Consumer Guide: Real Estate Agents

Real Estate Agents

Buying or selling a home can be a major life event, and working with a real estate agent can help make the process smoother and more efficient. However, not all real estate agents are created equal, and choosing the right one can make a big difference in your experience. In this guide, we’ll provide tips on what to look for and what to avoid when working with a real estate agent, so you can find a professional who understands your needs and can help you achieve your goals.

Real estate agents can offer a wide range of services, from helping you price and market your home to finding the perfect property to buy. They can also provide valuable insights into local housing markets and negotiating tactics that can help you get the best deal possible. However, not all agents have the same level of experience or expertise, and it’s important to do your homework before choosing one to work with. In the following sections, we’ll offer expert tips on what to look for when choosing a real estate agent and how to ensure you get the most out of your working relationship

Tips From the Experts: Key Factors to Consider When Working with a Real Estate Agent

Note: Any item listed with an asterisk (*) below is a NAOSA Gold Standard of Professional Practice™ and is required for NAOSA professional membership.  For more details, please visit the NAOSA Consumer Guides page.

Insist on the Fiduciary Standard*

A requirement of NAOSA membership, the fiduciary standard requires real estate agents to act in their clients' best interests and to prioritize their clients' needs above their own. This means that the agent must provide honest and transparent communication, disclose any conflicts of interest, and take all reasonable steps to protect their clients' financial interests. This also means not suggesting items such as pocket listings, undervaluing your home for a quick sale or using any tactic that favors the agent’s interest over your own.

Look for an agent with a solid reputation

Check online reviews, ask for references, and ask around to see if anyone you know has had a positive experience with a particular agent. A reputable agent is more likely to have your best interests in mind and be able to deliver results.

Make sure the agent is knowledgeable about your target market

The real estate market can vary significantly from one area to another, so it's important to find an agent who has experience working in your target market. An agent who is familiar with the local neighborhoods, schools, and housing trends can help you make informed decisions and avoid costly mistakes.

Ask the right questions or voice concerns

A good agent will take the time to answer your questions and address any concerns you may have throughout the buying or selling process. Don't be afraid to speak up if something doesn't feel right or if you need more information to make a decision.
The following is list of “smart interview questions” recommended by Zillow™. These are the most important questions to ask a real estate agent:

- What’s included in your services?
- Is your fee negotiable?
- What’s your experience in the neighborhood?
- What are your hours?
- How do you plan to market the home?
- Do you have references?
- Does this contract include a cancellation clause?

Avoid Pocket Listings or any Listing that Limits Public Exposure of Your Home*

A real estate pocket listing, also referred to as a quiet listing, agency exclusive listing or similar term, is a type of property listing that is not advertised publicly nor listed on a multiple listing service (MLS). Instead, the property is marketed and shown only to a select group of potential buyers or agents who are known to the listing agent or brokerage firm.

The reason to avoid pocket listings is that in just about every a pocket listing will result in a smaller pool of interested buyers due to the lack of exposure to the public. The majority of agents agree that this lack of exposure generally leads to a lower sale amount for your home. NAOSA members may only suggest a pocket listing if your primary goal is privacy or a “no-hassle” or quick sale, otherwise, experts agree to steer clear of this strategy.

Avoid lopsided commission agreements in favor of the listing agent *

Home sellers should be concerned if a listing agent suggests a lopsided contract where he/she is paid a significantly higher commission than the buying agent. This type of arrangement can create a conflict of interest that may not be in the seller's best interest.

Why? Because offering a lower commission to the buyer’s agent could result in fewer agents showing your home and therefore fewer potential buyers. Although, bound by ethics to the contrary, a lower commission structure is an unnecessary disincentive to a buyer’s agent to show your home over another with a higher commission.

Ultimately, it is in the best interest of a home seller to work with a real estate agent who is committed to representing their interests and is not motivated solely by commission payouts. Sellers should carefully review any commission agreements with their agent and consider the potential consequences of offering lopsided commission structures.

Be upfront about your needs and goals

Let your agent know what you're looking for in a property or in the sale of your home, as well as your budget and any other relevant factors. This will help your agent tailor their services to your needs and avoid wasting time on properties or offers that aren't a good fit.

Communicate clearly and regularly

Establish clear lines of communication with your agent and make sure you understand how they prefer to communicate (phone, email, text, etc.). Regular check-ins can help ensure you're on the same page and make adjustments as needed.

Are you a real estate professional?
We welcome your constructive input to assist in the protection of all consumers. Please contact us.

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The NAOSA Guarantee

NAOSA requires members to act in utmost good faith when working with clients. Members must agree to act in a fiduciary manner in a way that the member reasonably believes to be in the best interest of the client. In addition to compliance with all federal and state regulations, each professional member of the National Association of Senior Advocates must also follow and act in accordance with the NAOSA Consumer Guides published herein.  Members who are found not in compliance with these standards will be censured, with membership subject to revocation.


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