Choosing a Buyer’s Agent- 8 Things First-Time Homebuyers Need to Know!

Written By Sarah Ford

Buying your first home?

I totally get the feeling! It’s like diving into a big adventure, similar to what Harry Potter must have felt discovering Diagon Alley for the first time. The uncertainty, not knowing where to start, and spending hours on the internet house hunting- all of which that can be overwhelming.

As a first time homebuyer you definitel need someone who knows the ropes and can help you with the proces end-to-end.They’ll help you find that perfect house in your budget, understand the ins and outs and make smart offers. But before you begin, there are a few things you need to know!

Here are the 8 essential things every first-time homebuyer should know about picking the right buyer’s agent.

Read More: Mastering The Maze: Can a Buyer’s Realtor Represent 2 Buyers on the Same Property?

1. Whether they have an active real estate license or certification

When considering a real estate agent, one of the first and most basic aspects to verify is their active real estate license or certification.  

This credential serves as proof of their legitimacy and expertise in the field. These credentials require regular studies to be updated, making a realtor great at reading the market, dealing with clients, and being resourceful in general. These credentials prove a realtor’s commitment to their work and clients, helping them stand out.  

Why Licenses Matters: 

A valid real estate license or certification indicates that the agent has undergone rigorous training, passed state-mandated examinations, and met the necessary requirements for practicing real estate.  

This assures you they are well-versed in the laws, regulations, and ethical standards governing real estate transactions, safeguarding your interests throughout the home-buying process. 

What to Check: 

When vetting potential real estate agents, it’s key to ask about their licensing status and verify their authenticity with the relevant regulatory body in your state.  

1. Real Estate License: 

  • Ask the agent for their license number. 
  • Visit your state’s real estate licensing board website. They typically have a public database to search for active licenses by name or license number. 

2. Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR): 

  • Offered by the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC), affiliated with the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). It is an industry-recognized designation that shows an agent’s specialized knowledge and skills in representing buyers during real estate transactions. 
  • Search the NAR REALTOR® Directory using the agent’s name and state. Look for the ABR designation next to their profile here.

3. Certified Residential Specialist (CRS): 

  • Offered by the Residential Real Estate Council (RRC), an affiliate of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). This indicates the agent possesses a high level of knowledge about residential property types, market trends, valuation techniques, and the intricacies of residential transactions. This can benefit both buyers and sellers. 

How to Check: Search the NAR REALTOR® Directory using the agent’s name and state. Look for the CRS designation next to their profile here.

4. National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (NAEBA) License 

5. Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Membership

Source: 1 


2. Relevant Experience  

When buying a property, a few basic factors come first—the type of property, size, pricing, and the local area. Apart from looking for a realtor with many years of experience, you must also consider their experience in properties similar to your requirements.  

Here’s why their experience matters and what you should consider. 

Why Experience Matters: 
 

Local market knowledge: Agents with experience in your area understand local trends, pricing specifics, and potential negotiation strategies relevant to your target property type. 

Network of contacts: They might have a network of inspectors, appraisers, or even lenders specializing in your target property type, expediting the buying process. 

Their marketing strategies might be more targeted towards buyers looking for starter condos, leading to a faster sale for you.  

Like an experienced doctor can easily diagnose you with the right issue and prescribe the right cure, an experienced real estate can easily understand your needs and suggest the right course of action in any given scenario, whether you are buying or selling a property. 

What to Look For: 

When evaluating an agent’s experience, consider factors such as: 

  • Years in the Industry: Assess how long the agent has been actively practicing real estate and whether they have a proven track record of successful transactions. 
  • Specializations: Inquire about the types of properties they typically handle and whether they specialize in specific neighborhoods or property types. Realtors can specialize in different property types, such as residential, commercial, area-based, high-rise, condos, big land plots, etc. Choose according to your requirements.  
  • Reputation in the Market: Look for testimonials or reviews from past clients to gauge their satisfaction with the agent’s services and outcomes. 
  • Market Knowledge: Assess their knowledge of local market trends, recent sales data, and neighborhood dynamics to ensure they can provide accurate and relevant insights. 
  • Professional Affiliations: Check if the agent is affiliated with reputable industry organizations or has received any awards or recognitions for their achievements. 

