Finding the right real estate agent or broker can be just as hard as finding the right house. Knowing what to look for -- and what to look out for -- makes the process far easier.

Whether you are selling your home or buying a new one, you’re going to want the best real estate agent you can find. Particularly for the first-time homebuyer, knowing what to look for in a real estate agent can be difficult. Paying careful attention to a few key areas will help you to separate the wheat from the chaff in your search for an agent. This in turn will help you secure the best price, buying or selling.

Agents and Brokers

While many people use the term “real estate agent” and “real estate broker” interchangeably, they are actually slightly different occupations. Real estate agents are professionals licensed by the state to deal in real estate. Brokers are real estate agents with additional training that are authorized by the state to supervise agents. The term “realtor” is a professional designation applied to real estate agents with professional certification from the National Association of Realtors. If you’re a seller an agent will do, however if you’re a buyer you should get a broker who specifically represents the interests of buyers.

What To Look For

Finding the right agent or broker requires a bit of legwork. You’re going to have to do research -- about as much as you would do on the home you plan to purchase. Look for agents and realtors in the neighborhood you want to buy in. Consult the Internet to read reviews of past clients.

When looking at specific brokers and agents, here are some qualities that you will want to find:

  • Experience: There is a lot of turnover in the world of real estate sales. New agents are always finding out that this isn’t the right profession for them. When speaking to a realtor, the first thing you should ask is how long they’ve been in the business. If they haven’t been practicing for at least two years, find someone else.
  • Commitment: A lot of real estate agents practice their trade part time as a way to make extra cash. While these may be competent agents, you want someone with a high level of commitment to your purchase or sale. Other real estate brokers only work with properties within a certain price range and are less interested in lower-priced homes. Ask questions to make sure that your agent is committed to your account.
  • Schedule: Some real estate agents only work on weekends. Others only work during normal business hours. You should make sure that the hours you are able to work on buying or selling a house coincide with the hours that the real estate agent can work.

When looking for an agent, broker or realtor you should interview at least three before making a choice. Ask them about the above concerns, but also ask them point blank what they plan to do to sell your home. If you are unsatisfied with the answers, keep looking.

What To Look Out For

Now that you know what to look for in an agent, you should know what not to look for, or more precisely, what to look out for.

  • A bad agent will promise to sell your home as quickly as possible, rather than promising to get the best price.
  • A bad agent is difficult to get hold of, while a good agent will not only be easy to contact, he will also have a secretary or assistant to handle calls when he cannot.
  • A bad agent will try and make you think that a higher commission for them means a better price for your home. Good agents negotiate a commission rate that works for you.
  • A bad agent is afraid of other professionals. Good agents see their colleagues as potential resources.

When the Transaction Is Over

When the house is sold your relationship with your realtor will come to an end. He will leave you with his card and ask for your business the next time that you are in the market. As a good client you should go out of your way to communicate how effective your agent was to your friends and coworkers.