Jason O'Neil | December 9, 2022
That’s what you just typed into the world wide web.
And the world wide web came back with a million and a half ways to find a real estate agent, all of which require you to share your email information and submit your inbox to the terror that is trashing real estate marketing.
If you’re wondering how to pick the perfect real estate agent, but don’t want to deal with the sleazy sales tactics that come with the territory, do yourself a favor and keep your eyes moving down this page.
I’m going to walk you through the step-by-step process for finding the right real estate agent for your next home purchase.
Let’s dive in…
Before we dive into picking the right person to help you buy a home, it’s important to know the difference between real estate agents, real estate brokers, and Realtors.
Real Estate Agent
Real estate agents are people who have passed a state-specified course that allows them to help people buy or sell real estate.
These folks are people that have gone through preliminary training and met a certain amount of hours as required by their respective states. Depending on the state you live in, the real estate licensing course and required hours vary.
For example, in my state of Indiana, real estate agents must complete 90 hours of pre-licensing courses in order to start selling homes. In our neighboring state of Illinois, real estate agents only need 75 hours of pre-licensing work.
Real Estate Brokers
Real estate brokers are individuals who have gone beyond the basic real estate agent requirements and passed a broker's license exam.
This is not some basic exam, but rather a combination of real estate experience mixed with the knowledge that is learned throughout the course. These real estate brokers spend extensive time learning the ins and outs of the real estate industry including deeper information such as real estate investing, property management, and even construction.
Think of it like this—if a real estate agent is like a bachelor’s degree, a real estate broker is a master's degree.
Realtors are agents who’ve gone one step further than agents and brokers and have secured membership with the National Association of Realtors.
This entity is one of the most widely-respected real estate groups and holds a higher standard for all of its members. With one of the oldest codes of ethics in the real estate industry (developed in 1913) the National Association of Realtors focuses on the best interest of all clients at all times.
Not only do Realtors reap the benefit of the NAR backing their work, but they also have the opportunity to call themselves a Realtor, which other real estate agents and brokers cannot do.
(Note: it’s spelled “Realtor” not “Realator” for all of you folks out there who misspell it on your signs!)
Before you go scouring the internet for the best real estate agent in your town, start with the people you know!
Chances are someone has bought or sold a house in the last year or two and likely worked with a broker or Realtor to make it happen. Similarly, it might be a co-worker or neighbor who recently found a real estate agent that they trust and would gladly refer you to them.
Another group of people to consider when searching for a real estate agent is your financial advisor, CPA, or lawyer. These three people are constantly working with individuals buying, selling, and renting real estate and sometimes they know more about the local market than agents!
One thing I cannot emphasize enough is to do your research.
If you’re looking to buy a $900k home in the suburbs, you’re not going to look for Realtors who sell townhomes in the city for $350k—you want someone with experience buying high six-figure homes who knows the ropes.
There are a lot of people out there who like to flex their ability to sell the big homes, but when it comes down to it, they lack the experience needed to deliver. You can usually sort through these types of agents courtesy of our friend Google.
Between Google Reviews, Real estate boards like MLS and NAR, and social media (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn) you can quickly get an understanding of who an agent is before ever needing to pick up the phone.
A secret I share with all my clients is to look at the reviews for an agent and pay attention to how often they receive them. The agents who do great work are constantly receiving love from their clients, whereas the bad ones rarely get reviews.
If you were going to a fancy dinner would you prefer a chef pulled from off the street or a trained chef who worked at a Michelin 3-star restaurant?
If you’re not picking the Michelin man, you need to reconsider a few things.
In the same way, you wouldn’t just pull any person who says they’re a real estate agent off the street and ask them to help you buy a house! You want someone who is a seasoned professional and has put in the work to know the local real estate market better than anyone else.
That’s where certifications come into play.
There are tons of different real estate certifications out there but there are three that I want you to pay attention to:
This is the highest credential given to residential real estate professionals. If you’re a CRS, that means you’re part of the top 3% of residential real estate agents in the United States and have sold over $30 million in volume over the past 5 years.
These are the cream of the crop when it comes to residential real estate agents.
Simply put, these are the real estate agents who help buyers from beginning to end when buying a home. These real estate agents are exclusively focused on the entire buying process and have spent extensive time learning buyer representation, purchasing contracts, negotiation, and more.
Agents who have this certification are required to be part of the NAR, prove 5 completed transactions as a sole buyer, and pass an educational course/exam.
This certification is not a must-have for your real estate agent, but it most definitely is a bonus if they have it. The Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist (CLHMS) is someone who assures affluent buyers and sellers that the agents who have earned it have the knowledge, experience, competence, and confidence they require.
If you’re a buyer looking for high-end homes a high-end agent is what you need, and this certification ensures that’s what you are getting.
We’ve all done a job interview before. Whether we’re on one side of the table or the other, everyone can agree an interview is the best practice for virtually any business deal.
These interviews don’t need to be crazy in-depth or long, but they do need to help you understand how this real estate professional operates and if they are going to be the right fit for you and what you want.
One thing I always tell buyers and sellers who are researching new Realtors is to consider these 5 questions as you start setting up prospective interviews:
If an agent can confidently answer these questions, they might just be the right fit for you.
Buying a home is a massive investment. Not just an investment of your money, but also your time, energy, and life get put into this process, so finding the right person for the job is the first step in finding the perfect home.
While I cannot tell you exactly who the right real estate agent is for you, I encourage all my clients to step back and look at this from a 30,000-foot view. Remember that this home-buying journey is in fact a journey and that each person 0n the journey has an impact on where you go.
If you want to make it to that destination, sometimes you need to let go of the steering wheel and let someone else who knows the terrain drive.
Who knows, maybe this real estate agent could become your go-to person for the next big purchase?!
Until next time…
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