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Things to know when looking for a real estate agent

Choosing a real estate agent can make a big difference on how well your house sells and how much it costs you.
Choosing a real estate agent can make a big difference on how well your house sells and how much it costs you.

A real estate agent can be your biggest ally when buying or selling a home. Not only will it protect you from a variety of legal pitfalls, but the cost of using an agent, oftentimes, is effectively zero.

When you buy a home in most states, the seller will pay commissions to both the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent, even if the buyer’s agent signs an explicit agreement to represent the buyer. Furthermore, when selling your home the aid of an agent is likely to yield a higher price (when selling a home by owner, the first thing a seller hears is, “since you’re not using an agent I’ve offered a lower price…”). So it often works out that using an agent costs nothing.

I should note that, as an employee of a bank, I sold hundreds of homes and always used an agent. I am not, now nor have I ever been, a real estate agent.

Now that you should be convinced to use a real estate agent, let me offer some suggestions for choosing an agent:

    1. Experience. Be sure to choose an agent with experience. The specific experience you care about is selling homes like yours in terms of price and location. Ask your agent about her most recent listings of homes in your area and price range. Make sure that she was able to sell them successfully without discounting too much.
    2. Work ethic. Real estate agents come in all shapes and sizes. Many are agents simply because they like the flexibility the lifestyle offers and may not need or earn much income. Others are true professionals who work at the job 60 hours per week, 7 days per week and who are always accessible to their clients.
    3. Brokerage. Individual agents vary so dramatically that it is clear that a good agent at a weak agency is better than a weak agent at a good agency. Optimally, of course, you’d like to find a great agent at a strong brokerage that provides lots of resources to ensure an agent’s success.
    4. Strategy. When you are in the final stages of choosing an agent, interview the candidates to discuss strategy. There are lots of ways to sell real estate; find an agent that has a strategy you like. Commit her to execute the strategy she articulated when she pitched you.
    5. Personality. It can easily take 12 weeks to buy a home, and it could be much longer selling one. Be sure you like the personality of the agent you choose; you’re going to be spending time with her in the coming months.
    6. Nepotism. Almost everyone has a cousin or uncle who is a real estate agent. Be careful when choosing family. Especially when selling a home, some people will go through several 6-month listings with different agents hoping to get the desired result. You’d hate to make future family reunions awkward. Of course, if your family member is a great agent, that may be exactly the right choice!

    By thoughtfully weighing all of these considerations, you can choose an agent who will do the job right for you. This article originally appeared on

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