How to Choose a Real Estate Agent in Chicago
Let's face it: a real estate transaction is one of the biggest purchases that you will make in your life. As you can imagine, finding the right real estate agent is essential to making sure that you invest in a property that is going to serve you for years to come. Prospective buyers should seek the guidance of real estate professionals before moving forward with their purchase, but how can they be sure that they are hiring an experienced agent with extensive market knowledge?
Approximately 89% of homeowners use a real estate agent for assistance in the home-buying process. But how do you choose a real estate brokerage to work for you? At 33 Realty, we are proud to employ some of the best agents who know the ins and outs of the local real estate market. Our Chicago brokerage firm can help you find the best real estate agent for your needs!
What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?
Before you start looking for a potential real estate agent, it's important that you fully understand what this person will help you achieve. These agents will assist you in the buying and selling process, helping you understand the entire process. They will also be able to assist you with other essential professionals to help you in this journey such as real estate attorneys and home inspectors. The particular agent will have a title based on who they are representing in the transaction:
- A buyer's agent helps to locate homes on behalf of their buyers, making offers and negotiating with sellers along the way.
- A listing agent helps sellers price, list, and market their homes, negotiating with other agents that are representing buyers.
In some cases, the agent represents both the buyer and the seller in the transaction, but typically, there are multiple agents involved.
What Is a Brokerage Firm?
During the home sale process, you will also hear of the term "brokerage firm." This refers to a sponsoring broker-owner who holds an employing broker's license. This means that this person has extensive experience and has undergone additional tests and coursework to prove that they are knowledgeable in the laws and practices of real estate. Many are part of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Those who own a brokerage firm hire other real estate agents to assist them with their sales and act as a guide for those who might be starting out their careers in real estate. In addition, it's common for brokerages to have errors and omissions (E&O) insurance to protect themselves and other agents within the brokerage in the case that a client decides to pursue a lawsuit.
Difference Between a Real Estate Agent, Broker, and Realtor
If you're a serious buyer looking into hiring your first agent, you might have questions about the differences between different real estate roles. Here are some definitions to help you keep things straight:
- Real estate broker: Those who get their real estate broker license must meet strict state requirements that typically require a significant amount of educational hours. There are also strict tests that brokers must pass before they're able to get this title. In some cases, brokers also work as buyer's agents and listing agents in addition to taking on the responsibilities of managing the firm.
- Real estate agent: Although agents must also meet education requirements and pass a test, they are not able to operate without the supervision of a broker who is above them.
- Realtor: Realtors are licensed by the National Association of Realtors. In order to become a realtor (as opposed to an agent or broker), these professionals need to follow a strict code of ethics, fill out an application, and complete a NAR orientation course.
How to Find a Real Estate Agent?
How to find a real estate professional is easier than you may think. A quick Google search will show pages of real estate agents in your area, but make sure to do your research before you choose one.
Your real estate agent will play an incredibly important role in curating your home-buying experience, so you'll want to pick someone who isn't only qualified, but someone you naturally gel with. Don't be afraid to create a list of requirements such as your budget, ideal neighborhood, and timeline so you have baseline qualifications.
One popular option is to find a real estate agent through word of mouth of someone that you trust. If you know someone who has recently purchased or sold a home, gather their realtor recommendations. Of course, you can also use a friend or a family member if they happen to be real estate agents as well. Make sure they are licensed real estate agents in the state that you're looking to purchase.
We've outlined some helpful options to help you secure the perfect real estate agent for your needs!
1. Use Your Personal Network
Don't be afraid to tap into your personal or social media connections to find a realtor who you can trust. Approximately 40% of home sellers find their real estate agents through their personal network. If you receive a personal realtor recommendation from someone you know, don't be afraid to ask them questions or do a little extra digging on your own to browse through their certifications and accolades. Never rush into the process of choosing a realtor, it is a huge decision!
2. Do Online Research and Check Reviews
If you get a lead on a potential realtor for your upcoming purchase, don't be afraid to look into his or her online presence. Check out their website, social media platforms, and their consumer ratings to get insight into what it is like working with them. You can also search through listings in your current area to see which realtors or companies are consistently on the listings.
3. Use Official Referral Sources
Why not use referral sources from the city in which you're looking to buy? Look to your local chamber of commerce to help find potential realtors as well. National Association of Realtors (NAR members) are active in their local communities and often appear through the association's “Find a Realtor'' form. You can also reach out to local or national real estate brokerage companies that have built a sound reputation.
4. Get Advantage from Referral Agent
Another way to find a realtor is to use a real estate referral agent. This is a particularly appealing route for those who are looking for properties out of state and don't have the connections in place to secure the right property.
You can use a referral agent, or a local agent that you already know and trust, to connect you with another trusted agent. This helps increase the chances of success for the upcoming transaction, but know that the local agent will also receive a cut of the sale.
5. Meet with Multiple Realtors
Before you buy your dream house, it's important to look into at least three agents to see how they compare to one another. Finding the right agent isn't always as easy as it seems; you'll want to make sure that the agent's online presence and overall personality are what you are looking for and that you feel comfortable around him or her. Don't settle for hiring someone who isn't the best match for your needs.
