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Choosing the Right Real Estate Agent for Your Needs

Published: Wednesday, October 24 2012

Choosing the Right Real Estate Agent for Your Needs

Welcome to Saving Thousands! with Robert Palmer. As with many things, there is a right and a wrong way to shop for a home. In this half hour, we'll give you practical help navigating your home buying experience, from choosing the right agent, selecting a reputable title company, and simplifying the often-confusing world of home values and prices. And now, here's Robert Palmer. Working with a real estate agent isn't required to buy a home, but it's generally a smart choice. A good agent can offer you several advantages. First off, they're going to have detailed knowledge of specific neighborhoods. For example, they'll know whether the area of town you're looking for has quality local schools. This information could help steer you toward neighborhoods that will best fit your needs.

They'll also have access to information about market conditions, like the average cost per square foot of similar homes, and that can influence your decision as well. Along with that, real estate agents have access to sales data, like how much nearby homes are selling for compared to their list prices, so you know how much you can negotiate. This type of information is very useful when it comes to providing price guidance to help you avoid paying too much for a home.

And finally, a good real estate agent has solid negotiation skills to present your case in the best light and help save you money. Now, with all that in mind, how do you find the right real estate agent? Well, I frequently hear from buyers who started a Realtor relationship by calling the number on a "for sale" sign while checking out a property. I want to caution you not to do this, and here's why.

In a situation like this, it's critical to recognize who that agent works for. If the real estate agent is already the listing agent for that property, they're already working for the seller of the property, which can make it more difficult for them to represent your best interests. I feel it's critical to find an agent who is unbiased.

Other times, people tell me they select their agent because of an existing relationship-- maybe a recommendation from a neighbor or a family friend. In some cases, these referrals lead to great results with experienced agents. But sometimes you end up working with an average Joe, and it can cause real issues that affect every part of the home buying process. Just make sure before you take someone's word for it and select an agent that you've completed some due diligence and research on your own.

Here's how to get started. First, do your homework. Determine your monthly budget, and be sure you know important numbers like your credit score, that you're pre-approved for a home loan. And then, begin searching for homes in your price range so you know what you're in the market for. Then, your agent you can help you narrow down your search.

Next, interview several agents-- I say at least three-- before making your final decision. You can find a list of helpful questions on my website at www.savingthousands.com, as well as read my real estate agents' pledge and see a list of agents who have taken it. I created this pledge to hold real estate agents to a higher standard that I think all home buyers deserve. You can find information about agents' experience, read their customer reviews, and see other great information about the agents who have taken the pledge on the website.

One thing you should always request in addition to your research is a list of recently-sold homes from each agent you're considering. Looking at past sales will show you the agent's experience with homes in your desired area and price range. You should also make sure you're working with a full-time real estate agent who has a history of success. Your agent shouldn't be selling homes as a hobby.

And of course, make sure to ask for references. And then, actually check them. This applies for every member of your team, not just the real estate agent.

In addition to asking for references about the agent's expertise and knowledge, you want to know about their work ethic and communication style as well. That is, are they going to call you back? Are they going to take care of you? Are they going to make your home buying experience a good one?

So speaking of communication, a great way to test it is before you choose an agent, give them a couple of phone calls. See how long it takes for them to call you back. Call them at night, call on weekends, and see how quickly they return your calls and grant your request to provide more information on property and listings. How they respond to you is a reliable indicator of how they'll operate through the entire home buying process.

If you can't tell already, I'm a big believer in promoting agents who do business ethically and who put the clients first. Selecting a real estate agent is one of the most critical parts of the home buying process and should not be left to chance. So take the time, do your research, and select the right real estate agent before you start house hunting.

To learn more about how to choose a real estate agent, visit www.savingthousands.com and enter keywords "the pledge." And remember, you can always join the conversation on the Saving Thousands! forum as well, where you can ask questions and get answers anytime, day or night.

Coming up-- confused about what fair market value is and how much home you can get for your money? Robert takes the mystery out of what makes a home go up or down in value. And how do you make sure you get the right title company for your closing? Robert puts the power in your hands next. This is Saving Thousands! with Robert Palmer.

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