Finding the right real estate agent for your goals is crucial to having the best home buying experience. The agent should look out for your interests (code of ethics), have expert knowledge of the area, understand your goals, and negotiate the best terms on your behalf.
Real estate professionals are licensed at the state level and each state has similar but slight variations on the requirements. The licensing ranges, based on least amount of training to highest, from a real estate salesperson to a real estate broker.
Types of Real Estate Professionals
- Real Estate Salesperson: Requires classroom instruction, typically around 60 hours, without any prior experience. This type of license is not offered in North Carolina.
- Provisional Real Estate Broker: Requires classroom instruction, typically 90 or more hours, without any prior experience. All full brokers start out as a provisional before completing additional coursework.
- Real Estate Broker: Requires initial classroom training for licensing plus ongoing continuing education courses. Brokers can perform full real estate duties.
- Broker-in-charge (BIC): Every real estate firm must have a designated BIC who oversees all brokers within their firm. BICs require additional educational and licensing requirements beyond brokers.
- Other designations and certifications: Most real estate professionals will also be members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and be able to use the Realtor® designation in their marketing. You may also see abbreviated credentials after some brokers name indicating they have received additional training and certification in a specific area, such as CRS for certified residential specialist.
10 Tips for Hiring a Great Buyer’s Agent
- Find candidates through:
Recommendations of people you know, open houses, yard signs in seller’s yards, online real estate and recommendation sites.
- Expert knowledge of the area like a local that’s been there forever.
Ask about area events, landmarks, festivals, and unique shops to gauge their knowledge level.
- Always up-to-date on current home inventory.
Ask about the average days on market for the area and if they know any details about a couple of properties you are targeting. They should be able to answer one, but ideally, all of these.
- Knows the neighborhoods.
Real estate agents should know the characteristics of each neighborhood and home including unique features like proximity to shops and entertainment. Give them your ideal list and let them expertly guide you to the right neighborhoods.
- Ask or find their recent sells activity.
The best agent is the one you are most comfortable with and anticipate will get you the best results. While experience can be helpful, the real estate business has changed rapidly in the last decade which may favor newer, more technology savvy agents.
- Ask for references.
Good agents keep a list of satisfied customers. Other ratings sites like Zillow, RateMyAgent.com and Angie’s List can sometimes provide insight.
- Get them to explain the buying process.
Any agent with experience should be able to describe the major steps from beginning to end. Pros will also be able to recommend other professionals, like attorneys and inspectors, to complete your buying team.
- Understand their methods and frequency of communications.
You want an agent who is accessible but not overbearing that will communicate based on your preferred method from texting to phone calls. Good agents will initially check-in frequently and as prompted by changes in listings and your concerns.
- Test their negotiation skills.
Gauge their response by asking if they will lower their commission. Any agent worth having will quickly let you know why that is not in your best interest either. Top agents will also ask you to sign an exclusive buyer agreement after your initial meeting to ensure you are a serious buyer.
- After the initial meeting, trust your gut.
If the fit between you and the agent is not right, don’t hesitate to move on. Your gut feeling and ability to walk away is the best path.