This post is part of our women homebuyer series
Although women are more likely to own a home than they were three decades ago, they still face challenges during the homebuying process. That’s why it’s in your best interest to choose an experienced real estate agent who listens to and understands your needs.
What does a real estate agent do?
First things first. Before finding an agent, you should have a solid understanding of their role during the homebuying process. Buying a home usually requires dozens of forms, reports, disclosures, and other technical documents. A knowledgeable expert will help you prepare the best deal and avoid delays or costly mistakes. Also, there’s a lot of jargon involved, so you want to work with a professional who can speak the language.
A real estate agent can provide local information on utilities, zoning, schools, and more. They also have objective information about each property. An agent can use that data to help you determine if the property has what you need. By understanding both your needs and search area, they can also point out neighborhoods you don’t know much about but may be a better fit.
A good agent will perform the following tasks:
- Meet with you to discuss your needs and goals and to plan your property search
- Help you get pre-approved and establish your budget
- Show you properties that meet your criteria
- Keep you informed of new properties that come on the market
- Work with you until you find the right home
- Help you determine your offer
- Negotiate the offer and contract in your best interests
- Facilitate the home inspection and resolution process
- Prepare you for closing and the associated costs
- Keep you updated on the progress of your transaction every step of the way
Where to find a real estate agent
Once you have a solid understanding of their role and responsibilities, you’re ready to begin your search for a real estate agent. The Association of Real Estate License Law Officials estimates that there are over 3 million active real estate licensees in the U.S., which means you’ll most likely have dozens of options to choose from in your area. So, where do you start? Asking friends and family, searching Google, or using an online directory are three reliable resources to find an agent that understands your unique needs as a first-time woman buyer.
Word of Mouth
Getting recommendations from people you trust can be a good way to whittle down your real estate agent options. In fact, nearly half of buyers use an agent that was referred to them by a friend, neighbor, or relative. By hearing first-hand accounts, you’ll have better insight into an agent’s business philosophy, communication style, and the client experience they provide.
Thanks to Google Search and Google Maps, you can easily find agents who service your target neighborhoods. Google profiles also provide a quick snapshot of agents, allowing you to easily scan reviews, social media accounts, updates, and even other nearby real estate agents. Google profiles also make it easy to contact agents through the Call Now button.
Zillow Agent Finder
Of the available online directories, Zillow Agent Finder is one of the most comprehensive. Zillow’s directory connects you with local professionals through its search function and detailed agent profiles. Unlike Google, Zillow profiles show an agent’s service areas as well as a history of their listings and sales. This feature gives you an idea of the types of homes an agent is familiar with, including prices, size, and location.
Conducting the agent interview
The agent interview may be one of the most important steps. It’s your chance to get to know your potential agent and determine if they’re a good fit for how you operate. According to the National Association of Realtors, 73% of buyers interviewed only one real estate agent during their home search. We recommend interviewing 2 to 3, so you can compare approaches and experience. Remember, as a female buyer, you need a strong advocate who is attentive to your needs.
Here are some critical questions to ask when choosing a real estate agent1:
How long have you been in residential real estate? Is it your full-time job?
Like most professions, experience is no guarantee of skill. But much of real estate is learned on the job.
Do you have any designations or certifications?
Real estate professionals have to take additional specialized training in order to obtain these distinctions. Designations and certifications help define the special skills that an agent can apply to your particular real estate needs. One designation buyers should look for is the ABR®, or Accredited Buyer’s Representative.
What’s your business philosophy?
While there’s no right answer to this question, the response will help you assess what’s important to the agent and determine how closely the agent’s goals and business emphasis mesh with your own.
Are you aware of the unique challenges that women buyers face?
A good agent should understand the potential challenges you may face during the homebuying process. For example, single women tend to have lower credit scores, which affect their buying power. Also, some of the social perceptions of and biases against women may affect negotiations. These issues may be compounded for women of color. As a result of this imbalance, agents representing women should arm themselves with more information and be better negotiators to achieve desired results.
How many buyers did you and your real estate brokerage represent last year?
This will tell you how much experience they have and how up-to-date they are on the local market.
What’s the average variation between your initial offers and final sales price?
This is one indication of an agent’s pricing and negotiating skills. There are many factors up for discussion in a deal. A real estate agent will look at every angle from your perspective, including crafting a purchase agreement that allows enough time for you to complete inspections and investigations of the property before you are bound to complete the purchase.
Will you represent me exclusively, or might you choose to represent the seller as well?
While it’s usually legal to represent both parties in a transaction, your agent should be able to explain his or her philosophy on client obligations and agency relationships.
Can you recommend service providers who can help me obtain a mortgage, make home repairs, and so on?
Practitioners should be able to recommend more than one provider and let you know if they have any special relationship with any of the providers.
How will you keep me informed about the progress of my transaction?
The best answer here is a question. A real estate agent who pays close attention to the way you prefer to communicate and responds accordingly will make for the smoothest transaction.
Could you please give me the contact information of your three most recent clients?
Ask their former customers if they would use the agent again in the future.
A home is so much more than four walls and a roof. And for many women, property represents the biggest purchase they’ll ever make. Having a concerned, but objective, real estate agent will help you stay focused on what matters most to you.
1- National Association of Realtors Buyer Guidebook