Choosing a real estate agent to help you buy a home is an important decision on possibly the biggest purchase of your life. Before you rush into the wrong commitment, do your research. By informing yourself on what to ask and look for in an agent, you can be confident in your selection and ultimately in your choice of home.

1. Distinguish Agent vs Broker vs Realtor®

First of all, it’s important to know the difference between the types of agents. All real estate brokers and Realtors® are real estate agents, but not the other way around.

To become a real estate agent, one must take classes and pass a state licensing exam. Plus, continued education is required to stay up-to-date on industry knowledge. All real estate agents must work for a group under a licensed broker.

Real estate brokers have to go a step further and take additional courses in order to open their own agency or work independently. 

To carry the title of Realtor®, instead, an agent must be a part of the National Association of Realtors and pay member fees while following strict rules and regulations. 

You don’t have to necessarily pick one over the other. You should decide for yourself what works best for you and most of all if the particular individual suits your needs. 

2. Go With a Buying Agent

Not all real estate agents are equal. When you choose someone to help you buy a home, you should go through an agency exclusively for homebuyers. Agencies that both buy and sell will commonly overlook homes being sold directly through owners because they want to make money both ways. Selecting a specific buying agent assures you that he or she will have no ulterior motives in showing you listings. 

3. Know Where to Look

Referrals are a great way to choose a real estate agent. When you meet someone through a trusted friend, relative, or coworker, you’re that much more likely to make a sound and secure decision on a dependable individual. 

If you don’t know anyone who can refer you in your specific market, check online. Always make sure you’re going through a reputable source, and verify that the agent is a full-time employee as opposed to someone who does the work as a side gig.

4. Check for Experience and Reviews

Naturally, when choosing a real estate agent who is skilled and reputable, you’re going to want to check for past experience. Of course, all agents need to start somewhere, but you should keep your best interests at heart on your homebuyers journey and select someone who not only has a background in the industry, but a successful one at that. 

Experience isn’t the only part of an agent’s history you should consider, however. Use the internet to your advantage to research the reputation of all agents you come in contact with during your selection process. If you’re on the fence about choosing someone, taking into consideration other people’s positive or negative experiences should help you seal the deal one way or another. 

5. Verify the Agent’s Target Markets

When house shopping in a large metro area, like Los Angeles for example, it’s important to verify that the agent is familiar with all neighborhoods you’re interested in searching. 

Oftentimes agents are specialized in certain specific locations, and though they may be an expert at one market you’re looking at, they may not know another. This could negatively affect your home buying process. For example, you could potentially miss out on your dream home or lose money overpaying for a listing due to a poor negotiation. 

Make sure the agent knows market basics like the average listing price of a home and the average time new homes stay on the market. 

6. Go With Your Gut 

Last but certainly not least, listen to your gut feeling about someone. It’s so important to choose a real estate agent who listens and cares about your needs. Do they make you feel heard? Do they answer your calls and texts? Ask yourself if you trust this person before committing. 

If you feel rushed through a meeting with an agent, pressured into a deal you’re uncomfortable with, or simply have a bad feeling- run.