Real estate agents are more than just witnesses to the purchase of your new home. The agent you choose will affect the options you see, the money you spend, and your success in negotiations.

Most people go with the first agent they meet, or a recommendation from a friend. It’s in your best interest to not take this decision lightly. A good agent means a good purchase process, plain and simple. The wrong one can result in buying the wrong thing at the wrong price, and a months long headache. So how do you pick the right real estate agent?

Here are some questions to ask a prospective agent before hiring them:

What experience do you have?

When interviewing an agent, ask how long they’ve worked the job. If they are new to the business, it doesn’t exclude them from doing great work, but it is cause to ask a lot more questions!

If you are speaking to a veteran agent, ask how many homes they sell per year. A record of closing many homes in any year is typically better than a record of closing very few. The 2018 average for closures is 12 per year. It’s wise to be skeptical of any yearly total that’s considerably less than that.

Further, make sure your agent has experience in your intended purchase market. An agent with 20 years of experience purchasing Colorado mountain homes may be ill-equipped for their first year on the Chicago lakefront. Be specific and detail-oriented to make sure an agent’s experience fits nicely with your needs. 

What’s the plan?

If the agent is experienced, they likely have a method for house hunting. Ask what their plan and timeline are. What are their first steps, what does success mean for them? Will they attend each showing with you, or will different employees of the firm accompany you at different points?

Do you have a specialty?

Looking for something specific? Maybe a certain neighborhood calls to you. Maybe you want a fixer-upper with good bones, or a place you can live and easily work from. Each agent has their own expertise.

Some agents are experts in certain states, cities, neighborhoods, etc. Some agents also spent hard time, energy, and money to earn certifications and accreditations. If you know exactly what you want, it’s worth trying to find an agent that can get it for you!

Who will I be primarily dealing with?

It’s good to know who your day-to-day contact will be. While the National Association of Realtors states that 87% of realtors are independent contractors, some of them have assistants or small staffs. Some agents also work as parts of larger firms. In any case, you’ll want to make assurances that your realtor will be available to speak when you need them!

What hours do you keep?

Many agents don’t work the job full-time. Whether your agent works part or full-time will influence the flow of your property search. While exceptions always exist, part-time agents may be occupied when you need them. If a speedy full-time search is what you’re looking for, make sure to discuss those priorities when vetting agents.

What’s included in your contract?

Buyer’s agents almost always require the signing of a contract at some point during service. In fact, it is required by law in some states. These contracts are not inherently bad for the buyer. In fact, they protect the buyer and the agent from issues that may arise in the working relationship. However, certain parts of the agreement are negotiable, like the term of the contract and any penalties that come from ending the agreement early. The structure of an agent’s contract may illuminate your compatibility before moving forward in a working relationship.

Got any references?

References can be a great way to verify an agent’s work history. Any agent worth their salt should be able to provide examples of a job well done, and reluctance to share information about past work is a red flag.

Why should I work with you?

Agents want your commission, so ask them to pitch themselves. Giving them the opportunity to set themselves apart from the pack will only help you as you build your team.