Questions to Ask 

  • How long have you been working as a real estate agent? 
  • Do you specialize in a particular type of property? 
  • Can you provide references from past clients? 

Source: 2, 3 


3 About their specialization 

When evaluating a real estate agent’s experience, two critical aspects to consider are their specialization and their knowledge of your target area or neighborhood. Here’s why these factors are essential and what you should look for: 

Specialization: 
 

An agent’s specialization can significantly impact their effectiveness in meeting your specific needs and preferences. Whether you’re interested in residential, commercial, luxury, or investment properties, finding an agent with expertise in your desired property type can make a substantial difference in your real estate journey. Specialized agents often have a deeper understanding of their niche’s unique challenges and opportunities, allowing them to provide tailored advice and strategies that align with your goals. Agents can also hold specialties in being buyers’ agents or sellers’ agents. 
 

Local Knowledge: 

Local knowledge is crucial. Whether you are interested in a new area or you are looking to buy property in your own area, you must work with an agent with great local knowledge because they can tell you details about the area, such as price trends, rates in the area, average time on market for properties, pros and cons, and many other aspects of the area that you may have not even thought about! 

Local knowledge also includes aspects such as community dynamics, HOAs, earnings and rent potential, home or building ages, and much more. The agent can also help you make an informed decision if in case you decide to sell the property in the future. Same goes for sellers as well, if your buyer’s agent does not have clarity on area pricing, they may bring in offers lower than your expectations. 

What to Look For: 

When assessing an agent’s specialization and local knowledge, consider the following factors: 

  • Specialization: Inquire about the types of properties the agent typically handles and whether they have any specific areas of expertise. For example, if you’re interested in purchasing a commercial property, look for an agent with commercial experience who can discuss rent or earnings potential and help you make an informed decision. 
  • Local Knowledge: Ask the agent about their familiarity with your target area or neighborhood. Do they have knowledge about the types of properties available? Do they know the price trends and average time on the market for properties? Or if they have the latest information about all the facilities in the area. 

Questions to Ask them About their Specialisation

  • Can you tell me about the average prices for my property requirements in this area? 
  • Do you have information about sale price forecasts 2-5 years from now? 
  • Can you provide examples of successful transactions you’ve facilitated in this area? 

Source: 4, 5 


 4. Previous Clients

What do you do if you are looking for a great restaurant for dinner? Yelp is your friend, right? Because of reviews! Realtors are similar. Need to buy the property of your dreams, check your realtors reviews to know what’s cooking? Well, not literally, but reviews can tell you a lot about the realtor based on how they have handled their past transactions. 

Why Previous Clientele Matter: 

The experiences of past clients provide valuable insights into an agent’s communication skills, negotiation prowess, market knowledge, and overall effectiveness in facilitating successful real estate transactions.  

If a person has had a property purchase through a realtor, they’ll eventually find out, pretty soon, if they had a good deal or not. Most reviews tend to reflect that fact, making it easier for you to mark out negotiation and dealing tactics. 

Positive testimonials and referrals from satisfied clients endorse an agent’s expertise and reliability, instilling confidence in their ability to deliver favorable outcomes for future clients. 

What to Look For: 

When evaluating an agent’s track record with previous clients, consider the following factors: 

  • Client Testimonials: Check reviews from past clients to see their satisfaction with the agent’s services. Look for reviews for property deals that are the same or similar to the properties you are looking out for or the same price range or localities. This will get you a really close idea of how your realtor handles requirements like yours. 
  • Referrals: Inquire about the agent’s willingness to provide referrals or connect you with past clients with similar needs or objectives. Speaking directly with previous clients can offer firsthand insights into their experiences and the agent’s performance. 

Questions to Ask

  • Can you provide references from past clients who have worked with you in similar situations? 
  • What are some notable successes you’ve had with previous clients, and how did you achieve them? 
  • How do you handle challenges or obstacles that arise during the real estate process? 

5. Communication skills  

There have been numerous cases where a client and a realtor have issues due to lack of communication. Either the realtor becomes non-responsive or they miscommunicate. Here’s why assessing a real estate agent’s communication skills is crucial and what aspects you should consider: 

Clear and transparent communication is essential for trust and smooth transactions in real estate. A real estate agent with strong communication skills can convey complex information clearly, address concerns promptly, and negotiate effectively on behalf of their clients. By maintaining open lines of communication, they can ensure that all parties involved are informed and empowered to make informed decisions. 

