Tips on finding a good realtor?

Hubby and I would like to move out of our apartment and buy a nice townhome or condo. Neither of us has been through the process before and haven’t a clue where to start. I’m thinking we need to find a realtor first. And also, go to the bank and get qualified for a loan so we know how much we have to spend.

Any tips on finding a good realtor? A woman at work told me we should “interview” no less than 3 realtors before deciding on one. How do we “interview” them–what questions should we ask?

The absolute best way to find a realtor is word of mouth!! Ask friends, family, co-workers and get success and horror stories. As the daughter of a realtor, my dad was VERY successful through word of mouth.

You should probably speak to at least a few realators before you pick one, or take a recommendation from a trusted friend or relative.

If you aren’t familar with the area (don’t have family there…friends all renting etc.) Then call a few different companies. Tell whoever answers the phone that you are a first time home buyer, and that you would like to meet with an agent to discuss the possibility of your buying a home. Ask if they can suggest someone who would be good, or ask if the company offers any first time home-buyer programs (My mother is a realtor (she does not actually sell real estate, but she does work for a Realty company), her particular company offers classes and programs for first time homebuyers several times a year. The classes are designed so that the home-buyer learns the basics of the process, they also usually have morgage reps, insurace people etc. so that the whole process is covered by people). Generally, pick someone you like, who seems interested in working with you (some realtors get a swelled head, and only like to work for the “big” commissions, they may not be willing to spend as much time with you as you would like)

RULE: pick a realtor BEFORE you start visiting homes… What ever realtor shows you a property first has dibs on the commission if you buy it… You can’t just go back with another agent later… it doesn’t work that way. If they are a jerk, you are still stuck with them for the whole deal. Also, NEVER sign anything without reading it AND understanding it. You will never sign as many things in your life as you will during this process. There are constantly new forms that must be signed (I think in some cases before they can even show you the house). Understand what you are signing, and if realtor brushes it off, or tries to give you an overly simplified answer, leave, you don’t want to sign any rights over to a person like that.

Also, be aware that all agents work for the seller (as this is who pays their commission). (i.e. their job is to SELL you a house, not to help you BUY a house). They will answer all of your questions, but they aren’t supposed to disclose property information you don’t ask about. (ie. if you ask how old the roof is, they will answer honestly, but if you don’t ask, they won’t clue you in on the fact that the roof is 40 years old, and shot) If you want someone to represent you, then you want a Buyer Broker. Different beast. Most people in Real Estate are agents, some are both (I don’t personally known of anyone who is just a buyer broker… it may be possible).

Anyway, find someone you like, and trust, and work with them. They should be able to hook you up with a mortage rep. who will help you figure out what you can afford to buy, then the realtor will show you properties in you price range that meet whatever other requirements you may have (off street parking, close to transportation, 2 bedrooms 3 baths… whatever).

Good luck

P.S. All of the above info is based in PA. Real Estate laws and definitions do vary from state to state, but in general, they are similar. (all state may not have buyer brokers for example).

This may just be a semantics issue. Out here, a person is, for any particular transaction, either a buyer’s agent, a seller’s agent, or (rarely) both. Honestly, you don’t want the same person to be both, even if they offer to lower their commission - ask yourself this question: If you play chess with yourself, can you play both sides to win?

No matter what, you want a buyer’s agent. (The seller pays the fees - it’s a win-win situation) A Realtor™ is generally equipped to do both, but some have preferences. I second the above and suggest you look for friends/family members who have worked with agents. My wife is a Realtor, and she works exclusively through referrals.

Yes, it’s true that the seller pays the costs, generally. However, the buyer’s agent earns that money by bringing a buyer, not by looking out for the seller’s best interest. (That’s the seller’s agent’s job.) A good agent will tell you all about the house, and try to pick what fits best for you.

One thing to watch out for. Some people will recommend an agent based on his/her sales. The problem is that agents that have a high volume of sales, have less time for each of their clients, and utilize assistants. (Like getting taught by TAs instead of Professors.)

If you’re looking in Utah Valley, I have just the person for you to call. :smiley:

This is really more of an opinion thing, so I’ll send it over to IMHO.

I think the concept of “buyer’s agent” is the most misunderstood in real estate. A buyer’s agent who is getting paid by the seller can call themselves whatever they like, but if they are getting paid by the seller, then they work for the seller. In many states they have to disclose this to all prospective buyers in writing. They may want to help you find what you want, they may do their best to help you get something in your price range, and they are supposed to truthfully answer your questions – but when it comes down to it, they work for the seller. If you want a true buyer’s broker – an agent who ONLY works for you and is completely unconnected to the seller’s broker or agency, you will have to pay for it yourself – it doesn’t come out of any commission earned upon the sale of the house. It is a completely separate fee.

It is impossible for a supposed buyer’s agent – one who is getting paid by the seller – to represent both the best interests of the seller AND the best interests of the buyer. (It doesn’t matter if these are two different people - a sub-agent still gets paid by the seller.) It’s like having a lawyer represent both parties in a lawsuit. An agent can’t, at the same time, help the seller get the best price and help the buyer get the least price. He may not want to lose a sale – and therefore a percentage of the commission, and so will honestly try to help a buyer find the best home for him – but he can’t represent both parties’ opposite interests. I’d never completely trust any agent unless I paid them myself.

Furthering Miss Bunny’s plea, the buyer’s agent is still payed by the seller. But guess what the seller is going to pay the buyer’s agent with? It’s the money that you’re going to give the seller for the house.

Therefore, if you don’t use a buyer’s agent (and you get a somewhat honest realtor), you may be able less money to the seller than other people are offering, and the seller can still take your offer and come out ahead, because they don’t have to pay the buyer’s agent.

In some areas, the realtor won’t recommend or even let the seller sell to people who don’t use an agent, or, if they do, will claim the agent’s commision for himself. But this is usually reserved for tight housing markets where the housebuying public is at the mercy of the real estate industry.


Easy. To find a Realtor:

Real Estate Agents are not always Realtors.

Realtors, at least in my city have a specific board they must account to. In other words, if you complain about an agent to the agent licensing board that might take forever, if you complain about a Realtor to the local Realtor board, quick action. Thus, Realtors are a great bunch. Agents on the other hand, from dealing with them personally, can more or less say anything they want to sell you a house. Also, if the person says they have other people interested in the property, to pressure you into buying it, get another agent.

I’m confused on the 6% agent commission, isn’t it 3% now?

Wow! All sorts of good advice! Thanks everybody. It’s so complicated and intimidating but we can’t live in an apartment forever–anyway, I appreciate all your info.

My cousin works in a real eastate office and is recommending that we use the agent she used to buy her place. If he’s a buyer’s rep, then I guess we can talk to him and see if we’re comfortable.
And I’ll try that also, but I sometimes feel funny about doing stuff like that on the internet.

We met our realtor at an open house, and he mentioned that many realtors hold open houses as much to attract new clients as they do to sell that particular house. If you don’t like the people that you have been referred to, that might be a good way to go.

We actually weren’t out looking for a realtor when we found this guy. We were just thinking about buying a house and we decided to check out some open houses in certain neighborhoods to find out what the housing stock was like, and we happened to click with this one guy. Definitely pick someone who is interested in working with a first-time buyer. I got the feeling from some of the realtors I talked to that they just didn’t have the patience.