1. Start by getting referrals
Ask your friends, co-workers and family members if they have a favorite real estate agent. Hopefully you'll get two or three recommendations. Meet with each one before you make a decision. See which agent matches your style, really listens to what you have to say and understands what you’re looking for.
2. Conduct an interview with an agent like you're hiring them for a job
Unless your agent agrees to waive their commission they're not working for free. Remember that when you interview at least three agents for the job. You're doing them a favor by offering them the chance to make a good commission. Ask each agent you interview the same questions. See how hard they are willing to work for you and what you get by hiring them.
3. Go with a REALTOR®
The title REALTOR® signifies that an agent belongs to the National Association of Realtors and has sworn to abide by a strict ethical code. This code includes following baseline principles that include loyalty to clients, fiduciary duty to clients, cooperation with competitors and truthfulness in statements and advertising. There are approximately 720,000 REALTORS across the country.
4. Make sure your schedules align
Check to make sure a potential agent is available to show you homes when you're available to look. Some agents don't want to work on Sundays, or may say they can only show homes during “normal working hours.” If this doesn't fit your schedule find an agent that will. Your agent is going to set up appointments to tour homes and should go with you to assess the house and give their opinion. If you find that your agent keeps sending you to houses alone it's time to look for a new agent.
5. Check their connections
Your potential agent isn't just going to show you houses. They should be well-connected to help you find a qualified and affordable home inspector, lending agent and real estate attorney. They should also be able to direct you to insurance companies and even contractors in the event that your home may need some fixing up. They should be familiar with local codes and neighborhood regulations so they can answer questions like, “Can we put up a fence?” or “Is it ok to park our RV in the driveway?” Be sure to ask about their network and don't be afraid to ask for names.
Make sure your agent is web savvy and knows how to navigate the internet. If you're agent doesn't carry around a decent smartphone or laptop that's a good sign they're out of touch with the way deals go down these days. Plus, it shows you that you'll be able to communicate with them through text, email or phone.
6. Experience pays
You'll want to hire an agent that knows all the tricks in the real estate game. That only comes with having been in the business for a long time. Agents that have been buying and selling homes for more than three years should know their stuff. Be sure to ask prospective agents how long they've been in the business, how many homes they've sold and how long they've worked in the area you're interested in. A good agent will know a great deal when they see it. They'll also know how to sniff out a bad deal and warn you when things look too good to be true.