When your home is on the line, you want someone you can trust to help you tread the waters of home buying or selling. Someone who can negotiate the best price on either end of the deal could save you thousands of dollars. While a "Realtor" has earned a special designation from the National Association of Realtors, all real estate agents have passed a state exam and have a license to deal in real estate. There are many factors to consider in choosing an agent; do a little research and look for someone who makes you feel at ease.
Ask friends and family members for recommendations. Word of mouth is more reliable than flashy advertising. You'll want a handful of referrals before you choose a real estate agent.
Check online reviews. Each agent who is referred to you will have a website or be associated with a brokerage firm that has a website. Read testimonials and get an idea of what current and former clients think about the agent's work.
Confirm the agent's license. The real estate licensing board of your state will have records on which agents have a license in good standing and whether any disciplinary actions have been brought against the agent.
Interview a few real estate agents. Discuss their areas of expertise and ask whether real estate is their full time profession or something they do on the side. A good agent will be focused on real estate full time.
Evaluate customer service. Talk about your price range when you're buying and what you hope to earn off your investment when you're selling. Expect your agent to listen to you and provide advice and knowledge that you cannot find elsewhere.
Ask about communication. A good agent should regularly communicate any feedback received about your home or an offer you might make on a property. Talk about how frequently you will speak to one another or whether email or some other form of communication is the preferred method of contact.
Find out what you will get in addition to listing and showing services. Look for an agent who will be willing to coordinate inspections, appraisals and all the closing details.
Review the proposed contract. Your agent should answer any questions and explain all the details before you sign, particularly the timeline specified in the contract and the commission schedule.
Keep looking if your agent works as a dual agent, meaning she will represent both the buyer and the seller in the sale. You want someone who is committed to your interests, whether you are selling a property or buying one.
Cari Oleskewicz is a writer and blogger who has contributed to online and print publications including "The Washington Post," "Italian Cooking and Living," "Sasee Magazine" and Pork and Gin. She is based in Tampa, Florida and holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and journalism from Marist College.