7 tips for choosing a real estate agent

Knowing the different kinds of real estate agents will help you make a wise hiring decision. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Chris L. of Indianapolis)

Knowing the different kinds of real estate agents will help you make a wise hiring decision. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Chris L. of Indianapolis)

If you're new to the home-buying or -selling process, you may not know there is more than one type of real estate agent available to you. Depending on your needs and situation, a particular kind of agent may be the best fit. Here's what to know:

Seller's agent

A seller's agent, or listing agent, works with the seller to sell the property, specializing in helping houses sell quickly and for as much money as possible. If you're the seller, this is the agent you'll work with directly. This real estate agent will help you price your home, market your property, open it for viewings by potential buyers and host open houses.

Buyer's agent

A buyer's agent works directly with buyers, helping them choose homes to look at, make offers, help negotiate price and close sales. The buyer handles weeding through all available properties to find what meets your needs.

Be aware that terminology can be confusing, because the buyer's agent will be called the "selling agent" in the closing documents, even though he or she represents the buyer.

Dual agent

A dual agent represents both the buyer and the seller in a single transaction. This is legally allowed in most areas if the buyer and seller consent. Be aware that employing a dual agent can create a conflict of interests, because the agent can't negotiate with himself or herself.

Independent agent

This kind of agent represents buyers or sellers independent of a brokerage firm. This may save you money, because an independent agent doesn't pay fees to a franchise company. Independent agents may belong to professional organizations that provide some of the networking benefits firm-connected brokers receive. Independent agents may appeal to buyers who want to see all available properties of a certain type, not just those listed by the franchise.

Real estate broker

A real estate broker works with a franchise or brokerage firm. In addition to representing the interests of the buyer or seller, a real estate broker represents the interests of the firm, and must the firm a fee for each sale. Real estate brokers offer the benefit of working with a nationally known brand that may attract more potential buyers or properties, and they may have more networking opportunities than an independent agent, making them popular with sellers.

Using one agent for two transactions

You can also choose to work with one agent to sell your existing home and buy the next one. This can be beneficial, because you will build a working relationship with just one professional, who will get to know you and your goals. This also may help you avoid timing issues, especially regarding closing dates or periods with overlapping mortgages. If you work with one agent for both transactions, be sure to choose one who does not specialize in either buying or selling, but is experienced with both.

What to do:

When choosing a real estate agent, be clear about your goals and what you're likely to pay in fees and commission and be sure the agent you hire is an experienced professional with good communication skills. Angie's List can help you find highly rated agents. Members have access to local consumer reviews on real estate agents and service providers in more than 550 other categories.

For more information, see the Angie's List Guide to Real Estate Agents.

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