4 tips for finding the perfect real estate agent to help buy your first home

(Start with deciding what neighborhood you want to be in — many agents are experts in one area.Paul Sancya/AP)
So you’ve decided to buy a home — congratulations! The first step? Linking up with a real estate agent. Ideally, it’s someone who can get you a good deal on your dream home and make the process enjoyable.

“People want to find an agent or broker who’s honest and trustworthy, because it’s likely the largest purchase they’re going to make in their life,” Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research and communications at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), told Business Insider.

Below, Lautz shares four important tips for finding the perfect real estate agent.

1. Narrow down the neighborhood(s) you want to live in

Knowing what part of town you want to live in can help immensely with your agent search, and ultimately, your home search, Lautz says. The more specific you can be in what you’re looking for, the better chance you have of finding someone whose experience in a particular market aligns with your desires.

2. Ask friends or family for referrals

According to NAR’s 2016 Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers report, 42% of buyers used an agent referred to them by friends, neighbors, or relatives. For first-time buyers specifically, 52% relied on referrals.

Lautz says a referral from someone you trust can go a long way and eliminate time spent vetting someone on your own.

3. Figure out their level of experience

If you’re considering an agent who was referred to you, you can easily vet their experience and reputation by asking their previous client about the pros and cons of working with them. For first-time homebuyers, Lautz said, it’s a good idea to find someone who is willing to “show you the ropes,” since the homebuying process can be complicated and overwhelming at times.

An agent should also be thorough, she said. “Make sure there is someone with you who can see the big things — like, the kitchen is nice, but maybe the roof is leaking,” Lautz said. In other words, you want to make sure your agent is detailed and upstanding, not simply trying to close the deal or take advantage of your inexperience.

4. Determine whether they’re a realtor

Of course, you’ll want an agent who’s working in your best interest. “Many agents pride themselves on being community experts, posting on blogs and on social media,” Lautz said.

While that’s one way to assess their standing in the industry, she continued, the best way to determine whether an agent is on your side is to ask if they’re whether they belong to the National Association of Realtors, the largest group of real estate professionals in the country with more than 1.2 million members. Agents who belong to NAR have “realtor” status and are bound by a code of ethics, says Lautz.

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