6. Watch for Red Flags
It can take time to find the perfect property for you and you never want to feel as though you are rushing into something that doesn't check all of your boxes. In some cases, a first-time buyer might not know if an agent is being dishonest or showing any red flags in their communication style that should be noted.
Home buyers should also be aware that the top agents will never be pushy for a particular property. There is a fine line between educating clients on best practices and being pushy and demanding about particular properties. Good agents will never show signs of dishonesty or impatience as they should have your best interests at the forefront of their minds. If the agent shows red flags such as a lack of integrity of a lack of professionalism, don't hesitate to find another good agent in the area.
Even if you notice some red flags in your realtor, that doesn't mean that they aren't a good agent. It just means that they are not a good agent for you. Remember that there is a strict code of ethics that must be followed and binds these professionals to integrity and professionalism. Don't hesitate to look for someone new.
7. Interview Agents
Before you give your listing agreement to the first realtor that you speak with, you'll want to ask some basic questions to give you an example of what it is like to work with this person. Oftentimes, there are online reviews that past clients have left, allowing you to gain insights that can help you make your decision. It's also important that you hire someone who understands the market in which you're buying and has experience with the particular target price range that you're looking at.
8. Sign a Buyer-Broker Agreement
The buyer-broker agreement is a helpful tool, especially for those who haven't purchased real estate in the past. It can provide an extra layer of protection for the agent and the buyer. Essentially, it establishes an agreement between the two that outlines the responsibilities and scope of the agent. It also gives the buyer the opportunity to switch agents if needed while outlining the other details of the buyer-agent relationship. Other details include the fees, commissions, and a general timeline for the transaction.
Even though this document isn't required, it helps to ensure a higher level of commitment from the buyer's agent and makes sure that there are no surprises when it comes to contract negotiations and other details.
What to Ask When Selecting a Real Estate Broker?
Choosing the right real estate broker is an important decision; after all, selling or buying a home will be one of the largest financial transactions during your life. Thankfully, you can put together a list of helpful questions when you're looking for a broker that will guide you in the right direction. If you aren't sure where to begin, we recommend considering the following to narrow down your options.
Real estate is an example of an industry in which experience is incredibly important. Experience doesn't necessarily mean the amount of time that a broker is in business, rather, it is a reflection of how well each broker knows your desired market. This insider knowledge is incredibly important in either selling your home quickly or securing your next home that much faster.
Some homes may be easier to sell for select brokers than others. If you have a broker in mind, ask them about similar properties that have sold in your area in the past 3-6 months. You can also ask them how long each property stayed on the market, what their listing prices were, and what they sold for.
Listing your home at the right price is key as well. Price it too high and it could sit for weeks and months. Price it too low and you're missing out on money. Make sure your broker has the data to back up their decisions and helps you understand every step of the process.
Establishing a marketing plan is another important step in selling or buying a home. Consider whether or not your broker has a creative side to them that will help showcase your home in new ways. Ideas may include social media, blogs, or invitation-only events during which your home is showcased. Digital marketing isn't an option for select brokers, however, it is an absolute must to help spread the word about your property. As over 90% of buyers are searching for their next home online, it's important that you have professional photographs taken of your property, a cost that should be factored into the overall realtor's marketing budget. Rather than taking photos yourself, make sure you find a photographer who specializes in real estate imagery.
Make sure to inform your chosen broker your ideal communication methods to use during the process. Whether you want them to contact you via text, phone call, or email is completely up to you, just make sure to have a conversation about it at the beginning so you are on the same page.
Ideally, your broker will commit to a regular schedule of detailed, legal-related communication to keep things moving. You can also ask for detailed written reports every couple of weeks for a status update. At the very least, your realtor should be incredibly communicative and always be easy to reach. If you are constantly going to be playing phone tag or waiting for them to get back to your question, it's likely best to seek another realtor.
Standard commission for real estate brokers is 6%, an amount that is split between the listing agent and the buyer's agent. The first portion will pay out to the listing brokerage, allowing the agent to receive a cut anywhere between 60-90% of the commission. Note that the commission amount is never set in stone and there is always room to negotiate. You may ask to review the budget and establish the expenses that will come out from the broker's commission ahead of time.
The Presence of Connections
Determining how well-connected your real estate professional is can help determine whether or not they'll be a good fit. The more connected they are within their team and within the community at large, the better chances that your property will sell quickly. Experienced brokers will already have the right professionals in place to assist with other areas of the sale as well: real estate lawyers, moving companies, staging companies, and photographers are only some examples.
Don't be afraid to seek names of recent clients from your potential broker. Although you can always look up reviews online, reaching out to the clients directly to get a firsthand encounter of their experience can paint a clear picture of what it's like to work with a real estate agent.
33 REALTY CAN HELP You Find the Perfect Real Estate Agent!
If you're choosing a real estate brokerage firm in Chicago for your upcoming real estate transaction, 33 Realty is an excellent choice. In addition to assisting countless buyers with their residential real estate transactions, we also have extensive commercial experience. No team knows the Chicago real estate market better than ours. Contact us today for advice on your upcoming sale or purchase!