In today’s market, not just any agent will do
In the current slower market, home buyers who hire a savvy negotiator have significant leverage. But not all real estate agents are great negotiators, especially when they don’t have experience in a market like today’s.
Choose an agent who understands your local market dynamics, has successfully helped buyers through similar scenarios, and can guide you through decisions when negotiating a home sale.
If you want to choose from the best agents in your area, we recommend using a well-rated agent matching service like Clever Real Estate. Clever pre-screens agents based on their experience, local sales performance, customer ratings, and more. It also offers cash back savings for eligible buyers.
✨ Start with Clever: Get matched with top-rated local agents!
How to choose a realtor for buying
1. Think about what you need and want in a realtor
Before you start searching for real estate agents, think about what you need from an agent and what will make the home buying process easier for you.
Ask yourself questions like:
- Do I need an agent with particular expertise, like helping first-time home buyers, investors, or military members?
- Do I need someone who will explain each step of the home buying process or someone who will let me take the lead?
- When do I need my agent to be available to show me homes?
- What communication style do I prefer?
2. Find agents to compare
Research and compare multiple agents instead of settling for the first one you find.
You can find real estate agents by:
- Using an agent matching service
- Asking friends and family for referrals
- Searching for realtors online
An agent matching service is usually the fastest and easiest way to find qualified agents.
Friends and family can offer referrals, but just because an agent was a good fit for someone you know doesn’t mean they’ll be a good fit for you. You’ll still need to vet each referral for relevant experience.
Doing an online agent search gets you fast results, but the number of options can be overwhelming. It can be hard to tell what sets an agent apart from the rest.
Agent matching services, like Clever, find and vet realtors for you. The process is free and easy: fill out a short form about what you’re looking for, and Clever sends you a list of top local realtors who fit your criteria. You can compare agents until you find the right one, or you can walk away at any time.
3. Research agents online
When you have a shortlist of options, look up each agent online. Check out their website, social media accounts, and customer reviews.
You can also verify their license and see any disciplinary actions by checking your state’s real estate commission. You can find the commission via Google search.
When researching agents, look for:
- A pattern of positive reviews
- At least three years of full-time experience (or a minimum of 12 transactions per year)
- Recent deals in your target neighborhood and price range
4. Interview multiple agents
Interview at least two to three agents before making a decision.
Often, the best way to interview a buyer’s agent is at a home you’d like to tour. This gives you a chance to see how well they know the area (like its amenities, tax rates, and schools) and how they educate you on the buying process. You can also see if they proactively note issues and selling points with a property.
Questions to ask a realtor when buying
💡 About their experience and work style:
- Do you work in real estate full time?
- How long have you been a real estate agent?
- What specialties do you have?
- What’s your experience working with buyers?
- What’s your process when working with buyers?
- What’s your experience finding listings outside of the MLS, like investment properties, pocket listings, or foreclosures?
- Can you tell me about some recent buyers you helped?
- How much communication can I expect, and who will be my main point of contact?
- What is your availability?
📈 About the housing market:
- What is the market like for buyers right now?
- How competitive is the market for buyers at my price point?
- What are homes selling for in my target neighborhood?
- How long are homes staying on the market?
🏡 About a specific home:
- Is this home priced well?
- How much should I expect to pay in local taxes, utilities, and HOA fees?
- What offer strategy do you recommend?
» MORE: Questions to ask a realtor
A good buyer’s agent will also have questions for you, so be prepared to share:
- Your budget
- Your ideal timeline
- How far along you are in applying for a loan
- The type of home and neighborhood you want
- Any deal breakers
5. Review and sign the buyer representation agreement
A representation agreement is a contract between you and your realtor that specifies the terms of working together. Most buyer’s agents don’t ask you to sign a contract until you’re ready to submit an offer.
The agreement states key details like:
- The length of the contract
- The agent’s responsibilities
- Your responsibilities
- How either party can terminate the contract
- Compensation (typically from the seller’s proceeds)
Most agreements are exclusive, which means you have to use that agent to purchase a home. Usually you have to pay a fee to get out of the contract.
