Why you should carefully choose a local Real Estate Agent to help you find your home
What can an Agent offer me?
Well a good agent can offer you plenty. The Agent should have a wealth of information about the area you are interested in, from the schools, to the recreation parks, to the current market status.
But be careful when searching for an Agent to help you. You should not be overly impressed with the Agent that has sold 50 properties in the last year, or so dismissive of the Agent that has sold none. You should take the time to find an Agent that suits your personality, and that seems to work with you best.
It's not exactly deciding who to marry, but its a significant enough relationship that you should be comfortable with the Agent, at the least. This is the person you are depending on to help you in the search, and purchase, of your home.
It's not as easy as looking on a website that lists houses for sale, and picking one out. You cannot always rely on the sometimes partial or outdated information that many online sources provide. The Agent will carry out many tasks in your best interest, tasks that reach far beyond the property search function.
The Agent should be able to find out for you a variety of things you cannot easily find on your own, for example, if work done on a home (a 4/1 house converted to a 3/2) has had the proper permits, or if a new roof was done by a reputable contractor and is under warranty... before you ever make an appointment to see the property.
In addition to getting to know your needs, look out for your interests, and convey to you the current market. The Agent will handle the ins and outs of the negotiation process including the preparation of all necessary forms when making an offer and/or counteroffer.
The Agent should provide oversight and follow up for any inspections deemed necessary, counsel you on how to handle any repairs needed on the property, be present at closing to ensure that all the buyer’s interests are protected.
In fact, your Agent may be far more experienced than you realize. As a new Agent myself, I have had training/schooling and/or real working experience as a Home Inspector, Building Professional, Energy Auditor, Project Manager and have spent years in the field of residential housing long before becoming an Agent.
One piece of advice I would give you, is that if by the end of the day you realize you know more about the area, and more about the houses you are looking at (from when they were built, to what structural issues they might have) than your agent does... you might want to find a new agent. Your Agent doesn't need to know everything, but they should be able to show some competency and experience in the field, otherwise, what are you paying them for?
Convey to the Agent your Dream Home
I would suggest in your search that you rely on an Agent, rather than a Broker. The Agent may have very little on their plate (in comparison to a Broker), they are far more likely to be able to provide you, if not undivided their attention, then certainly far more attention during your search than a busy Broker. The Broker can play a more integral part when the property you desire is found, and the negotiations have begun.
As a customer, it is your job to provide the Agent with as much information as you can about what you want and don't want. You do want four bedrooms and two baths, you do want an updated kitchen, you do want a garage, a pool, etc.. You don't want a fixer upper, you don't want carpets at all, you don't want to pay more than X amount of dollars. You do want good schools because you have two children, you do want to be able to walk to the center of town. And so on.
The more the Agent knows about you and your wants, the better he will be able to find you what you are looking for with the MINIMAL amount of dragging you around and showing you houses. A good agent these days, will do the bulk of the work on the computer and phone, and only bring you to see a property after you have looked at it online and approved of it, up to that point.
Honesty and Integrity
You must walk away from any Agent that shows a disregard for honest and truthful dealings. If you want to avoid buying a home filled with hidden mold, or with modifications that won't meet code, or with a roof that is about to cave in, you had better make sure your Agent is an honest and truthful one.
If you see an open electric box with mixed wires tied together and dangling out of it, and the Agent says that is nothing to worry about... if you touch the wood around a soffit and it crumbles in your hand, and your Agent tells you its an easy fix, so don't worry... you might want to consider doing a lot more investigating into the property, and the Agent you are working with, before you go ahead with any deals. Unless of course, you are in the business of buying fixer uppers.
You wouldn't consider buying a new car that had a door that kept opening as you drove down the street, and had an engine that sputtered and stalled every time you got it to 40 mph, if the car salesman told you those issues would work themselves out after the first few hundred miles, would you?
Other things to consider
Look up the licensing
Most States will have an official licensing department that you can check online for Agent credentials to see if the person is licensed, and if there have been any disciplinary actions or complaints.
Select an Agent with the right credentials
Just as doctors specialize, so do Agents. Some Agencies provide more training than others, if you are dealing with a Nationally recognized firm, chances are their Agents and Brokers have some of the best training and tools to work with. Where as a small unrecognized company may not even be performing what they're legally required to.
In addition, what other jobs and experiences has the Agent had, is your Agent a former contractor/builder, or are they doing this part time until they can get that fulltime teacher's job they've always wanted, its good to know the background of the Agent you are working with, be wary of the one that leaves their Agent's page blank and void of information, that could be a sign that they don't really care or aren't in it for the long term.
Research how long the Agent has been in Real Estate
If they haven't been in business more than a couple of years, they're learning on you and that's not good, but if they are working for a reputable (well known and thought of) Agency and their Broker is very reputable, it may not be a bad thing at all, a well supported new Agent is likely to work harder for you than anyone else.
The Broker will not likely suffer a bad Agent, or one that endangers his or her own reputation. Ultimately, what you're looking for is someone who is actively engaged in a particular area and price range. You'll want to know what knowledge of those two factors the Agent can demonstrate and what kind of market experience they have.