7 Steps for Finding a Real Estate Agent

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Point2.

Buying or selling a home is one of the most complex transactions many of us will ever carry out. Fortunately, real estate agents can make the entire process run more smoothly.

Finding a good real estate professional isn’t always easy, though, and there are many things to consider. Follow these seven steps to be sure you end up collaborating with the right real estate agent for you.

1. Know the Different Types of Real Estate Agents

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Before you get started, it’s essential to know which type of real estate agent will be best for your needs:

  • Real estate agent: Has completed the necessary training and qualified as an agent. They can be self-employed or work for a larger firm and may have a full or part-time schedule.
  • Realtor®: A member of either the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) in the U.S. or the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). They’re required to follow a strict code of conduct and ethics and will typically learn new skills continually.
  • Broker: A broker is generally responsible for supervising a team of estate agents. They’re held to a high standard and are often the ones that agents go to with complex industry and legal queries.

Additionally, you’ll often find agents specializing in different things, such as sales or rentals.

2. Ask Friends and Family

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One of the best ways to find an agent you can trust is to ask for references from friends or family who have had good experiences. This can be a great shortcut, but even if friends or family give an agent a rave review, be sure to conduct your own research and interview them. Your needs and expectations may differ, or you just might not be a good fit.

4. Start Interviewing Your Candidates

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Once you’ve made your shortlist, it’s time to start contacting your choices and arranging interviews. Try to interview at least three people so that you can see your various options. As you prepare for the discussion, put yourself in the shoes of a company’s CEO looking to hire their next star employee.

Essentially, you are conducting a job interview, and planning is essential. Draw up a list of questions for each candidate, covering things like: How long have you worked in real estate? How well do you know the local area? What’s your schedule? Can I see your credentials?

5. Check References

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After interviews, you’ll have a better idea of how you feel about your candidates. Be sure to ask for references and follow up on them. Don’t hesitate to contact former clients to hear if their experience matches what you’ve been told.

6. Choose Your Best Match

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If the references check out, it’s time to make your choice. Don’t worry if your choice isn’t necessarily the best-rated agent on paper. It’s generally best to go with your gut feeling. You’ll be working closely with your agent, so it’s vital that you feel comfortable with them and that you know they’ll be honest with you.

7. Check Your Contract

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Read through your contract thoroughly, taking note of the payment requirements and the length of the contract. Usually, the seller must pay agent fees of 6% of the sale price on average, with 3% going to each agent. However, this can be negotiated.

In terms of the length of the contract, consider the state of the market. In a hot market, houses can sell in weeks rather than months. So, you don’t really want to be tied up with a single agent for six months if things aren’t working out and you haven’t sold or bought a home quickly enough.