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Choosing the Right Realtor

When you're getting ready to buy or sell a home, there are a lot of things to think about.

Location? Budget? How many bedrooms and bathrooms?

More importantly though, it also is the beginning of a new chapter in a family's life, and can be joyous, overwhelming, and a bit scary – all at the same time.

One of the elements that can cause the most anxiety is picking the right person to help you through the process. After all, buyers will be spending a lot of time with them, and a realtor will be helping them through one of the biggest decisions of their life. Sellers will be entrusting the sale of arguably the most prized possession and hope to net the most amount of money, with the fewest hassles, in the least amount of time.

According the National Association of Realtors, 87 percent of buyers and 92 percent of sellers bought or sold their house through a real estate agent or broker.

There are so many realtors to choose from, how can you possibly decide?

Different home buying websites – like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com – are great places to start to become familiar with the realtors in the areas that you're looking to buy or sell in. The sites offer sales and listing history, biographies, and reviews for the realtors. This information may be helpful in educating yourself on who is available to assist you in your marketplace.

Visiting open houses as you're getting ready to enter the market as a buyer or seller (or both!) is a noncommittal way to meet realtors in person. Their personality, style, and general knowledge about the market will become clear while you're touring the home.

A great indicator of how well they'll follow up and follow through is what happens after the open house. Do they give you a call, email, or text to see how they can further assist you or if you have additional questions about the home that you've visited?

Many find that this behavior is indicative of what they will experience when they hire the agent for themselves. As a seller, you'd want a realtor to be working to follow up with any potential buyer of your home. As a buyer, you'd want a realtor to get back to you to see if this is the house that you'd like to buy, or make themselves available to show you others in the market that might be a better fit.

The National Association of Realtors latest profile of buyers and sellers indicates that we should talk to people we know to get their agent suggestions. In fact, 40 percent of buyers found their agent through the referral of a friend, family member, or neighbor, and another 12 percent used an agent that they had used before. On the seller side, 38 percent found their agent through referrals.

Word of mouth is a great way to hear about other people's experiences with local agents.

Understandably, there are different specialties or niches that an agent may focus on, structures of how agents manage their business, and experience level to consider.

Someone who has a tremendous amount of success in short sales or foreclosed properties may be a better fit for someone who is looking to buy or sell in that situation, for example.

Are you looking for a single agent that manages all aspects of their business, both the buying and selling side, as well as the administrative elements? Or are you looking for more of a team approach where the structure has different people for those different aspects of the home buying process?

Are you looking for someone with a large inventory of buyers and sellers who is very well-known in the area because of this volume, or maybe someone with not as much inventory of clients that allows them to give more individualized attention?

Clearly these are all things to consider, and the good news is that when getting into the market, you have many realtors to choose from to ensure that you get the perfect fit for you and your situation.

No matter how you identify the agents that might be a good fit for you, do take the opportunity to interview them one-on-one to understand the style and approach they use to assist their clients in the sale and/or purchase of their home. Having an idea of what to expect can make the process that much more enjoyable all the way to the closing table.