Choosing a real estate agent — Finding the best fit for you during your home-buying experience

Finding the right real estate agent to assist in your home purchase isn’t as easy as opening the phone book or dialing a number advertised on a park bench. Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know.

Your real estate agent is the backbone of your home-buying team. From beginning to end, it is a real estate agent helping you to select, negotiate, legally purchase, and finance your new home. When it comes to finding the right real estate agent, however, things get can get overwhelming quickly.

Who do you choose? The person whose name is on the sign outside your dream home? The smiling woman wearing a suit jacket whose picture seems to be on every park bench in town? What about that business card in your wallet from a co-worker who sold his house last year? Are all of these people equally capable of getting you into the best home for you and your family? Michigan State University Extension highlights a few quick tips to get you in the right frame of mind when you’re looking for an agent:

  • First, the basics. Remember that a real estate agent is a state-licensed professional who has been trained and certified to sell houses, other buildings, and land. Furthermore, an agent who advertises as a realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors and subscribes to its code of ethics. This means that both your state real estate commission and your local Association of Realtors chapter can be valuable resources in both obtaining quality referrals in your area and checking on the professional record of referrals you get elsewhere.
  • Second, make sure you know who your agent is working for. While a real estate agent’s job is to match buyers and sellers, and all agents can represent both parties, some choose to specialize. A listing, or seller’s agent has a contract with the seller of a house to advertise the property for sale and represent the seller when offers are made (this would usually be the person’s name you see on a lawn sign). They get paid by the seller out of the proceeds of the sale. A buyer’s agent, meanwhile, works exclusively for the buyer and gets paid by splitting the commission with the listing agent, or sometimes directly by the buyer. Finally, a dual agent legally represents the interests of the seller and the buyer in the same transaction, usually requiring both parties’ written consent. Regardless of whom they are representing, the agent has a legal obligation to deal fairly and honestly with both parties, and must disclose everything they know about the home they are selling. Still, it’s important to be aware of which parties in the transaction the agent has a contractual obligation to represent, since it has an effect on the negotiating process.
  • Third, don’t be afraid to shop around. While it’s important to not take up too much of an agent’s time if you are not serious about buying, you should not hesitate to interview and look into the credentials of more than one real estate agent when making your decision. Despite what agents may tell you, any agent can sell you any home in your area. Therefore, it’s important to find someone you feel comfortable working with as you navigate the many steps of the home-buying process. Your agent should respect and understand your individual needs as a buyer, and be able to provide you with a level of attention and care that gives you confidence in your home buying experience.

Keeping these simple tips in mind, you will be better able to make a smart, informed selection from the number of real estate agents available to help guide you on the path to home ownership.

MSU Extension has Michigan State Housing Development Authority-certified housing counselors on staff that offer home ownership classes. You may also choose to take the MSU Extension online eHome America Home Buyer’s education course

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