If you’re not ready to commit, ask the agent for a few references from past clients, or keep looking for an agent. If a realtor really wants your business, they won’t rush you into signing a buyer’s agency agreement. Instead, they’ll earn your trust.
What makes a good buyer’s agent?
The best agent for you depends on your unique situation, but most good buyer’s agents have these key traits:
1. Experience with your local market
You want an agent who has recent experience helping people buy homes within your target neighborhood and price point.
A good buyer’s agent can tell you:
- What’s available in your price range
- How much competition you can expect from other buyers
- How quickly you’ll need to move to secure a home
- How to structure a competitive offer
- How well a home is priced relative to other properties in the area
- What kind of negotiating power you hold given your financing
2. Good communication
A realtor with strong communication skills can effectively negotiate with the seller and seller’s agent and help you understand the home buying process.
A good realtor will:
- Use your preferred mode of communication (email, call, or text)
- Respond to you within 24 hours
- Listen to your goals and concerns
- Focus the conversation on you
- Make you feel comfortable talking openly and honestly with them
- Point out potential issues with a house and other relevant information, like the local tax rate
- Follow up on their requests, like asking the listing agent for copies of HOA documents or seller’s disclosures
3. Organization and attention to detail
Real estate agents juggle many tasks, including scheduling and completing paperwork. A good buyer’s agent can handle all the moving parts of the real estate transaction without getting stressed or rushing.
They also have excellent attention to detail. They can spot problems with paperwork and notice aspects of a home that most people miss.
4. A reliable network of professionals
During the home buying process, you’ll need professional help beyond your real estate agent. A good buyer’s agent can recommend reliable loan officers, inspectors, insurance brokers, utility companies, and title companies.
A well-connected agent might even find you listings before they go on the market.
A great agent will make sure they have time to show you houses, thoroughly address your questions, and follow through on commitments. They’ll also respond to your messages either the same day or the next day.
FAQ about how to choose a realtor for buying
What does a buyer’s agent do?
Your buyer’s agent guides you through each step of the home buying process, ensuring you get the best deal. They help you decide what you're looking for, find homes that match your needs, schedule viewings, negotiate with the seller, and walk you through closing.
When should you start looking for a realtor?
You should find a real estate agent three or four months before you plan to buy a home. This gives you time to interview multiple realtors and prep before you start viewing properties.
How do you interview a realtor when buying a house?
Call or email the realtor to set up an in-person or video appointment. Prepare a list of questions to ask the realtor. Ask about their process, experience, local market knowledge, and sales history. Also ask them for a list of references.
What makes a good real estate agent for buyers?
A good real estate agent for buyers specializes in helping home buyers, knows the local market, and has recent experience helping people buy homes. They also have strong communication skills and connections to other professionals in the area.
How do you tell a realtor you’re going with someone else?
If you haven’t signed a buyer’s agent contract, call the agent soon after deciding to let them know. Be honest, kind, and direct. If you have signed a buyer’s agent contract, check your contract to see how to fire your real estate agent. Be sure you’re not violating the contract, which can lead to legal consequences.
Should you search for a realtor or real estate agent?
Realtors and real estate agents are licensed to help buy and sell homes. The main difference is that realtors are also members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and are bound by the NAR Code of Ethics. Ultimately what matters is the quality of the individual agent.
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What Does a Real Estate Agent REALLY Do? Learn what the agent’s key responsibilities include for both sellers and buyers.
Realtor Fees: Who Pays the Commission and How Much Is It? This guide explains what you’ll pay (and how to get discounts) when working with a realtor.
Why you should trust us
Real Estate Witch’s mission is to provide accurate, actionable, and practical information you can use to make better decisions on your real estate journey.
To create this guide, we interviewed realtors, real estate investors, and experienced home buyers to find out how to choose the best real estate agent.