here are some key considerations to finding the best agent:

  1. How well does the agent know the neighborhood? A real estate agent who is experienced navigating home sales in your target market is not only familiar with realistic selling prices but can help educate you on your potential new neighborhood before you make a huge financial leap.

  2. Can your agent help you with a future exit strategy? Even if this isn’t something you are considering at the moment, down the line you may want to move again. An agent who can help you understand what may drive property values up or down over time could be invaluable, says Farrell.

  3. Is the agent a good personality fit for you? For example, if you tend to get anxious, it’s important to work with someone who can calm your nerves. Likewise, if you need hand-holding, an agent who only works with a couple of clients at a time may be better for you than someone who is the busiest and most popular agent in town. The bottom line: you should like and trust the agent you choose, especially as you may be spending your weekends together for the foreseeable future.

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