Whether you’re buying or selling a home, a real estate transaction is one of the most complicated deals most of us will ever undertake. Unfortunately, it’s not a skill you can easily practice, so it’s essential to have someone by your side who knows the ins and outs of this business. That’s where a What is a real estate agent? A real estate agent is a professional who is... More comes in.
A good real estate professional will ensure that the entire process runs smoothly and that you’ll come out of the deal with everything you wanted and more. However, finding an agent can be tricky. There are often many to choose from, with some being better qualified for your unique situation.
Fortunately, with the right approach, you can find the right real estate agent for you. Here’s how:
What Is a Real Estate Agent?
Essentially, a real estate agent’s job is to represent either a buyer, seller, landlord or renter throughout the process of purchasing, selling or renting property. In both the U.S. and Canada, they must be licensed and qualified by completing the required education and passing the necessary exams.
Quick tip: Avoid anyone who claims to be a real estate professional but can’t provide proof that they’re licensed or qualified.
Not all real estate agents are the same, though. Many choose to specialize in certain areas, such as rentals, sales or purchases. On top of that, you’ll find different types of real estate agents:
Realtor vs. Real Estate Agent
As you search for a real estate professional, you’ll often come across two major terms, realtor and real estate agent. These terms are frequently used interchangeably but are actually quite different.
In a nutshell, a real estate agent has completed all the required training and passed the relevant exams to qualify as a licensed estate agent. A real estate agent must work for a broker and cannot operate independently. Having said that, they’re often free to set their own schedule, with many working part-time or as a side hustle.
Meanwhile, a Realtor® is an agent or broker that has joined a recognized realtor association. In the U.S., they’ll be a member of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), or in Canada, the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). Both associations require their members to follow a strict code of conduct and ethics. In addition, realtors will generally undergo continuous training to learn new skills and keep up to date with the latest real estate practices.
Real Estate Broker vs. Agent
The third term you might’ve come across is “What is a real estate broker? Real estate brokers are licensed professionals with the same... More.” A broker is typically the owner or manager of a larger real estate company and will have undergone advanced training to gain a more comprehensive license. They’re often responsible for a team of estate agents, and it’s down to them to ensure their agents comply with the local real estate laws and regulations.
With more experience and higher qualifications, brokers are also the only real estate professionals able to work independently.
What Do Real Estate Agents Do?
So, what does a real estate agent do daily, and how can they help you? Real estate professionals have a lot of different duties depending on whether they’re assisting a buyer, seller or renter.
Besides looking up and marketing properties, many of their duties involve administrative tasks and helping you process paperwork and documents throughout the transaction, including lease records, agreements, offers and contracts. They’ll also liaise with other contractors involved in the purchase or sale of a home, such as home inspectors, construction experts and real estate solicitors.
A listing agent works with a seller or a landlord. They’ll mostly take responsibility for marketing the home and assist in several other areas. Their main tasks are:
- Setting a realistic listing price
- Taking staged photos and videos that showcase your home at its best
- Suggesting home improvements
- Marketing the property online using a “Multiple Listing Service” (MLS)
- Creating and distributing fliers and physical marketing materials
- Vetting potential buyers
- Organizing and hosting open houses
- Showing potential buyers around the property
- Negotiating with buyers to help you get the best price
- Liaising with real estate solicitors and other professionals
A buyer’s agent is responsible for finding the ideal home for their client, ensuring it matches their budget and requirements. Their primary duties include:
- Searching for properties online and in person
- Scouting ahead to confirm the property fits their client’s needs
- Sharing relevant listings with the buyer
- Assisting with paperwork, such as mortgage pre-approval, contracts, agreements, and other legal documents
- Submitting and negotiating offers
- Arranging home inspections and assessments
How To Find a Realtor That Works for You
Top real estate agents will go out of their way to ensure you find the perfect home or sell your existing one at a great price. But finding a good real estate agent takes a little effort. Here are some tips:
1. Ask Around
Sometimes, the ideal candidate can be right under your nose. For example, you’re bound to know someone who has recently bought, sold or rented property. If they’ve had a good experience with their agent, ask for their contact details and get in touch.
Just bear in mind that while your trusted friends and family may have given the agent a great review, they might not necessarily be the best fit for you. You’ll still need to do your own research as your needs and expectations may differ.
2. Look Online and Make a Shortlist
Be sure to carry out your own online search as well. There are a lot of platforms that will list local real estate agents, showcasing their qualifications and experience. Look out for the following attributes:
- They should be qualified
- Experienced: at least five years is preferable
- Knowledgeable for your specific type of transaction
- Have a good track record
- Be well-connected with contractors, home inspectors and real estate lawyers
- Have great negotiating skills
Check out reviews and start making a shortlist of at least three candidates.
3. Interview Your Candidates
With a shortlist drawn up, start reaching out to your candidates and set up a preliminary interview with each. The best advice is to approach these interviews like a CEO hiring an employee — treat it like a job interview, as it’s essentially just that. You need to find the perfect fit, so plan ahead.
Create a list of essential questions that you’ll ask each candidate. Some basics include:
- How long have you worked in real estate?
- How familiar are you with the local area?
- What’s your schedule?
- Can you confirm your credentials?
Use the interview to also get a feel for each candidate. It’s essential to make sure you’re comfortable with them and can talk honestly and openly about your needs.
4. Check References
Once you’ve interviewed all your candidates, check out the references of those you want to follow up on. Don’t be shy about contacting their previous clients. They can often give a greater insight into how the agent works.
5. Make Your Choice
Finally, if all the references check out, hire the real estate agent you feel is the best fit. Go with your gut here. Sometimes, the best choice on paper isn’t necessarily the best one in real life, and the most important thing is for you to feel comfortable working with them.
Be sure to check your contract too, and in particular, look at the payment requirements and contract length. Usually, the seller pays around 6% of the sale price, with 3% going to each agent, though this is generally negotiable.