How to Choose a Real Estate Agent as a First-Time Homebuyer

How to Choose a Real Estate Agent as a First-Time Homebuyer

A real estate agent can be a great partner to have — especially when buying your first home. Not only can they help you find that perfect dream home (and steer clear of the duds), but they can also guide you through every other step of the buying process as well.

They’ll help you set up the inspection, negotiate with the sellers, handle all the paperwork and, in many cases, even attend your closing appointment with you. 

In short: They play an integral role in your home purchase.

Want to make sure you know how to choose a real estate agent to help you on your home buying journey? Here’s how to do it.

1. Get referrals.

Ask your friends, family members, and coworkers for agent recommendations. If they own a home, then chances are they’ve used at least one. Even if they wouldn’t recommend that agent, get their name anyway (knowing who to avoid is just as important!) 

2. Check reviews.

Once you have a few names, dig into their bios and reviews online. Are past customers satisfied with their work? How long have they been in business? Are there any complaints or bad reviews? Yelp is a good place to look, as is your local REALTOR® association (here in Houston, for example, we have HAR — the Houston Association of REALTORS®. You can look up agent reviews on HAR.com.)

3. Interview them.

One of the best ways for how to choose a real estate agent? You’ll want to interview your potential agent candidates. You can do this face-to-face, over the phone, or even via video chat or Facetime. When interviewing them, ask them about their experience, career, certifications, and other details, but get more detailed, too. What can they bring to the table that would help you specifically? How do they plan to achieve your unique buying goals?

4. Make sure they have the time for you.

You don’t want an agent who’s completely free (that probably means they’re not so great at their job!), but one who’s got 20 clients and a stuffed schedule? That’s not great either. You want an agent who has room for you — both mentally and logistically speaking. So when interviewing potential options, be sure to ask about bandwidth. Can they devote enough time to your cause? If they’re not sure or you’re having a hard time even getting them on the phone, you may want to look elsewhere.

5. Consider local experience and knowledge.

Real estate is a local game and you need to remember that when you’re considering how to choose a real estate agent. An agent can have all the experience in the world, but if they don’t know their local market intimately, they can’t help you much as a buyer. To really bring value, they need to have a good handle on local trends, home values, the overall layout of the city, and how various amenities, school districts, and neighborhoods measure up. Always ask how long an agent has been operating in your area. If they grew up there, that’s even better.

6. Look for red flags.

You should also be on the lookout for red flags when vetting a real estate agent. Do they only work as an agent part-time? If so, they might not have the skills or experience needed to properly help you. Agents who don’t ask about your goals, budget, or specific buying needs should also send off alarm bells. You want someone who’s going to tailor the journey to you specifically — not deliver cookie-cutter responses and just cash in a paycheck.

7. Think about tech-savvy. 

In this day and age, much of a home purchase is done online. You’ll find and view listings online, you might take a virtual tour or see a house via Zoom or Facetime, and you may even close on your loan digitally, too. For these reasons, it’s important to find an agent who is technologically savvy. Do they have the right tools? Do they know how to comfortably use them? Don’t be afraid to test the waters (interview them on Zoom!) when you’re figuring out how to choose a real estate agent.

8. How to choose a real estate agent? Make sure you click.

Finally, just make sure you and the agent click. Do you like them? Do you feel comfortable with them? Do they seem confident and helpful? You should also think about how your communication styles match up. If you prefer to text and email, but the agent is big on phone calls and in-person meetings, you might not be the best pairing.

Choose a good loan officer, too

Knowing how to choose a real estate agent is critical to your home purchase. Picking the right loan officer? That’s important, too. Want to make sure you get a loan officer who’s experienced, knowledgeable, and ready to help you buy that dream home? Find an Embrace Home Loans office in your area now.

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Aly Yale

Aly J. Yale is a mortgage and real estate writer based in Houston. Connect with her at AlyJYale.com or on Twitter at @AlyJwriter.