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How to Hire a Real Estate Agent as a Home Buyer

by Megan Hill

Hiring a trustworthy, experienced real estate agent can help make your home buying process a success. A knowledgeable real estate agent can answer your questions and guide you through the homebuying process with ease. She'll also have access to the Multiple Listing Service to help with your search for a home, and she'll handle the mountain of paperwork required to complete the transaction. Conduct a thorough interview to find an agent that's right for you.

Ask friends, coworkers, and family to provide recommendations for real estate agents. This first-hand knowledge is valuable. Your contacts can tell you what it's like to work with the agent, how knowledgeable she is, and whether there were any problems in the process. If you're looking to buy a foreclosure or short sale, find an agent who has closed several of these sales.

Do some research. Many agents now have websites where you can learn more about their background and experience. You may also find ratings sites with past client comments and complaints. If you're struggling to find this information, you might ask some agents for client referrals. Talking to current and past clients is another great way to learn more about what it's like to work with the agent.

Choose your top three picks and interview them on the phone. Ask lots of questions, such as the agent's strategy to help you find a home, her knowledge of specific neighborhoods or areas you're interested in looking and what qualities separate her from other agents. How potential agents answer these questions will give you a good feel for each one's experience and personality.

Choose an agent to meet in person. The agent will want to discuss your home needs, expectations, desired neighborhood and price range. The meeting will also give you a chance to experience what it's like to work with the agent. If you leave the meeting and feel confident in your choice, it's time to start the process of looking for a home. Once you've chosen an agent, you'll have to sign a buyer agency agreement. Each state has a different term for this, but the contract generally outlines the terms of the relationship and the responsibilities of each party. It also may explain the agent's payment terms and the length of the agreement to work together.

Tips

  • Set clear expectations with your agent. Let her know how you'd like to communicate, whether by phone or by email. Ask her how quickly she responds to phone calls and emails. Communicate your wants and needs to help avoid potential friction.
  • You should expect the agent to help you identify homes in your price range and ideal area, set up viewings, alert you about open houses and answer questions about price, property amenities and the homebuying process in general.
  • Buyers usually don't pay real estate commissions; this is normally the responsibility of the seller.

About the Author

Megan Hill is a Seattle-based writer with more than 10 years of experience. She has served as a writer and editor for websites and nonprofit organizations, as well as a reporter for magazines such as "Seattle Met," "Seattle Magazine" and "Edible Seattle."

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images