The idea of buying a home is simultaneously enchanting and daunting. For instance, it's fun to daydream about color palettes and kitchen / bathroom renovations and coming home to your very own Home Sweet Home. It's less fun to think about what the transition from daydreaming and dream home entails.
A really good real estate agent can walk you through the steps of homebuying and even help you negotiate an offer that might lower your upfront and ongoing costs of home ownership.
Really good real estate agents are familiar with the neighborhoods where you'd like to live. They know how long houses have sat on the market and can tell you the difference between listing prices and recent purchase prices.
The question is how do you find a really good real estate agent?
Talk to friends & relatives
Whether through Facebook or other social media platforms or (gasp!) face-to-face, ask your friends and relatives who've had recent homebuying experiences what real estate agents they recommend. And find out why.
Was their agent especially skilled at contract negotiation? Did he or she have encyclopedic knowledge about the local market? What about their communication skills? Did their agent return phone calls and emails in a timely manner?
These kind of details will help to paint a colorful picture of what it's like to work with a real estate agent. And presumably, if it's coming from your friends and relatives, it's coming from a source you know well and one you can trust.
Read online reviews
If you don't have friends or relatives with recent homebuying experiences in your area, the Internet may be the next best thing. Sites like Angie's List (paid subscription required) and Yelp (no subscription necessary, but be sure to check the "filtered reviews) have tons of reviews about local real estate professionals.
Real estate sites like Redfin, Zillow and Trulia post agent reviews as well. The downside of online reviews is you most likely don't know who the source is. More than likely the review is bias, but reading multiple reviews should allow you to get a fairly balanced picture.
Contact top prospects, interview them
Once you've made a short list of prospects, call them and ask more questions. For added peace of mind, find out if your prospective agents have additional references.
Pick their brains about the neighborhoods where you'd like to live. Find out, on average, what percent of the listing price do their clients typically pay. Obviously a real estate agent who negotiates deals for less than the asking price is someone you want negotiating your home purchase.
The more research you do at the beginning of the agent selection process, the better your chances of finding a really good real estate agent and having a pleasant homebuying experience.
Once you've made it through the all the steps, consider posting your own agent review to give future homebuyers an idea of what it was like to work with your agent selection.
And if these tips don't help to ease your mind about how to select a real estate agent, feel free to reach out to our office and ask for even more agent recommendations. We closed roughly 1,500 deals last year, so we know a lot of real estate agents (mortgage lenders, too).