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Buying: Using a Real Estate Agent

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There are many choices to make when looking to buy a home. In addition to finding the right neighborhood, the perfect home, and the best prices, you'll need to decide on whether or not you would like to use a real estate agent during the home-buying process.

Why use an agent?

Perhaps the biggest argument against buying a home with the help of a real estate agent is that buying a home independently can save you a lot of money. Although you might not want to spend the money on hiring one, a real estate agent can make the home-buying process a lot easier. For instance, an agent can help you find that perfect home and show you places that you might not find on your own. He or she will also assist you with all of the legal procedures involved with buying a home and generally help you throughout the process.

How to find an agent

Once you decide to hire a real estate agent to help you buy a home, you'll need to find one. There are many ways to go about this. You can search online to find real estate agents in your area, along with profiles detailing each one's experience in the real estate industry. Many online resources will also show ratings and testimonials that each particular agent's customers have given him or her. This will allow you to prescreen your agents before hiring any of them. You can also find an agent in any of the following ways:

  • Get referrals – If you have friends or relatives that have recently moved, ask them about the agents they used. Should you get positive feedback about a particular agent, you might want to hire that one.
  • Explore the neighborhood – You can find a real estate agent by looking at real estate signs in your neighborhood. If you see an appealing home with a "For Sale" sign in front of it, contact the agent listed on the sign to get the ball rolling.
  • Read the newspaper – Though most real estate listings and agent information can be found online, many agencies still make use of printed advertisements. Check the Sunday newspapers for listings of individual properties, which are usually accompanied by the specific agents responsible for the sale. If a particular home interests you, you can call the number listed.

Questions to ask

As you go about your search for the best real estate agent to help you buy a home, there are several questions you should ask. Consider the answers you get from prospective real estate agents to the following questions to help you find an agent who best meets your needs.

  • How much experience do you have in the buying and selling of homes? For the most part, hiring an agent with many years of experience will be a good move. However, experienced agents are usually in higher demand and work on several cases at once. They also charge more for their services. If you feel comfortable working with a newer agent, he or she will have more time to devote to your affairs and can be hired at a lower cost.
  • What is your plan for helping me buy a home? Find out how the agent will go about searching for new homes for you, presenting offers to the sellers, and handling multiple offers.
  • Do you have references? By contacting previous clients of any agent you consider, you can get an idea of how the agent handled other transactions.
  • Will you help me find other services? The process of buying a home doesn't end when the transaction is complete. You may also need the services of home inspectors, title companies, and mortgage brokers. Ask your potential agent if he or she can provide you with recommendations for these services.
  • How much do you charge? For the most part, real estate agents will charge a certain percentage of the transaction. Though you won't know the actual dollar amount until the sale is finalized, you should have a good idea of your agent's commission rate beforehand.

Once you find a real estate agent, he or she will guide you through the process of buying a home. Though it might not be cheap to hire one, there are plenty of benefits. By working with an agent, you can get the best deal possible and receive the guidance of a trusted professional throughout the entire home-buying process.

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Adam Mandelbaum  Posted by Adam Mandelbaum on May 14, 2010

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