Advice & Planning


MCU’s Tips for Hiring the Right Real Estate Agent

If you’re getting serious about buying a home, it’s time to hire a real estate agent. These professionals can be a huge asset in making your home-buying process go smoothly – they offer knowledge of the real estate market, prescreen properties, ask tough questions about a home’s condition and help with negotiations. They serve as a resource who listens and has no problem answering any questions that are asked of him or her.

However, the wrong agent can make your process more difficult by being inexperienced, unresponsive, inflexible, or tone deaf to your needs. They can really set you back in your search or even worse, put you in the wrong home.

If you’re not sure how to get started when it comes to picking the right agent, we’re here to help. Check out our tips below!

1. Take in reviews and recommendations.

Don’t just call the first name you see on a “For Sale” sign. When it comes to finding a real estate agent, recommendations from friends and family members are a good place to start your search. Your loved ones almost always only recommend professionals or services that they trust, have had a great experience working with and believe that could be a real help to you.

Sounds great, right? These recommendations are a helpful point in the right direction but you’ll still have to do your homework. We recommend following up with an internet search before contacting an agent – check their reviews on Yelp and other community boards. These will give you the best idea about how communicative, responsive, helpful and efficient and agent is across the board, not just in one or two experiences.

2. Verify licensing and credentials.

Before moving ahead with any real estate agent, take the time to find out about their credentials. An agent has a responsibility to represent clients ethically and legally. Because of this, agents – like many professionals – need to have the right licensing and accreditations to work with you.

It’s also important to note that agents may have different specialties and additional training in particular areas that could work to your advantage during your home-buying process. Knowing how to recognize these accreditations, usually abbreviated and listed after a broker’s name, can help you make the best choice. Some of these special titles may include:

  • • Certified Residential Specialist (CRS)

  • • Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR)

  • • Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES)

Ask the real estate agent for their license number and full professional name and write this information down. To verify their credentials, homebuyers can visit and search the database.

3. Check the agent’s listings.

Location, location, location – it’s the first rule of real estate. A realtor may have great credentials and outstanding reviews, but how well do they know the neighborhoods you’re interested in? Before moving forward with an agent, ask them about their track record in the towns and communities you like and check their listings online on their website and other real estate websites.

Does the agent have a good inventory of homes in or near the areas you like? Is the price range similar? How much business does it look like their doing in your neighborhoods of interest? The key is to feel confident that your agent really knows the area and can show you a wide range of homes in the locations that you like without being too busy or in demand that they won’t have time to work with you as much as they should.

4. Know the contract requirements.

An agent will almost always require that you sign a contract with them before you begin working together. While it’s a standard practice, you should fully read and understand what the agreement entails and if the terms are fair and complimentary to your needs before signing it.

These contracts may include a buyer's broker agreement, which is typically a 90-day or more commitment reflecting the availability of the broker, compensation for the broker and even a range of neighborhoods you’ll be shopping in. It may even include penalties if you go ahead and purchase a home that was initially shown to you by the broker but purchase without them. Knowing the ins and outs of an agreement with your agent could make all the difference in your home-buying experience.

5. Understand the difference between a seller’s agent and a buyer’s agent

Typically there are two brokers in a purchase transaction; the broker that represents you (the buyer’s agent) and the broker that is representing the seller (the seller’s/listing agent). If you start shopping for a home without a buyer’s agent, you may interact and begin working with the listing agent for the home.

Realtors are typically paid solely on commission. That means that they have a financial incentive to sell you the homes that they are listing. When a broker is able to sell you a home as the sole broker in the transaction, they will be earning maximum commission on the transaction because they will not have to split their commission with another person. This means that the realtor may not have your best interests in mind. You should especially be wary of referrals offered by the listing agent for an attorney to represent you. Often that attorney will have the agent’s, not your interests at heart.

6. Price Shop Your Insurance

Having the right insurance is important but overpaying for it isn’t. Whether it’s home; auto; health or renters insurance, price shopping can go a long way.

it’s recommended to request quotes from at least three providers before making a decision. But don’t let the policy price be the end all be all to your search. As your life changes overtime, you may need more or less coverage in some areas of your life. This is why it’s important to make sure you understand what’s covered and how much protection you’d have from a new policy.

Be sure to do your homework on each of these new insurance providers and to note the details of the policies offered. In the end, you may decide to stick with your current provider but having official price quotes could help you negotiate the best deal possible.

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