How to Pick a Good Real Estate Agent

When you think of hiring a real estate agent to help you sell your home, you probably first think of an agent who can get you top dollar. Nothing else matters than getting the highest price for your home, right? While that is a big factor, there are actually a few other things you need to consider when picking a good real estate agent. The difference between a good real estate agent and a bad real estate agent can be thousands of dollars, plus untold stress and headaches.

Here are five ways to tell if you’re picking a good real estate agent. Selling your home is stressful enough – don’t make it tougher on yourself by choosing the wrong real estate agent!

A Good Real Estate Agent Will Provide References

With the internet, there are more ways than ever to find real estate agents, but how do you know which will be best for your situation? You can find an agent through word of mouth, ask your neighbors, or search the National Association of Realtors website.

You’ll also probably want a Realtor, not a realtor. According to Bankrate, “if the agent calls herself a Realtor with a capital ‘R,’ that means she’s a member of NAR [National Association of Realtors]. By hiring a Realtor, ‘the most important thing you get is an agent who formally pledges to support the code of ethics.’”

Once you’ve found a few real estate agents, ask them for references. A good real estate agent will provide you with several references. Reach out to these previous sellers, and ask them the following:

  • Did the real estate agent stage an Open House? If the reference didn’t want an Open House, did the real estate agent respect the client’s wishes or did they try to convince them to stage an Open House? Not everyone wants an Open House for various reasons, and you don’t want a real estate agent trying to coerce you into doing something you don’t want.
  • Did the agent walk the sellers through the home selling process?
  • Was the agent prompt at responding to questions within a reasonable timeframe?
  • Would the sellers work with this agent in the future?

Bankrate also recommends asking the sellers how long their homes were on the market. You’ll want to find a real estate agent who knows your market and can get your house moving.

A Good Real Estate Agent Will be Knowledgeable in Your Market

After asking for references and talking to previous clients, you’ll want to ensure the real estate agent you’re considering is right for your situation. One thing that’s easy to overlook when choosing a good real estate agent is whether or not they are good for you.

What this means is: does your real estate agent specialize or have in-depth familiarity with your market?

If you’re selling a single story, 1,500 square foot property in a middle-class neighborhood, but your real estate agent has won awards for selling 3,000+ sq. ft. mansions in upscale neighborhoods, they might be a great real estate agent – just not for you.

A good real estate agent will be able to talk about your market, about homes that have sold recently in and around your neighborhood and should, according to Bankrate, “know about other area properties that are available ‘off the top of his head.’” A good real estate agent will provide you with a comparative market analysis (“comps”), which show recent and pending home sales in your neighborhood or near your neighborhood of comparable homes.

An agent who knows your area well will be able to put together a better marketing plan than an agent unfamiliar with the area, who has to learn about the area before properly marketing your home.

There are even specialty services and sites like if you’re trying to sell an inherited house in California.

A Good Real Estate Agent Will Take Time with Your House

Once you’ve determined an agent who knows your area and receives good recommendations from previous colleges, ask your real estate agent how they will market your house. Selling a home is far more than putting out a sign and listing a home online. A good real estate agent will have a plan to market your house based on his or her own experience in your market.

According to NerdWallet, “a good real estate agent will have a robust plan to promote your listing to find the right pool of buyers. ‘Just listed’ postcards, open houses, virtual tours, professional photography and/or broker tours for buyers’ agents (particularly for luxury homes) are all factors that may go into a marketing plan.”

If the market is particularly hot, some real estate agents will even put “coming soon” signs in front of the house and online to drum up interest – and a potential full offer before the house ever officially goes on the market.

A good real estate agent will also make sure to spend time with your house, making it look the best it possibly can for pictures and to show. Your real estate agent may take his or her own photos or hire a professional photographe. Regardless of who takes the photos, the agent should be at the house, helping to stage, opening windows to let in more light, and generally taking favorable photos of the house to encourage potential buyers to check it out.

Many agents are now even taking photos by drone to show an aerial view of homes, particularly if the house has a large backyard or proximity to a park. Make sure to ask how your real estate agent will make your home stand out – crowded market or not.

A Good Real Estate Agent Will Explain Things to You

One of the very first questions you and your realtor may have is about the contract: not the sales contract, the realtor’s listing contract. This is the contract that outlines how many months you will work with the realtor to try to sell your house.

According to Kiplinger, three to six-month contracts are typical although, depending on your market and how slow it may be, some real estate agents may want longer terms.

Make sure to choose a term you’re comfortable with: if your home is in a hot market but 3 months go by without any sales, you may choose to take it off the market – or go with a more aggressive real estate agent. A good real estate agent will explain the contract to you, including how they plan to market your home to make sure it sells within their timeframe.

In addition, unless you’ve studied real estate, you’re bound to run into terms or new laws you’re unfamiliar with. A good real estate agent will patiently explain these definitions to you and not make you feel like you’re wasting their time or, worse, neglect to tell you these definitions at all.

Once your home has an offer, the potential for confusion can be high, so a good real estate agent will make sure to sit down with you and explain what the offer means. Depending on your market, buyers can be very picky and may demand a lot of concessions you’re unwilling to agree to. A good real estate agent will make sure you don’t accidentally agree to something expensive or time-consuming, like replacing ceiling fans or repainting, without your knowledge.

A Good Real Estate Agent Will be Upfront with You

With all of that said, a good real estate agent will also be honest and upfront with you. While you might think navy blue is a great wall color for the whole house, your agent may recommend you repaint to a neutral, buyer-friendly off-white. Your real estate agent isn’t being unnecessarily critical; they’re trying to appeal to the largest number of buyers.

Also, a good real estate agent will point out things buyers typically notice but a homeowner may overlook. After several years in the house, many people don’t see imperfections that would jump out to a new buyer. However, a good real estate agent won’t suggest expensive and time-consuming updates if they know you want to sell relatively soon, but if the upgrades would substantially affect your value, the right real estate agent is also going to be realistic about your sales price.

A good real estate agent will also be upfront about the commission rate. You may need to ask, but a good real estate agent will explain how the commission rate will be factored in. According to NerdWallet, “the typical real estate commission is about 6%; oftentimes, the listing agent splits that amount with the buyer’s agent.” While some real estate agents may be willing to negotiate their commission, especially if you’re also buying a house with that agent, don’t count on it and don’t make hiring the agent contingent on a lowered commission.

Choosing the right real estate agent may be time-consuming at first, but keep in mind, you may be working with this person every week for the next three to six months. It’s in your best interest to find the most professional, hard-working, and knowledgeable person you can. These five tips on finding the right real estate agent for you will help you choose a good agent, hopefully making your home sale process shorter and more lucrative!

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