Ask Judy O.: How do I choose a real estate agent?

Dear Judy O.: I’m a first time buyer.  I’ve just been pre-approved for a loan.  How do I go about choosing an agent to represent me?

Answer: Congratulations on taking the step to become a homeowner!  Good for you for jumping into this crazy market.  There are two things to consider when choosing an agent: The agent’s knowledge/experience and the interpersonal chemistry between you and the agent.

Let’s start with knowledge and experience.   Generally, I would say your goals would be best served by working with an experienced agent.  A referral from a friend or colleague is the probably the best source.  I would get a couple of referrals and meet with both agents in their respective offices.  During this meeting you can discuss your mutual expectations and get a sense of their working style and knowledge base.  A good knowledge base would include:  Being conversant about the current housing inventory in the neighborhoods you are interested in, knowing the offer process itself and what to expect during negotiations, being familiar with lending practices and appraisal issues and generally what to realistically expect during an escrow (including inspections) so that the transaction closes happily.

If you don’t have the benefit of a referral, another source would be open houses.  At an open house you can chat up the agent hosting it—agents love to talk !  Then, if you think you want to take the discussion further, make a follow-up appointment with them.

But let’s say your best friend’s boss’s niece just got her license and you think you might like to work with her.  While a rookie agent obviously is not going to have the experience to draw on, the sale process could work out perfectly fine if she is receiving the mentoring of her broker or a more seasoned agent.

The second aspect of finding a good agent has to do with chemistry. While liking the agent is important, your mutual communication style has to be compatible.   Is the agent accessible and responsive (i.e., via emails/calls or texts) in a way that you consider timely?  Is the agent happy giving you detailed answers to your questions or do you feel you are getting the short answer each time?

I think it’s perfectly acceptable to have a couple of interactions with an agent before committing to them as “your agent”.  Go out and look at some homes together and you will see if there is a fit.  Home sales can be tricky. They are rather nuanced types of transactions with a strong emotional component, so take your time in selecting an agent.

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