How to Find a Real Estate Agent: Your Complete Guide (2021 Update)

Matt Webber | Updated: June 11, 2021

Buying property is one of the most complex – and certainly one of the most expensive – purchases of your life. This is true whether you are looking for a new family home, a holiday cabin, or a lucrative investment, and it’s why most people seek professional help.

A real estate agent can help you to find a suitable property, to negotiate a great price on it, and even help you with the paperwork necessary to buy a new property. In short, they can make the process of finding and buying property much more simple.

Finding a real estate agent, on the other hand, can be a more complicated process. With so many agents and agencies out there, all of them competing for your hard-earned cash, how can you make sure your money is in good hands?

Well, we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll show you how to find a great real estate agent.

Table of Contents

  1. Real Estate Agent Definition: What Do they Do and Why Do I Need One?
  2. How Real Estate Agents Get Paid
  3. Where to Find a Real Estate Agent
  4. How to Find a Good Real Estate Agent
  5. The Bottom Line

How to Find a Real Estate Agent

Finding a truly reliable and effective real estate agent can be more difficult than it sounds. Or at least it was before we launched Someplace Properties.

Here’s why. The real estate industry is a huge, dynamic, and highly competitive space. As soon as you start looking for an agent, you will find you are bombarded with offers from agents and agencies who will tempt you with low commission rates, access to exclusive properties, or guaranteed timescales for finding a suitable property. Few of these promises seem credible.

At this point, a question might occur to you. Since there are so many real estate agents out there, and it seems relatively easy to become one, do you even need an agent at all? Surely you can find a property for yourself?

Well, of course you can. But finding a property – as we’ll see a little later in this guide – is only the beginning of what a good real estate agent does. They could save you tens of thousands of dollars, even after you pay their commission.

This is the bottom line. The best real estate agent is, ultimately, the one who is going to save you the most time and money (which are, after all, the same thing).

Working together

In order to work out which estate agent that is, however, you’ll have to take into account a number of factors. For a start, real estate agents have different specialties, so you’ll need an agent who works in your chosen location, and who has expertise in the type of property you want to buy (luxury, condo, first home/lower budget, apartment, commercial, etc., etc.).

That’s why we built Someplace. Someplace allows you to search for real estate agents in your city, your state, or across the country. It’s simple – you can just type your desired location into our listings service, and you will see a list of approved, trustworthy real estate agents.

That way, you can see all of the “best” real estate agents in your area, and make your own call as to who is really the best for you.

But in order to do that, you’ll need to know a little about what an estate agent is, what you can expect them to do, and how much they will charge. So keep reading to find out …

Real Estate Agent Definition: What Do they Do and Why Do I Need One?

Before you can choose a great estate agent, it’s important to understand what a real estate agent is, what real estate agents actually do, and how they are paid. So let’s look at those questions.

What is a Real Estate Agent?

The job of a real estate agent can be summarized pretty simply. A real estate agent is a professional who arranges real estate transactions. In order to do this, real estate agents bring buyers and sellers together, and can act as the representative of each (or sometimes both) in negotiations. All real estate agents in the US need to be licensed.

In almost every state, a real estate agent must work for (or be affiliated with) a real estate broker, who is more experienced and licensed to a higher degree. We’ll explain that difference in a little more detail below.

Real estate agents are usually paid a commission, which is a percentage of the price of a deal they have arranged. In most cases, this is the only payment they will receive, so it incentivizes them to close deals, and to close them quickly.

What Do Real Estate Agents Actually Do?

One of the most common issues when it comes to finding a real estate agent is that home buyers (or sellers, for that matter) can have unrealistic expectations when it comes to what a real estate agent can do for them.

You can expect a good real estate agent to work hard on your behalf in the following ways:

  • If you are selling a property, help you set the value of it,
  • Marketing your property to suitable buyers, and
  • Conducting viewings.
  • If you are buying, help you find suitable properties.
  • Managing negotiations.

Beyond these basic tasks, a good real estate agent wil also be attentive when it comes to checking the progress of the sales they are managing, and may offer to help you with the paperwork required to buy or sell a property.

In other words, a real estate agent is not just a “middle man” who takes a commission from you – a good estate agent will act as a central point of communication between buyer and seller, and ensure that their client gets the best possible deal.

How Real Estate Agents Get Paid

Successful real estate agents can be very highly paid. However, it’s important to realize that most real estate agents are paid only by commission, and don’t make any money unless they close deals.

This incentivizes real estate agents to close deals. However, it is a strange way of paying a professional in comparison to, say, a doctor. As a result, many people get confused when it comes to how real estate agents get paid, and who pays them. So let’s break that down.

Who Pays The Real Estate Agent?

Most of the time, real estate agents are paid by commission. And in theory, both the buyer and the seller of a property pay this commission.

The buyer and seller split the commission fee, which is usually 5-6% of the purchase price of the property. This commission is paid at the close of escrow, and not before.

However, think about this a little deeper and you’ll realize that it’s not as easy as that. While the commission payment is technically disbursed by the seller, the funds come from the money the buyer pays to the seller. It’s actually not uncommon for sellers to account for paying these commissions by factoring them into the initial listing price.

