Buying a home is a major life moment. It’s exciting, but also potentially stressful and confusing. Luckily, there are real estate agents to guide you through the process.
Finding a real estate agent who is well connected, hard working, and trustworthy can save consumers time and offer some much-needed peace of mind.
Benefits of Hiring a Good Real Estate Agent
A skilled real estate agent can help a buyer locate their dream home, navigate negotiations, and wrap up all that tedious paperwork. An agent with a strong professional network and familiarity with the housing inventory where you’re hoping to buy may even get early word of so-called “whisper listings” — properties that are about to come on the market.
First-time home buyers may find an agent’s guidance to be especially helpful. But even seasoned buyers can benefit from expert advice. (If you do feel confident you have the skills to go it alone, buying a house without a real estate agent is possible.)
First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.
How to Find a Good Real Estate Agent
In many housing markets, a dizzying number of professionals are standing by to help with your home purchase. Take these steps to choose smartly.
Learn the Terms
Before launching a search for the perfect real estate agent, it can be helpful to brush up on the job titles you may encounter.
Most commonly, consumers will come across real estate agents, Realtors®, and brokers, all of whom can act as agents, but who can have varying levels of experience, education, and certifications.
• Real estate agent: Holds a license to practice real estate.
• Realtor: To have this designation, an agent must be a member of the National Association of Realtors, which is a trade association.
• Broker: A real estate agent must complete a certain amount of working hours, have additional education, and may have demonstrated leadership abilities among other agents in order to qualify as a broker.
Keep It Personal
A little networking can go a long way when looking for a good real estate agent.
Asking trusted friends, family members, or neighbors which real estate agent they worked with is a great place to start. Additional avenues that can lead to finding a good real estate agent may include:
• Checking out local magazines and area “best of” lists featuring real estate agents.
• Reviewing local real estate association websites.
• Considering agents who are listed often on for-sale signs in the area.
How to Choose a Real Estate Agent
Once you’ve made a list of possible agents, you’ll want to do your homework.
Leave No Stone Unturned
Just as “location, location, location” is an important factor in buying property, research, research, and more research will help in the search to find a good real estate agent. This is also the time to think seriously about your finances and to start the process of lining up a home mortgage loan, as your real estate agent will ask about your price range.
Recommended: How to Get a Mortgage in 2023
Looking up reviews on websites like Zillow or Realtor.com can be a good place to find a good real estate agent.
When reading reviews or considering references, it can be helpful to seek answers to the following questions:
• Does the agent have good communication skills?
• Is the agent easy to touch base with and have ample availability?
• Did they show interest in the process even after a deal was under contract?
• Are they known to regularly have disagreements with other agents?
If you find a real estate agent online or as a result of the agent’s marketing efforts, ask for references before making a decision.
Following a Hiring Process
Narrow the field to a handful of possible agents, then interview them before making a decision.
This process can feel similar to hiring an employee. The interview can give you an idea of what it will be like to work with an agent. Here are some sample questions to ask when interviewing agents:
• How long have you worked as a real estate agent? Experience is key, especially for first-time buyers or sellers who need extra guidance in a hot market.
• How many clients do you usually have at once? Their answer will help determine how much time they have to devote to each client and how accessible they will be.
• Do you work with a team? For busier agents, having team members who can provide assistance can be helpful.
• What areas do you cover? Finding an agent who is familiar with the area you’re looking in can give you a leg up in your search.
• How do you prefer to communicate? Make sure your communication styles mesh well together, whether that be over text, phone, or email.
(Selling a home? The interview questions are different. You’d want to ask how the agent would market the home, what fees might be included, and how they would price the home based on recent sales in the area.)
Recommended: 15 Questions to Ask When Interviewing Realtors
When It’s Time to Buy
Some real estate agents may request that home buyers sign a contract known as an agency agreement. Before making any real estate working relationship official, take a close look at the contract to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises down the road.
The agreement may obligate you to only work with the agent for a set period of time. These contracts are not always required, but they provide the real estate agent with more assurance that they will be paid for their services.
Those selling a home also sign a contract, known as a listing agent contract, with the real estate agent who is listing their home. Typically, these agreements include the commission amount, listing duration, cancellation clause, responsibilities, disputes, ownership, expiration date, and details regarding dual-agency restrictions in the states where it is allowed.
Good Real Estate Agents’ Tips
Once you find a real estate agent to buy a house, a good agent will accompany you on home tours, advise you when you are ready to make an offer, and recommend other professionals such as a home inspector.
The homebuying process can be complicated and a good real estate agent should hold your hand every step of the way. Your agent will submit your offer on your behalf and provide you with a list of the documents you need to buy a house, including mortgage documents, that you will need for the closing.
Finding a good real estate agent can be key to closing the best deal as a buyer. A thorough research and interview process can help you land an agent you feel, well, at home with — and who will work hard for you.
Getting preapproved for your mortgage loan is another important step in the buying process. SoFi strives to make the process simpler with a quick online digital application and access to representatives ready to help. SoFi Mortgage Loans offer competitive rates, and require as little as 3% down.*
Review potential rates with SoFi in a matter of minutes.
What buyers want most from real estate agents?
Buyers most want an agent who will help them find the right home, so a well-connected agent familiar with the community and its housing inventory is a top priority.
What is an offer to purchase a home called?
An offer to purchase contract, also called a real estate purchase agreement, contains the address and description of the property, as well as the purchase price, down payment information, other deal terms, and an expiration date. It helps ensure that the buyer and seller are in agreement about the deal.
How do I get the best out of my real estate agent?
Knowing what you are looking for in a home, knowing your budget, and communicating openly about what you like and dislike can help ensure best results. Keep in mind that your real estate agent works on commission: Be organized, only visit properties you are truly interested in, and come to appointments on time.
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.
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**SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.
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