Some tips for picking a real estate agent

Nailing it Down
By Dave Murnen
And Pat Beaty

Buying a home may be the biggest and scariest deal you will ever make. We’ve tried to help by devoting the last few columns to preparing yourself to buy. Now that you feel you are ready there is still a long way to go. You now have to find a house that suits you (and hopefully will be a good investment for you.)
One of the best resources to help you in your hunt and ultimate purchase of a new home may be a real estate agent.
But, how do you know which one to work with? How do you find a good real estate agent? Which one is right for you?

The tried-and-true method
Probably the first -- and best -- way to find an agent who can help you is by talking to your friends, relatives and co-workers who have purchased a home recently.
Yes, good ‘ole “word of mouth” often proves to be the most efficient way of learning who is a helpful, knowledgeable and reliable person to work with.
If your friends were happy with their agent, get the agent’s name and number. Now, it’s possible he or she may not work in the area you’re hoping to buy in, but likely the agent could at least recommend someone reliable and trustworthy who does.

Other ways to track down an agent
Perhaps you don’t know anyone who has recently used the services of a real estate agent. There are plenty of other tools to help you find someone you can work well with .
One easy tool is to simply drive through the area you’re hoping to live in and look at “for sale” signs. Make a note of which agencies and agents seem most active there. An agent or agency that has knowledge of a specific area can be a great asset to you as you search.
Attend open houses. Often open on weekends, an open house can be a great opportunity not only to take a look at a house you may be interested in buying, but also to “feel out” real estate agents and see if you find someone you “click” with.
Don’t forget the old standby, the yellow pages. Look up various real estate agencies. Ask if they’ve done substantial work in the area you are looking in. If you’re a first time buyer, see if they specialize in helping folks who have never bought a home before. Some agents are especially good in that aspect.

Interviewing agents
Once you have gathered a list of prospective agents, meet with each one in person.
Interview them and assess their knowledge, their eagerness to help and whether you seem to communicate well with them.
Although you’ll have specifics you’re looking for in a home, there are also intangibles. What does appealing mean to you? Airy? Exciting? These are things you will want ‘your’ real estate agent to understand.
Other specific questions are important to ask during this interview. Find out if the agent is a member of the National Association of Realtors (membership can indicate professionalism and integrity.)
To help determine their knowledge in an area, ask the candidates what the average home sale price is in the area you want to buy in. Ask about advantages and disadvantages of living in that area.
See what they know about various financing programs and whether they can recommend a good mortgage broker, property inspector or title company.
Ask each agent you talk to if they could give you a couple names and phone numbers of home buyers they have worked with lately.
Then, once you’ve narrowed down your list of agents you feel you can work with, as we stated in earlier articles, check those references.
After you have found an agent who meets your criteria, make an agreement – either oral or written – to establish the relationship and start hunting for your new home.
This can be the most exciting part of home purchasing but by no means is it the end of the process. Next week we will discuss some of the other people who come into play after you have found your dream home.

Dave Murnen is the construction department manager and Pat Beaty is a construction specialist at Aberdeen Neighborhood Housing Services, a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County. Do you have questions about home repair, remodeling or becoming a homeowner or a member of our contractor pool? Call 533-7828 or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.

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