Consideration for Readers: How do you prioritize communication with clients, and what methods do you use to stay in touch? 

Evaluating Communication Skills: 

When evaluating a real estate agent’s communication skills, consider the following factors: 

  • Accessibility and Responsiveness: Is the agent easily reachable, and do they respond promptly to inquiries and messages? 

Consideration for Readers: Can you provide examples of how you’ve effectively communicated with clients in challenging situations? 

  • Clarity and Transparency: Can the agent explain complex concepts in a way that is easy to understand? Are they transparent about the details of the transaction and any potential challenges? 

Consideration for Readers: How do you ensure that all parties involved in the transaction remain informed and engaged? 

  • Listening and Empathy: Does the agent actively listen to client needs and concerns? Are they empathetic and responsive to client preferences? 

Much like dealing with any vendor or a service provider, you need to ensure that they have a good working relationship with you as their client, for which, communication is key! 


  6. Their professional network 

When you’re picking a real estate agent, it’s not just about how good they are on their own. You’ve got to think about who they know and how those connections can help you. 

Real estate agents have lots of friends in the business—other agents, lenders, lawyers, and more. These friendships come in handy when you’re looking for a place to buy or sell. 

Imagine you’re buying your first home in a busy market. Your agent is well-connected and part of groups like the Young Professionals Network. They use their connections to find homes that aren’t even on the market yet, hook you up with trusted pros, and give you tips that help you find the perfect place. 

Being part of the Young Professionals Network isn’t just a fancy title. It means your agent is always learning and growing in their job. They’re dedicated to helping you find the best home possible. 

When you pick an agent with a big network, you’re not just getting one person—you’re getting a whole team of experts ready to help you out. With the right agent, buying or selling a home becomes a whole lot easier and more fun. 

Source: 6


7. Whether the agent works individually or with a team  

Is a realtor with a team better? Or too many cooks can spoil the broth? 

When considering a real estate agent, one crucial factor to ponder is whether they work independently or as part of a team. Here’s the lowdown: 

If an agent works solo, you’ll have the advantage of dealing directly with one person throughout the process. This can foster a more personalized experience tailored to your needs. However, their availability might be limited at times, and you may need to wait for responses. 

Alternatively, opting for an agent who is part of a team offers the benefit of collective expertise and resources. With a team behind them, you may receive quicker responses and greater support. However, you might not always interact with the same person, which could affect continuity in communication. 

Consider your preferences: Do you prioritize individual attention or the collective strength of a team? Understanding this aspect will help you make an informed decision that aligns with your needs and preferences. 


8. Their Employement Type 

Question – Would you go to a realtor with your residential apartment requirement if you know that the realtor in question is a part-time agent with lesser experience than the other realtor you are considering? 

This section covers pros and cons of realtors based on their employment type. Read on to find out how it makes a difference 

It is important to understand the diverse employment arrangements within the industry. This knowledge empowers you to make informed decisions and select the right agent for your needs. 

8.1 Independent Contractors: The Trailblazers 

Independent contractors operate on their own. They offer personalized service and flexibility but may lack the support and resources of larger agencies. Consider: How important is direct access to your agent, even if it means sacrificing some support? 

Pros: 

  • Personalized attention: Independent agents often have fewer clients, allowing them to dedicate more time and attention to each transaction. 
  • Flexibility: They have the freedom to tailor their approach to meet your specific needs and preferences. 
  • Direct communication: You’ll have direct access to your agent without having to go through intermediaries. 

Cons: 

  • Limited resources: Independent agents may lack the marketing resources, technology, and networking opportunities available at larger agencies. 
  • Availability: Since they handle all aspects of the transaction themselves, independent agents may have limited availability during busy periods. 

Imagine you’re searching for a unique property with specific features. An independent agent’s personalized approach allows them to focus solely on your requirements, scouring the market for hidden gems that meet your criteria. Meanwhile, a part-time real-estate agent working with a bigger firm may not take a highly tailored approach to help you out. 


