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2) Shopping

Finding and Evaluating an Agent

It's important that you choose an agent with whom you are comfortable and that will represent your interests. Start by asking family, friends, and co-workers about agents they've worked with, particularly those who have just bought or sold a home. Check out the credentials of the agent and the broker or firm they work with.

Choose two or three agents to interview. The initial interview can be done by phone but before making a choice, hold a face-to-face meeting.

Here are some questions to ask the agent:

  • How long have they been in real estate?
    • Number of years full-time?
    • How long have they been with the current broker or firm? If only a short period of time, why did they change firms?
  • How many houses have they found for buyers and sold for sellers in the past year?

    • Request a list with addresses and prices. This will give you an idea of the area and price range the agent has worked in.
  • Ask them to tell you about your targeted neighborhood. What are the pros and cons? What can you expect for your money?

    • Use your neighborhood and home need/want worksheets as part of the discussion.
  • Ask for names of recent clients—buyers and sellers. Make sure you get contact information.
  • Will they act as a buyer's agent?
    • How will they be paid? An hourly rate, set fee, or percentage of the purchase price?
    • Will they expect an incentive commission if the negotiated price is less than the asking price?
    • Will you need to pay a retainer fee?
    • Is there a minimum fee? If so, what is it?
    • Is there a maximum total cost? If so, what is it?
    • Ask to see the contract they use. Discuss it with them.
    • What is the length of the contract?
    • What services will they provide?
  • How will conflicts of interest be handled? Specifically, what procedures will be followed if the home you decide to buy is listed by your agent or the agent's firm?
  • How will disagreements or disputes be handled?

After the interview, ask yourself some questions:

  • Will you enjoy working with the person?
  • Did they answer your questions directly or did they steer the conversation elsewhere?
  • Did they give you their undivided attention?
  • Did they address your concerns?

Ask the references to tell you about their experience with the agent. Ask questions such as:

  • How well did you like the agent?
  • How long did it take to find a home?
  • What incentives did the agent have to find you a home?
  • Did you have a contract with the agent? If so, what were its key points?
  • Would you use the agent again? If not, why not?

After completing the interviews and talking with the references, follow-up with any additional questions you may have. Then make your choice.

Establishing clear channels of communication

Once you have chosen an agent, you must sit down with them and define your working relationship. Now is the time to have a detailed discussion on what you are looking for and your price range. Using your worksheets, make clear what the home must have and must not have. Indicate those items on which you're flexible or it doesn't matter. Establish the primary method of contact: phone or email.

Next: For Sale by Owner

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