Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Adventures in First-Time Homebuying #6: The Hunt for a Real Estate Agent, Part 2

Author: Nick
Category: Money

no, this is how to find a real estate agent, not a talent agent

Now that you know what a real estate agent is, why you need one, and how they get paid, it’s time to find one! But not just any old real estate agent will do for you. Oh no; you want somebody who’s going to work for you, help you find the home of your dreams, and get you into that house for as little cash as possible.

So here, in order of preference from highest to lowest, is a list of methods you can use to help you locate the real estate agent that’s right for you.

  • Ask someone you know. If you know anyone who has recently bought a house, ask them who their agent was and how their purchasing experience went. Make note of agents who your friends or family may say are “good,” but hold out for one that somebody absolutely raves about. And if you’re asking a friend, make sure they’re not related to the agent since anybody will recommend their real estate agent brother no matter how terrible an agent he is.
  • Ask your lender. You may not know your lender very well, but it beats asking a stranger for a recommendation. Lucky for you, there are some laws in place to prevent lenders from profiting on referrals to real estate agents, and lenders generally won’t send you to someone who’s not good at what they do. After all, your lender only gets paid once you find and buy a property.
  • Walk into a real estate brokerage. Take a trip to your local RE/MAX, Century 21, or other brokerage and you’ll be paired with an agent who will help you locate your new home. Of course, unless you find one of their agents on your own, you’re at the mercy of the brokerage. Hopefully they’ll give you somebody who isn’t right out of real estate school.
  • Use the internet. You’ll have no trouble finding plenty of eager agents online, but most agent listing sites won’t carry a big flashing “I’m a Lousy Realtor!” logo next to the crummy ones. If you decide to take your e-chances, I recommend looking through the real estate agent reviews at Homethinking to help you make your decision.
  • Pick up a phone book. Start with AAA Real Estate and make your way to Zazzy Realtors. Phone book listings can’t tell you much, but they can give you a decent pool of agents from which to start your search.

You may have noticed that this list is similar to the one we saw earlier for finding a mortgage lender. That’s not by accident. Both your lender and real estate agent are members of the holy trinity of homebuying (with your settlement agent being the third), and finding the best ones are both vital to your happiness and the happiness of your wallet.

In Part 3, we’ll go over some questions you’ll want to ask your prospective real estate agent and what you can expect next once you select an agent.

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