8.2 Agency Affiliates: Anchored in Team Support 

Agents affiliated with brokerage firms operate within a structured environment, benefiting from the support and resources of their agency. While they may have less autonomy, they offer stability and access to a broader network. Reflect on: Are you willing to trade autonomy for the stability and resources offered by an agency? 

Pros: 

  • Established support systems: Agency-affiliated agents have access to marketing tools, administrative support, and training programs provided by their brokerage. 
  • Brand recognition: Clients may feel more confident working with agents associated with reputable brokerage firms due to their established presence in the market. 
  • Networking opportunities: Affiliated agents can tap into the network of colleagues and industry professionals within their brokerage, expanding their reach and resources. 

Cons: 

  • Less autonomy: Agency-affiliated agents may have to adhere to brokerage policies and procedures, limiting their flexibility in certain aspects of the transaction. 
  • Split commissions: Agents typically share a portion of their commission with the brokerage, reducing their earnings compared to independent contractors. 
  • Potential conflicts of interest: The brokerage’s interests may not always align perfectly with those of individual clients, leading to conflicts in certain situations. 

Consider a first-time homebuyer navigating the complex process of purchasing their dream home. An agency-affiliated agent can provide invaluable guidance and support, leveraging the resources of their brokerage to simplify the transaction and ensure a smooth experience. 


8.3 Salaried Agents: Company Representatives 

Some agents work on a salary basis for specific real estate companies. They offer dedicated service and access to extensive resources provided by their employer. However, their primary allegiance is to the company rather than individual clients. Consider: Are you comfortable with an agent whose loyalty lies with their employer? 

Pros: 

  • Stability: Salaried agents receive a consistent income, regardless of the number of transactions they handle, providing financial security and stability. 
  • Extensive resources: They have access to the resources and support of their company, including marketing materials, technology platforms, and administrative assistance. 
  • Team collaboration: Salaried agents often work collaboratively with colleagues, sharing insights and pooling resources to better serve their clients. 

Cons: 

  • Company allegiance: Salaried agents may prioritize the interests of their employer over individual client needs, potentially compromising the level of personalized service. 
  • Limited flexibility: They may be bound by company policies and procedures, restricting their ability to tailor their approach to meet specific client preferences. 
  • Commission structure: Salaried agents may receive a lower commission percentage compared to independent contractors, affecting their overall earnings potential. 

Imagine you’re relocating to a new city and need assistance finding a rental property. A salaried agent employed by a reputable real estate company can leverage their extensive network and resources to help you find the perfect rental that meets your criteria and budget. 


8.4 Team Members: Collaborative Partnerships 

Agents may also work collaboratively as part of a team, pooling their resources and expertise to provide comprehensive service to clients. This approach combines personalized attention with access to a wide range of resources. Reflect on: Do you prefer working with an individual agent or a team, and why? 

Pros: 

  • Comprehensive support: Team-based agents benefit from the collective knowledge, experience, and resources of their team members, providing clients with a higher level of service and support. 
  • Specialized expertise: Team members often have different areas of expertise, allowing them to provide specialized assistance in various aspects of the real estate transaction. 
  • Increased availability: With multiple team members available to assist clients, team-based agents can offer greater flexibility and responsiveness to client needs. 

Cons: 

  • Potential communication challenges: Working with multiple team members may lead to communication issues or discrepancies in service delivery if not managed effectively. 
  • Division of commission: Team-based agents typically share a portion of their commission with team members, reducing their individual earnings compared to independent contractors. 
  • Dependency on team dynamics: The success of the client-agent relationship may be influenced by the dynamics within the team, including collaboration, communication, and leadership. 

Suppose you’re selling your home and need assistance with staging, marketing, and negotiations. A team-based agent can leverage the diverse skill set of their team members to provide comprehensive support throughout the selling process, ensuring a successful outcome. 

Read More: Can a Real Estate Agent Represent Themselves as a Buyer

8.5 Dual Agents: Representing Both Sides 

Dual agents represent both buyers and sellers in a transaction. While convenient, this arrangement can lead to conflicts of interest. Transparency is crucial to maintain trust throughout the process. Think about: Are you comfortable with your agent representing both parties, or do you prefer separate representation? 

