Choosing a real estate agent
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Choosing a real estate agent

January 10, 2023
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Although the real estate market is beginning to cool, you still need to act quickly and intelligently to get a good deal when buying a home or to maximize profits if you sell a home. Given the complex nature of real estate transactions, it is not surprising that more than 85 percent of buyers and sellers use a professional agent to close a deal, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.

Realtors are easy to find: they advertise everywhere, their faces are on "for sale" signs, and NAR has more than 1.5 million members nationwide. The trick is to narrow it down to one: the agent who is right for you.

Why work with a real estate agent?

It is certainly possible to buy a home without an agent or sell it yourself. But there is a reason why many people use agents to manage the process. Coordinating pricing, listings, viewings, and negotiations is very challenging. Real estate transactions can be complicated and involve large sums of money and complex contracts.

"Not knowing the law doesn't mean you're exempt from following the rules, and that's true in real estate as well," says Chantay Clark Bridges, a real estate agent with EXP Realty of California. "You could lose money, have a huge legal liability or even end up in court. A reputable agent can help you protect your interests, answer your questions and reduce your stress."

Agents are especially helpful for first-time homebuyers and sellers who may find the process daunting. "They can guide you and make sure everything goes smoothly," says Alan Harder, a Vancouver-based mortgage broker.

How do you choose the right real estate agent?

Once you've narrowed your options down to a short list, it's essential to assess the personality and work style of the agents you consider. You want someone you really feel comfortable with.

"Take the time to meet them in person," Harder says. "That way you can get a better idea of their communication style and see if you will be able to work well together."

Ask lots of questions to see if candidates are a good fit. Here are some good questions to start with:

  • How long have you been working in this field?
  • Are you located nearby?
  • What experience do you have with my local market?
  • Do you have experience with my type of home?
  • What is your sales volume in the last six to twelve months?
  • Do you have any special certifications (such as Certified Buyer's Representative or Senior Real Estate Specialist)?

State your expectations to ensure that you and the agent are on the same page. For example, if you prefer to communicate by phone but your agent prefers texting, this could be a problem. Also, some agents work only part time or rely heavily on assistants or other team members to interact with clients. Consider whether or not this is practical for you.

How do you know if an agent has a good reputation?

References and industry affiliations are a plus, but they do not necessarily mean that a person is trustworthy. "Ask agents for references from previous clients-they'll give you a first-hand account of what they've done with them," Harder says. You can also consult online reviews (but take them with a grain of salt, because each person's situation is different).

Realtors, that is, real estate agents who are members of NAR, are bound by a professional code of ethics. You can also get a better idea of a candidate's professional conduct by asking questions about the buying or selling process, Harder suggests. In addition, every real estate agent, whether a real estate agent or not, holds a professional license. The status of an agent's license can be checked fairly easily online.

Buying and selling agents

Different types of agents may specialize in one or more aspects of the transaction. Here are some of the main differences between buying agents and selling agents.

Sales agents

Also known as listing agents, these agents represent the seller in a real estate transaction. Their main role is to put the house on the market at a competitive price that will attract the right buyers. Seller's agents often arrange open houses, help the homeowner screen offers, and work with the buyer's agent to close the deal as quickly as possible.

Buyer's agents

On the other side of the transaction are the agents who represent potential buyers. They look for properties that fit the buyer's budget and needs. Buyers' agents submit offers and negotiate on behalf of the buyer, help the buyer finalize the transaction once the offer is accepted, and coordinate with the seller's agent to set a closing date.


If you want to do it yourself, there are alternatives to using a real estate agent, especially for sellers. Many homes are offered "for sale by owner," or FSBO-an arrangement that involves listing and coordinating the sale of your home without the help of an agent. However, FSBO sales tend to be cheaper than agent-assisted sales.

If you need to sell your home quickly, you can turn to an iBuyer, such as Offerpad or Opendoor, to get an immediate cash offer. The process is simple, but even then you are likely to get a lower price than a traditional sale.

Bottom line.

When choosing a real estate agent, make a list of candidates who might work for you and ask the right questions to decide if they are right for you. Pay attention to how they respond to your inquiries: if they seem pushy, uninformed or have other red flags, eliminate them from your list of options. Once you find the right person, you will be one step closer to buying a new home or selling the one you already have.

Irene Scott
Written by
Irene Scott
I’ve worked for more than 5 years as a Credit Analyst and more than 4 years as an Internal Auditor for one of the leading global financial institutions. I have been exposed to the credit review process, various banking products, financial security topics, corporate governance, operational risk, and the internal control framework of a complex, multinational organization.