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How to Find the Best Agent When Buying a Home

When you're buying a home, you want a real estate agent who's plugged-in to the local community so you can be sure you see every home option when looking for homes -- and someone who's on your side when it comes to negotiating a deal.

1. Ask friends/family in your area if they have any referrals. Would they select the same agent again? What quality of service did they receive?

2. After you have a few names of real estate firms in the area where you're moving to, drive around and look for "sold" signs. A company selling homes suggests they have the tools needed to get the job done. That's good for you whether you're a seller or a buyer. 

3. Search online and read the real estate section in your local newspaper, looking for listings that are in your current homes' price range. This helps you find real estate firms that market homes online, as well as the volume of print advertising they dedicate to each client. This can also help you find an agent in your neighborhood -- and target those who are aggressively marketing homes for sale.

4. Attend an open house by an agent you're interested in. Were you shown the home in a professional manner? This is the agent you are considering for yourself -- how they represented the home you visited is a good sign of how they will represent you and your home. Do they know the key selling points?

Now choose the top candidates and interview them. (Or if you are moving to a new hometown, set up phone interviews.) Ask the following:

• How long have you worked in the area?

• Have long have you been licensed?

• How many sales have you closed in the last three months? How many homes have you sold in my neighborhood in the past  three months?

• Do you work full-time as a real estate professional?

• Can you give me names of three recent buyers you've represented?

• Are you a member of the National Association of Realtors? Are you a member of the local Association of Realtors?

• Have you earned any professional real estate designations?

• What professional courses or training sessions have you attended?

• Ask the agent about any homes they may have for sale that meet your criteria as well as any they know of that may not yet be on the market. This shows you that the agent takes their job seriously and will actively work with you, not just wait for it to appear on the market.

Suzanne Grace is a real estate agent in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

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