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Which Kind of Real Estate Agent is the Right One for You?

When you're buying or selling a house, you'll likely reach out for professional help from a real estate agent. But how to choose? There are Realtors and just plain real estate agents, part-time and full-time agents, family friends who are in the business, maybe even neighbors down the street. Which one is right for you?

Work with a professional agent

untitled croppedStart by eliminating the real estate agents who aren't right for you. Devin and Karen Carroll of Texarkana, Texas, found what they thought was the perfect house. So they reached out to a convenient real estate connection.

"I called a family friend who is a part-time real estate agent," Devin Carroll says. "She showed us the house, and we submitted an offer. It was at this point the fireworks began."

Carroll says the seller's agent was an experienced negotiator "ready to go to war for her clients." His agent was immediately intimidated. It took only one phone call for the veteran agent to stand her ground on price, and "from that point on, my agent was scared to negotiate."

Lesson learned. Carroll says the next time around, he'll look for a professional agent, one who's not scared to negotiate and who is more concerned with getting a great deal than with sealing just any deal.

Finding the right agent for home sellers

"The days are gone where a real estate broker simply places a sign in the yard, enters it into (the Multiple Listing Service) and sits around their office waiting for it to sell," says Damian D. Hall, a real estate broker in Greenville, S.C.

For sellers, that means searching for a proactive, technology-savvy agent, Hall says. Because buyers start with the Internet, he says "photos must be professional, magazine quality, and the description has to be detailed and really sizzle."

Also, look for an agent who has some social-media marketing muscle. "It's scary how much Facebook alone knows about its users, but at the same time it's pure gold for those looking to put a product - or in our case, a listing - in front of the consumer most likely to buy the house," he says.

Finding the right agent for home buyers

On the other side of the transaction, Scott Durham, a Realtor in Reno, says there's something to be said for an agent with a solid track record of closing deals.

"The average real estate agent sold only four homes last year," Durham says. "Think about if you are purchasing a home and you represent 25% of that person's income for the entire year. Do you really think they have your best interest at heart, or will they do just about anything to get the deal closed?"

He says a typical buyer's agent will simply search the MLS for homes, but great agents will hunt down homes that aren't even on the market yet. They'll contact homeowners in the desired neighborhood or launch a direct mail campaign in the desired area with specifics on the buyers and their family.

Real estate pros urge buyers and sellers to interview at least three agents.

Know the difference between Realtors and real estate agents

"Not all real estate agents are Realtors," says Kellie Tinnin of Albuquerque, who has been in real estate for eight years. "The term Realtor is a registered trademark of the National Association of Realtors." NAR members pledge to abide by the association's code of ethics.

Of course, similar ethical standards are enforced as a matter of federal and state law, whether you deal with a Realtor or simply a real estate agent.

Agent interviews: Do better than one and done

Real estate pros urge buyers and sellers to interview at least three agents. Most people don't - they're one and done. Peter Boscas, a broker in Columbia, Md., offers these agent-hunting tips:

  • Always ask an agent for a list of recent references.
  • Ask each agent you're considering how they plan to help you find the perfect home (for buyers) or market your home (for sellers).
  • Note how an agent responds to your inquiry. Boscas says if an agent answers your initial request for information with a prompt, thorough and informative response, there is a good chance that agent will provide that type of service throughout the transaction.
  • Ask the agents you're considering to provide a list of their recent sales, not just a general number of sales or sales volume.

Source: USA Today By Hal Bundrick

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  1. Kyle O'Ren on

    I totally agree that you have to work with a very professional agent. Our agent is fantastic and often is able to negotiate very good prices and terms simply because he knows what he's doing. You really can't put a price on experience.
    • April Cook on

      We want to sell our home this summer and are starting the search for a real estate agent. I really like your tip to look for a technology-savvy agent who can get your house out there. Is looking at the agents website a good way to gauge their internet presence and no how? Thanks for these great tips!
      • emily bennette on

        This is some really good information about real estate agents. I like what you said about to find the right real estate agent for the job. It does seem like it would be smart to ask people who just recently moved into your area about who was their real estate agent. Since they had success in your neighborhood before it seems like they would have success selling your home as well.
        • April Cook on

          I really like your suggestions for interview questions to ask potential agents. I especially like how you say to ask how they will market your home. What are the effective ways that they should be using? Thanks for sharing this infomraiton.
          • Kendall Everett on

            Asking the agent how they plan to help you find a home is a great question. How they plan to help you will help you know if their style of selling a home will fit your needs. Checking their website would be a good start to finding out about their techniques.
            • Cindy Tesler on

              Thanks for pointing out that you should find a realtor that is an experienced negotiator that is "ready to go to war" for you as a client. I also liked how you talked about finding a proactive, technology-savvy agent. I think that finding an agent that has sold other homes in your neighborhood to be a plus.
              • Braden Bills on

                I'm trying to come up with a good way to get my home sold. It makes sense that I would want to work with a professional real estate agent! That way I can be sure that it will be sold for it's proper value.
                • Ridley Fitzgerald on

                  Thanks for the tips for finding a good real estate agent. I agree that it's best to eliminate the sub-par agents that I'm sure you'll run into. Like you said, it's best to find a professional agent.
                  • Johnny McCarron on

                    I never thought about interviewing multiple people to help me find a home. However, it makes sense to explore your options when it comes to real estate. After all, you want to be sure that you really are getting the most you can out of your home. Do you have any other tips about finding a good real estate agent or a good home?
                    • Ben Allen on

                      I appreciate the information on which kind of real estate agent is the right one for you. I agree that it is important to ensure that the agent has your best interest at heart and not their own best interest at heart and will say anything to get the deal closed. My mom has been looking into buying some property, I will be sure to share this information with her.