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The decision to buy or sell a home is one of the most important financial decisions an individual can make; however, many give little thought to finding the real estate agent best suited to their needs. Agents are often chosen based on the recommendation of a friend or family member. This is a great place to start your search, but it doesn't guarantee you will find the best agent to represent you. Choosing the right agent can save you time, effort and aggravation and most importantly: money. The issue is not with finding an agent, but with finding an excellent one. Agents have a wealth of information at their disposal. Good agents will share it with you and excellent agents will use that information to educate you about things like a neighborhood's median income level or the going price per square foot in your market.

Simply put, an agent has the experience and knowledge to guide you through the many complexities of the home buying process. Finding a good agent can take a little effort and planning, but the end result is well worth the effort.

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Here is a list of my best tips on how and where to locate the agent best suited for you:

  • Contact an agent with whom a friend or relative has worked. If this agent produced positive results for a friend, there’s a good chance they will do the same for you.
  • Meet agents out in their working environment, not in their offices. Good agents spend very little time at their desks and will instead be found at open houses, fundraising events and other networking functions.
  • Make sure the agent has closed many properties and has worked for at least a few years. An agent who closes $3 million in sales may have had one closing or three hundred closings. More closings mean more experience, so be sure to ask for clarification.
  • Search online. Having a web-savvy agent is very important today as it’s estimated that over 85 percent of all buyers initially see their homes online. Great agents have laptops and make the best use of mobile technology. A real estate agent in today’s world must email, text and be available to buyers and sellers alike.
  • Speak with several agents, whether you are looking for a buyer agent or seller agent. Remember, though: agents will tell you what you want to hear. Make sure they are not selling you a dream partnership ... you want to hire a realistic real estate agent. And don’t sign a buyer’s agreement form before looking for property. You should feel free to build trust with a real estate agent over several hours of looking before signing anything.
  • It is important that your agent is knowledgeable. You should interview agents just as though you are hiring them for a job, because you are. Ask detailed questions. Interviewing candidates serves two purposes: You get an education about your local market and you get to learn how the agent proposes to represent you.
  • Consider choosing only an agent who is a licensed realtor. In addition to being licensed by the state to sell real estate, realtors belong to the National Association of Realtors and must abide by a strict code of ethics. Also, only licensed realtors have access to Multiple Listing Services – MLS– through which members share listings and have access to many more properties than non-members.
  • Search home listings. See how the agent’s MLS listings come up in those searches. When listing in today’s market, all listings from small to big should have professional photos — this is the first sign of a professional real estate agent who understands today’s market.
  • Most importantly, choose an agent who listens to your needs and takes the time to explain things you might not understand. Real estate transactions can be complicated and the terminology confusing. You need an agent who will both know the answers to your questions and take the time to explain them.

You're going to spend a lot of time with this person whether you are buying or selling, so be sure the agent you choose is someone you trust and with whom you are comfortabe. Choosing a great agent can be the difference between a positive experience and a negative one.

Danielle Moser is a Reisterstown resident and can be reached at threepeasconsignments@gmail.com.

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