Buying or selling a home are both major life moments. They can be exciting, but also potentially stressful and confusing. Luckily, there are real estate agents to act as guides through the process.
Those considering buying or selling a property are likely in the market for a real estate agent to help them locate their dream home, find the right buyers, navigate negotiations, and wrap up all that tedious paperwork.
A well-connected, hard-working, trustworthy real estate agent can save consumers time and offer some much needed peace of mind.
For buyers or sellers who feel confident they have the skills to go it alone, buying a house without a realtor is possible. But for those who want professional guidance, finding someone you can trust can be key for a successful real estate transaction.
Learning the Terms
Before launching a search for the perfect real estate agent, it can be helpful to brush up on some of the job titles that may be encountered during research. It can be confusing to come across a variety of professionals who have varying titles, yet all seem to perform similar duties.
Most commonly, consumers will come across real estate agents, realtors, and brokers, all of whom still act as agents, but can have varying levels of experience, education, and certifications.
• Real estate agent: They hold a license to practice real estate.
• Realtor: To have this designation, they must be members 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.
Keeping It Personal
A little networking can go a long way when looking for a good real estate agent.
Everyone has a network and now is the time to work it. Asking trusted friends, family members, or neighbors which real estate agent they worked with is a great place to start.
For those who find their real estate agent online or from marketing efforts such as a classic bus bench ad, it’s okay to ask for references before making a decision. The real estate agent should be able to provide a list of solid references.
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 compatible real estate agent. Interviewing a few real estate agents before making a decision can be helpful.
Some avenues that can lead to finding a good 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.
Looking up reviews on websites like Zillow or Realtor.com can be a good place to find feedback. When looking at reviews or considering references, it can be helpful to seek answers for 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?
Following a Hiring Process
Choosing a real estate agent can feel similar to hiring an employee. Interviewing multiple agents before making a decision can be helpful and give the consumer an idea of what it will be like to work with that agent. Consider asking the following questions when interviewing agents:
• How long have you worked as a real estate agent? Experience is key, especially for first-time home buyers or sellers who need extra guidance.
• How many clients do you usually take on 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 have a team that assists you? 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 the client is buying or selling in can give them a leg up in their search or during the selling process.
• How do you prefer to communicate? Make sure communication styles mesh well together, whether that be over text, phone, or email.
• What types of representation can I expect? This answer may vary by state, but some brokers represent buyers, some may represent sellers, and some may facilitate sales between two buyers as a neutral party.
• What are your plans for selling my home? Ask them to give an idea of how they would price the home based on recent home sales in the area and the current housing market. Asking how they will market the home is a worthwhile question, too.
• What are your fees? Aside from the brokerage fee, what other fees may occur such as marketing or early cancellation fees.
• What disclosures should I expect? Look into state rules regarding what disclosure information brokers have to provide to the client.
Review the Contract
Before making any real estate working relationship official, taking a close look at the contract to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises down the road can be wise.
Those selling a home will need a listing agent contract between themselves and the real estate agent in order to have the agent sell 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.
Some real estate agents may request that home buyers sign a contract known as an agency agreement that contractually obligates the buyers to only work with them for a set period of time. These contracts are not legally required, but provide the real estate agent with more security.
If the buyer doesn’t feel comfortable signing one, they can choose to work with an agent who doesn’t require one. Occasionally, these contracts offer incentives such as a cash rebate at the time of closing or a reduced commission rate.
When It’s Time to Buy
For the majority of buyers, a key step towards buying a home is securing a mortgage. The home buying process can be complicated, especially when it comes time to take out a mortgage loan.
Commercial banks, mortgage companies, and other financial institutions typically offer mortgages. In most cases, a borrower’s credit score, down payment amount, income level, and other factors will impact the loan terms and interest.
Applying for mortgages through multiple lenders and comparing rates and terms can be beneficial to make a decision that will be best for a buyer’s specific needs.
Preapproval or prequalification letters from lenders will give home buyers an idea of what type of mortgage terms they may receive before committing to a hard pull on their credit score.
Alongside brick and mortar lenders, online lenders are an avenue consumers can consider when it comes time to review their mortgage options. SoFi is an online mortgage lender that offers competitive rates, no hidden fees, and requires as little as 10% down to obtain a home loan.
SoFi strives to make the whole process simpler with a quick online digital application and by providing access to available representatives ready to help. Checking rates with SoFi takes two minutes and won’t affect the inquirer’s credit score. †To check the rates and terms you qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
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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Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, we will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.
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