When you’re ready to buy or sell a property, having a real estate agent to do the heavy lifting for you is a good idea. But how do you find an agent that’s right for you? You can begin by doing a simple online search for agents in your local real estate area, and then check out their company websites. Alternatively, you can ask friends and family for names of agents they’ve successfully worked with in the past.

Regardless of the path you take, you’ll find agents with unique strategies and personalities. Before you sign an agreement with an agent, make sure you take the time to ask them a few critical questions to determine if they’ll be a good match for your personality and whether they’ll be useful enough in helping you buy or sell your home.

Below are a number of tips on what to consider before hiring a real estate agent.


  1. Is he a REALTOR or a real estate agent?

REALTORS and real estate agents are both licensed to sell real estate, but a REALTOR voluntarily agrees to become a member of the National Association of REALTORS. To maintain their membership in this association, all agents must adhere to a strict code of ethics that are intended to protect both buyers and sellers in a transaction. REALTORS are also expected to have greater real estate expertise than their non-REALTOR counterparts, and to ensure that their clients receive the highest level of service.


  1. Work Experience.

Knowing how long the agent has been in the industry is also a good indicator of the type of service you’ll receive with an agent. There are certainly new agents who can provide sound advice and first-class customer service, but generally speaking, you want an agent who has experienced both the ups and downs of the realty market. If they can be successful even when the market has stagnated, it’s a good sign that the agent truly knows what they’re doing. Hiring someone new isn’t always a mistake, but make sure that you feel confident in the skills and experience of whoever you choose to hire.


  1. Working hours.

In addition to hiring someone with experience, you also want an agent that works full time in the business. There are many part-time agents out there, but it’s better to hire someone whose sole focus is on the real estate market. Working full time enables agents to be on top of the happenings in both the local and national markets, which is the kind of expertise you want your agent to have.


  1. Marketing strategies.

Ask the agent about their marketing strategies. If you’re selling your home, this is of particular importance. You want to make sure that your property gets exposed to buyers through traditional print advertising and online marketing. If you’re buying, you want to know what the agent’s plan is to get you a great price on the home you want to buy. If you’re selling your home, it’s imperative to find out how many houses the agent has sold in the last year, how many days the average property sat on the market for, and what the average difference there was between the listing price and the selling price. These figures will tell you a great deal about how effective your agent is at choosing the right price, marketing the home, and negotiating a deal.


  1. Their commission.

Many people ask agents about their commissions. Some agents are quite flexible with this number while others see it as a non-negotiable figure. Certainly if you can get a reduced fee with someone who meets all your needs, then do so, but don’t choose an agent simply because their commission is lower than the competition’s amount. You may end up hiring an agent with less know-how or negotiation skills, which could result in extra costs in the long run.

In addition to asking questions about a real estate agent’s skill set, it’s wise to interview past clients to see how fulfilled they were with the service they received. And above all, trust your instincts. If there’s no rapport, or you think an agent is talking down to you, move on to the next agent. The process of buying and selling a property can be an emotionally trying time, so you need someone you can trust, who has your very best interests in mind, and who supports you throughout the entire process.