In a hyper-competitive market, how to find a real estate agent who won’t let you down

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In this competitive housing market it’s more important than ever to work with a real estate agent who can advocate for your priorities and steer you toward the right properties.

Competition among buyers means sales are moving quickly, and having a professional by your side who can help you make the best offer to beat out your competitors can be crucial.

Why work with a real estate agent?

With many buyers scrambling for a limited number of homes, a real estate agent can help your offer get the edge.

“I think it’s very important. It just streamlines the process,” said Ashley Thomas III, second vice president at the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB). “It allows you to accomplish the goal much quicker when you’re on the same page as your agent.”

It’s important when looking for an agent to find one with experience in the area where you’re looking to buy, because their familiarity with a market can help you make a better, more informed offer.

Thomas advised that both buyers and sellers should find an agent whose style, schedule and expertise all align with their goals.

“Availability is so important. If you can only see properties on Sundays and Sundays are not good for that agent, that’s going to be a conflict down the road,” he said “There are some who have an expertise in negotiations and contracts, and there are other agents who might be more into interior design. Just aligning your goals with what you’re looking for is so important.”

How can you find one?

Your search for a real estate agent should probably start with your friends.

“Around 90 percent of recent homebuyers and home sellers were satisfied with their service. Most would recommend their Realtor to friends and colleagues,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors. “Likewise, they find Realtors through friends and colleagues.”

Thomas agreed.

“Start with your circle of influence: friends, family coworkers, people who have used real estate agents prior,” he said.

Both Yun and Thomas emphasized that buyers and sellers should consider multiple candidates before choosing an agent.

“Be cautious of the first contact from a website or purely from smooth talk. A home purchase is a major expenditure,” Yun said. “Buyers and sellers should find a person they can trust to serve the best long term interest through recommendations.”

And Thomas added that keeping the lines of communication open throughout the buying or selling process is crucial.

“If it’s not going the way you had envisioned, it’s very important to communicate that and talk about an exit strategy for how to move on,” he said.

How do you know if your agent is reputable?

This is where tapping your network will pay dividends. Working with an agent who you’ve gotten a personal recommendation for is a good way to ensure they’re nice to work with.

On top of that, Thomas said, it’s important to do your due diligence.

“We all have a license number that’s attached to us. If there ever was an issue those complaints are all public record,” he said. “Take your time and read through the disclosures, I think that’s probably one of the number one pitfalls. People rush through and sign, sign, sign.”

And if you feel like something is off, remember that you are your own best advocate.

“This is a service industry, we service the client,” Thomas said. “It’s important that the consumer remembers that this is their purchase and their opinion is what matters the most.”

So, don’t let an unscrupulous agent bully you into shifting your priorities or blowing up your budget.

Buyer’s vs. seller’s agent

People on both sides of a real estate transaction are usually well-served by working with an agent, but a seller’s agent — often called a listing agent — has different responsibilities than a buyer’s agent. As a buyer, remember your agent is your friend, but the listing agent is only there to get the best deal for the seller. You don’t want to talk to the listing agent about your budget. Here are some of the key differences between the two:

Listing agent

  • Helps seller set a competitive price for the property
  • Markets the home, which can include staging and professional photographs
  • Evaluate potential buyers
  • Show the home and coordinate open houses

Buyer’s agent

  • Helps find appropriate properties for a buyer’s budget and wish list
  • Coordinate property visits for their client
  • Advise on how much an offer should be and how it should be structured
  • Guides buyers through the purchase process

Some states also allow for dual agency, where the same agent represents both buyer and seller, but that arrangement is not very common.

Bottom line

Buying a home can be overwhelming, especially in this ultra-competitive market. Finding a real estate agent who is good to work with and aligned with your goals can make the process a little bit smoother.

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