Buying real estate is complex, and it's important to select a competent, honest agent who will skillfully represent your best interests throughout the entire process of selecting, negotiating and closing on your property. Here are several qualities to look for when considering a real estate professional to represent you in a transaction, whether for investment or for your first-ever home:
Do some legwork. Literally. Take a walk or drive around your neighborhood and check out the for-sale signs. Does one company dominate the area? Are there fliers or other marketing materials available? Most importantly, do 'sold' signs go up after days, weeks, or not at all?
Stop by open houses to view other homes on the market. This is a great way to see the agent in action, and meet them in a casual setting. Are they friendly, informative and professional? How do they respond to other people coming to the open house?
Real estate is a learn-by-doing process, and an experienced agent should be closing at least five to seven property transactions per year. Every transaction is complex, and each agent obtains new and relevant "training" on each deal. So ask each agent -- you should interview two at the least -- how many transactions they've closed in their years in the business. If they have not closed that many, ask who is guiding them as they learn the business and what professional training they had to prepare them to assist you.
You also want to get references from the sales professionals' recently closed transactions. Then take the time to call those references to ask how the agents performed. You will learn a lot by listening to what their past customers have to say. Google their names, too, and check the state for licensing information and any disciplinary information.
Time to work with you
An agent who has too many clients may be too busy for you and may not be right for you, either. Make sure they have the time to sit with and educate you, show you lots of properties and are willing to write offers on properties that you would like to buy. If they have too many clients at once, service to you may suffer. So make your best judgment.
Make sure they know the location, location, location in which you want to purchase property. Some agents are going to be familiar with the entire county and can talk to you about each neighborhood. Find a sales professional who is very knowledgeable about your targeted location. Even go as far as asking for recommendations around the neighborhood where you're planning to buy, chances are, they have a trustworthy agent they can refer you to.
Help you protect yourself
Will they help you make smart decisions? This is the largest purchase you are ever going to make, and your real estate professional should be well-versed in and advise you on how to do your "homework" when buying a property. Does buying make financial sense? Did you get a fair deal on your mortgage? A good agent can guide you in these areas and should be on your side in a transaction.
The sales professional you use should be someone you trust and feel can do a great job helping you evaluate homes and get a property under contract. They should also help you navigate the escrow and closing process and negotiate in your best interest, whether it is the price, repair requests or other contract terms.