Buying a house can be challenging, stressful, and unpredictable, but having a competent buyer’s agent who is informed about your local market, trustworthy, and responsive can help. It is possible to acquire a home without the assistance of a broker, but for first-time buyers, an agent who is knowledgeable about your needs, budget, and values may make the complicated homebuying process much smoother.

There is no shortage of agents to select from, thanks to the advent of online real estate marketplaces. How do you choose the best one? In an interview with Curbed in 2017, Sarah Staley, the consumer representative for realtor.com, said, “Consider it like dating.” Don’t just go with the first agent you meet; meet with a few to see if there’s compatibility. “Homebuying is a difficult and emotional event,” Staley explained, “so you want to make sure there’s a personality match.”

Before you start looking for a property, start “agent dating” to make sure you have a partner from the start of the process until you sign a contract. By following these expert suggestions, you can ensure the ideal fit—and avoid broker breakups.

Request references, then test the waters.

Lauren Riefflin, a spokesman for the real estate website Streeteasy, told Curbed in 2017 that “one very usual approach for finding a broker is through a recommendation.” Check with friends and relatives to see if they’ve had a positive experience with an agent, and then conduct your own interviews. You can also look for brokers who specialize in the areas where you want to buy a home on real estate websites.

Even if you click with the first agent you meet in tulum apartments for sale, as Lawrence Lee, an agent with the new real estate agency Triplemint, put it in an interview with Curbed in 2017, you should “play the field.” “Don’t take a friend’s suggestion for granted, and don’t go with the first broker you see,” Staley added. “Before you make a decision, make a shortlist of brokers.” Before making an informed final selection, she recommends meeting each broker in person and asking them tough questions about the process ahead.

Make it clear what’s essential to you.

Is there a part of town you’d love to reside in? Or do you have your heart set on a pre-war cooperative or a brand-new condo? Knowing what you want and being honest about your budget with your potential agent will help set the tone. To effectively help you, you might need an agent who specializes in your target neighborhood as well as the neighboring districts. Perhaps you require a cooperative building expert who understands how to handle co-op boards. Maybe you’re new to the market and need someone to take your budget and show you where you can get the most bang for your buck. Initial meetings with agents should show the most effective strategies for them to help you.

“The most crucial component for a first-time buyer is connection with their broker,” Staley told Curbed. “A lot of that relationship is built on listening.” “The agent should have a good understanding of who you are and what your family requires.”

Make sure they’re willing to try new things.

Be wary of any agent who does not provide a diverse selection of purchasing possibilities. “A broker’s role is to traverse the market broadly and possibly show a buyer other neighborhoods and residences they may not have considered previously,” Riefflin explained. “You want to make sure that brokers don’t have any mental barriers that would keep you from receiving a terrific deal just a few blocks away from your desired location.”

A skilled broker, according to Lee, will gently push back on the house buyer’s unreasonable expectations. “They’ll be able to demonstrate and prove what’s available in your pricing range,” he said. “They’ll tell you what’s doable and what isn’t, as well as present you options.”

Inquire about available dates.

You’ll need to know a broker’s availability before you start working with them. Is this going to be a full-time or part-time position for them? Do they have established hours of operation, or will they respond to your frightened 8 a.m. text? Will they be available to schedule a showing at the drop of a hat for a fantastic home that’s just come on the market? Do they have backup plans in place, such as other brokers or an assistant, in case they can’t be reached right away?

“You want to know they’re ready to jump if the home of your dreams comes up,” Staley added. “A competent agent will ask you what your schedule is like,” Lee said. They’ll realize that they’ll have to adjust their schedules to fit the buyer’s timings and availability.”

Follow up on their previous work and visibility on the internet.

References are useful in determining whether or not an agent has a track record of successful representation. Agent reviews are also available on real estate websites such as Zillow and Trulia. Little things like a complete bio with a respected brokerage firm and a social media presence are also important. “These things, more often than not, are an accurate representation of the agents’ thoroughness, how much they care, and how focused they are on the real estate business,” Lee said. When in doubt, check state public records to ensure that an agent’s real estate license is current and legitimate.

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