Pros: 

  • Streamlined communication: Dual agents serve as a single point of contact for both buyers and sellers, simplifying communication and streamlining the transaction process. 
  • Comprehensive understanding: By representing both sides, dual agents gain a comprehensive understanding of the transaction dynamics and can facilitate smoother negotiations. 
  • Potential cost savings: Clients may benefit from cost savings by working with a single agent, as opposed to paying separate commissions for buyer and seller representation. 

Cons: 

  • Conflicts of interest: Dual agents must navigate potential conflicts of interest between buyers and sellers, such as disclosing sensitive information or negotiating terms that benefit one party over the other. 
  • Limited advocacy: Dual agents may be unable to provide full advocacy and representation to either party due to their dual role, potentially compromising the interests of their clients. 
  • Ethical considerations: Dual agency arrangements require strict adherence to ethical guidelines and disclosure requirements to maintain transparency and trust with both parties. 

What if you’re purchasing a property listed by the same agent representing the seller? While convenient, it’s essential to ensure that the dual agent maintains impartiality and acts in the best interests of both parties, maintaining transparency and fairness throughout the transaction. 

In case you are looking for a real estate agent, you should focus on their employment time, because even if this factor comes off as subtle and very basic, it can have a considerable amount of influence over your real estate transaction. 

Read More: Decoding Titles: Real Estate Agent vs Broker vs Realtor

⭐ BONUS: How to find a good real estate agent? ⭐

1. Explore Niche Specializations:  

Buyers who work with agents specializing in their desired property type secure homes an average of 1.1% lower than the asking price. Agents with specialized knowledge in areas like luxury homes or commercial properties offer different solutions from the ones selling homes. Niche agents understand the nuances of the market and can negotiate better deals. Choose an agent who fits your unique needs and has worked in the neighborhood that you are interested in. 

2. Talk to Your Peers who have already purchased a house 

Buyers who find agents through referrals are 4 times more likely to have a successful home buying experience. Agent referrals from family and friends can help you find the right fit for your home. Trusted referrals provide insights into an agent’s performance and reliability. 

3. Attend Industry seminars and conferences: 

These are excellent for meeting agents and learning about the latest market trends. Over 73% of realtors attend industry conferences and attending buyer-oriented workshops can equip you with more confidence. Use these events to expand your knowledge and network.

4. Leverage Technology:  

Use online platforms and tools to compare real estate agents. Buyers who utilize online platforms to compare agent profiles and reviews are 63% more likely to find an agent of their choice.

Features like search filters, reviews, and data analytics can help refine your choice. Platforms like Zillow and Trulia allow you to read reviews and compare agent performance. 

5. Interview Multiple Candidates:  

Interview various agents to assess their market knowledge, negotiation skills, and client focus. Face-to-face or virtual meetings can help gauge their compatibility with your goals. 

6. Request Customized Proposals:  

Buyers who request proposals from shortlisted agents are 3 times more likely to report feeling confident about the agent’s understanding of their needs according to a study by Realtor.com.

Ask for detailed proposals from potential agents to understand their strategies and services. Compare these to find the best fit for your specific needs. 

7. Seek Transparency and Integrity:  

Opt for agents who prioritize ethical practices and transparent communication. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that 8 out of 10 real estate fraud cases involve misrepresentation of property details. Esnure that there are no red flags when you talk with the realtor and if you have second thoughts, run in the opposite direction!

8. Evaluate Online Presence:  

Check the agent’s online profiles and listings to assess their professionalism and client engagement. 8 A well-maintained online presence reflects credibility. 

9. Check Client Testimonials:  

Read reviews from past clients to evaluate the agent’s reputation and effectiveness. 7% of home buyers report that reading client testimonials is highly influential in their decision-making process. Authentic feedback can provide valuable insights. 

10. Trust Your Instincts:  

Lastly, trust your intuition when selecting an agent. Comfort and confidence in your agent’s approach are crucial for a successful real estate experience. 

Source: 7, 8  


Choosing the right buyer’s agent is like finding the key to the quest to homeownership. All you need it expert advice and insider knowledge, you’re set to conquer the market and turn your dream home into a reality!

Read More: Realtor Fee Newyork: How Much Money do Real Estate Agents Make in New York?

  

Written By:

  • An experienced marketing consultant with a decade of hands-on experience in real estate. You might catch her at a local jazz bar on a Friday night or at home experimenting with vertical kitchen gardens.

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