This means that, in practice, buyers foot the bill for these fees when it comes time to close. Some agents attempt to simplify things by telling the buyer that the seller covers the fees. That, however, isn’t entirely true.

Are Agent Fees Negotiable?

In short, yes.

Most real estate agents are up for negotiation, and many agents will expect their clients to do so. Negotiating a non-standard commission rate is particularly common in luxury property sales, where property prices are higher and commissions are also generally higher. Similarly, in states where real estate agents can be dual agents, it’s not uncommon for agents to lower their fees if they end up representing both the buyer and the seller.

Some agents will, of course, tell you that their fees are non-negotiable. This is generally the case with high volume agents, or those who have a “lock” on a particular market. However, there’s no harm in asking.

Where To Find a Real Estate Agent

When you start to look for a real estate agent, you will have three options. The first is to ask for a recommendation from a friend, colleague, or a family member. The second will be to get in touch with a large real estate agency, and ask them to assign you an agent. The third, and by far the best if you have just a little time to invest, is to conduct some research and find the agent who is perfect for you.

Each of these approaches has it’s pros and cons, so let’s take a look at each in more detail.

Asking for Recommendations

This is the approach that most people take. And it can be a good one, but only in specific circumstances. If you know someone who has recently bought (or sold) the same kind of property as you are looking to, in the same area, and for the same kind of price, then a recommendation could be the way to go.

As long as you conduct your due diligence on the agent you’ve been recommended – including checking their recent performance and getting a few testimonials – there is nothing particularly wrong with taking this route, and it will certainly save you a lot of time. The problem is that it’s very unlikely to furnish you with a real estate agent with expertise in the property type, location, and price point you are looking for.

Agencies

For most people, the next stop after asking for a recommendation is to approach one of the big real estate agencies, and ask them to assign a suitable real estate agent to you.

This approach has its advantages. Many people trust large agencies more than individual estate agents, and this can give you added peace of mind. Large agencies can also have many individual agents working for them, and so be able to find an agent who is a good approximation of your needs.

On the other hand, large estate agencies tend to be motivated by the volume of sales they make, rather than the quality of them, and they also tend to charge higher fees because they have higher overheads. This can mean that your agent will not pay as much individual attention to you as you would like, because your sale is not the only one they are dealing with.

Directories

To our mind, by far the best place to find a real estate agent is through a directory service. And, more specifically, our directory service.

We’re a little biased, of course, but hear me out. Using a directory like Someplace, you can quickly and easily see all of the best real estate agents in your desired location. Then, at a glance, you can see where they are based, what type of property they specialize in, and how to contact them.

From there, you can spend an hour calling each agent, and getting a sense of whether you can work with them. This type of elementary research will, ultimately, furnish you with an agent who you trust, who you can work with, and who understands your needs and desires.

It’s also extremely easy to start that process. Just type your city into the box below to get going:

How To Find a Good Real Estate Agent

Once you have a short list of potential real estate agents, it’s time to find the perfect one for you. In order to do that, you should assess them against a number of criteria, and then conduct a short interview to make sure they really understand your needs.

Assessing a Real Estate Agent

There are a number of different factors that you can use to assess a real estate agent, and you should go through these checks with every potential agent. They include:

  • Reading their bio, and watching any intro videos they have posted.
  • Checking their certifications.
  • Making sure they specialize in the types of properties you are looking for.
  • Make sure they are local, or at least have a good knowledge of the area you want to buy or sell in.
  • Check the reviews that previous clients have left for them.
  • Ask them for a list of their recent and historic sales.

Checking each of these criteria is important, of course, but there are also some less tangible factors. Your real estate agent will, after all, be handling the biggest transaction of your life, and you need to make sure you can work with them.

Because of that, it’s very important to talk to agents directly before you formally enter into business with them. Using Someplace, you can quickly get a list of the best real estate agents in your area, and then spend a spare afternoon calling each of them.

Questions for Real Estate Agents

If a real estate agent is a good one, they’ll likely try to convince you that they are the right agent for you. Be aware, however, that skilled real estate agents are – by definition – skilled salespeople. Because of this, it’s important to interview each prospective real estate agent, and make sure understand your needs.

That’s right, interview them. Remember that you are the customer here, and that ultimately it’s your money that will pay the commission of the agent. No matter how much you want to sell your house, or how excited you are to buy a new one, always remember that you are in charge.

The best way to conduct these interviews is to call each prospective agent, and run through a set of prepared questions. We’ve given you a good starting list here. Above all, make sure that the agent you pick is available when you need them to be, and understands both your budget and your goals.

The Bottom Line

Finding a good real estate agent used to be quite difficult, because both buyers and sellers were forced to rely on recommendations, or trust themselves to the big agencies. With Someplace, you can quickly and easily see a list of the best agents in your area, and immediately assess their level of expertise and experience.

Someplace takes the guesswork out of finding a real estate agent – whether you are buying or selling, and no matter if you are looking for a home or an investment opportunity.

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