How and Where to Find an Agent
By Shelley O’Hara
- Meeting agents at open houses
- Choosing the right agent
- Dealing with problematic issues
Because an agent plays such an important role in the home buying process, you should not just go with the first agent you meet. A lot of first time buyers start by going to open houses just to browse. The agents at these open houses will usually pounce on you once they know you aren’t working for an agent. The agent will readily offer to represent you.
Don’t just go with the first agent you meet, though. Instead, ask family, friends, and co-workers about agents they have worked with. Everyone knows at least someone that’s an agent. Starting with personal recommendations is good. If needed, you can widen the search. Consider these issues when finding an agent you are comfortable with:
- Look up Realtor sites on the Internet. Most often include agent lists, and many agents include pages or their own site. Use these to review the agent’s background.
- Draw up a list of questions and interview your agent. Remember she is helping you with a big financial and life decisions. Ask how many homes the agent has listed in the past six months. Ask how many homes the agent has sold. Get references and call them to inquire about that buyer’s impressions of the home-buying process with that agent.
- If you know the specific area or neighborhood you want to live in, consider an agent that specializes or at least sells and lists a lot of homes in your neighborhoods of interest. For example, in Indianapolis, an agent might have a lot of experience in the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood, one of Indianapolis’s oldest and most beautiful neighborhoods.
- Quiz your agent with questions you have or things you don’t understand about buying a home. For instance, you may have questions about mortgage insurance, which is required for many first-time home buyers. If they can’t explain concepts in easy to understand terms or put you in touch with someone who can, they may not be the best choice.
- Be sure it’s clear that the agent is representing you — that you are working with a buyer’s agent. Also, ask about the agent’s commission rate(s). (Note: If you are both buying and selling a home, and the agent is both finding you a new home and listing your home, she may give you a break on the commission.) You may be asked to sign a buyer’s agreement contract which spells out the terms of your representation, such as exclusivity, meaning you won’t be working with other agents.
Once you’ve decided with whom you want to work, be open, honest and fair with your agent. Expect regular contact with your agent, but remember the agent also has other clients. When you tour a home with an agent, be sure to tell him what you like and dislike. The agent can use this information to find houses that more closely match what you are looking for. Expect honesty from your agent: If you are unrealistic about the type of home you can get for your money, your agent should tell you. Remember she doesn’t control the market and is working within the financial range determined by your situation.
On the same hand, if your agent doesn’t listen to you, is very difficult to get in touch with and doesn’t explain or answer your questions with respect, you aren’t stuck with that agent. Be sure to give the agent feedback about why you are unhappy. For instance, if you don’t want to live in a ranch home and all the agent shows you are ranch homes, the agent isn’t paying attention to your input. Or if your agent is only showing you homes from his Realtor’s firm, make sure all homes are represented in your pursuit of your dream home. If you bring up issues with the agent and he doesn’t satisfactorily deal with problems, you can fire him. Check out the terms of any contract you may have signed.
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