Considerations in choosing a real estate agent

by Dan Krell

So you’re thinking of moving. If you are going to buy and/or sell a home you may be thinking of hiring a real estate agent to assist you. If you have bought or sold a home in the past, you know that there are thousands of real estate agents to choose from.

Choosing a real estate agent should be an objective as well as subjective process. You want an agent with experience and expertise, but you also want to make sure they listen to your needs and are patient with you. Additionally, you want to feel comfortable enough to trust them.

Choosing the right real estate agent is important because the agent that is chosen to represent you will have a fiduciary responsibility to you. As many home buyers and sellers don’t know, a fiduciary is someone who acts as a custodian for your rights and/or assets. The fiduciary has a responsibility to act with honesty and integrity, as well as act in your best interest and not exert influence on you or pressure you for their own or others interests. So, if the agent seems impatient, pushy or desperate you may need to look elsewhere.

Some people advise that your first step in choosing a quality real estate agent is to choose a broker or real estate firm first. However, the quality if an agent is not dependant on the firm. The quality of real estate agents varies from agent to agent; real estate firms have very good agents as well as agents that are less than perfect.

Whether you are interviewing an agent that was recommended or one you found in the paper, you should ask many questions about their knowledge, experience and expertise. You should also ask them if and how long they have been licensed.

Ask where the agent is licensed; not all agents are licensed in all jurisdictions. If your intention is to look at homes in Maryland, Virginia, and DC, make sure the agent is licensed in all three jurisdictions. If you are only looking in Maryland then they only need to be licensed in Maryland.

Once you have determined where the real estate agent is licensed, you can get an idea of their experience by asking how long they have been licensed. Someone who just received their license may not be as experienced in negotiating as someone who has been licensed five or ten years. If you are considering a novice agent, make sure they have some type of mentor that is training them. If the agent does have mentor, meet and interview them as well.

Additionally, you may want to consider working with a real estate agent who is a Realtor®. A Realtor® is a member of the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) and follows the NAR code of ethics. It has been said that the NAR code of ethics exceeds the ethics requirements of many state laws.

Finding the right agent is a process much like home buying. Through interviewing real estate agents you can find out the agent’s professionalism, training, and knowledge base. Additionally, you can find out if the agent’s personality clicks with yours, as you will spend time together selling or buying your home.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of June 18, 2007. Copyright © 2007 Dan Krell.