What You Should Expect From a Real Estate Agent

handing over the keys to a new...
ZillowA great agent will educate you about the market so that you know what to expect and suggest a bidding strategy.
By AJ Smith

Nearly 90% of all homebuyers use the services of a property expert for help. To get through this exciting yet potentially stressful process of homebuying, it is important to evaluate if you need a real estate agent and what type of agent to use. While the Internet is a great place to begin preliminary research, agents can be a great source for finding the right property, identifying the best deal and ensuring that the home you want becomes yours smoothly.

The Search: Once you've determined how much house you can afford, the first step in homebuying is identifying the criteria for your new space -- what area you want to be in, how much space you want, if you need privacy and so on. This can include having a must-have list, nice-to-have list and a wish list. It's a good idea to discuss these issues before going on home views so that the agent can look into their databases for appropriate homes, saving the time of looking at homes without the key aspects you need. When you are on home viewings, agents are evaluating your reaction of what you don't like and finding out what exactly doesn't work. While you are looking at homes you think are a better fit, agents are also figuring out what works and why.

Negotiation: Once the search is over and you have found a home you are happy with, the agent submits purchase offers. A great agent will educate you about the market so that you know what to expect and suggest a bidding strategy based on the circumstances and the seller. The agent will then maintain contact with the seller and negotiate the best possible deal for you, the buyer.

The Closing: Another important aspect that real estate agents provide is arranging the closing. An agent drafts and reviews your offer letter and works with you on a property sale agreement to ensure the terms are favorable and do not put you at legal or financial risk. Agents may also be useful in finding home inspectors, mortgage brokers, and attorneys to further the closing process and help you get to the next step.

To find the best agent for you, it's a good idea to evaluate a prospective agent's personality, experience and certification. Some questions you might want to ask include which locations they work in most, what is the average home price they have worked on, what percentage of their work is with first-time buyers, how many transactions they successfully closed in the last year, what percentage of their business is homebuyers as opposed to sellers, and what type of home they specialize in. Be sure you are comfortable around them and that you trust their abilities with this big personal and financial decision!

Before you star the homebuying process, make sure to check your credit scores so you can fix any credit report errors and qualify for the best interest rate possible. You can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com, plus get a personalized action plan for improving your credit. You may also want to pull copies of your credit reports (you can get free copies once a year).
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