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Coming out of high school and college, renting sounds like an immutable fact of life for many people. But one day, maybe next year, maybe 10 years from now, you may be ready to buy a property. And then, sometime down the line, you’ll probably be ready to sell that property! When those days come, you’re going to need help. Sound like something they missed teaching you about in school? Don’t worry, there’s no time to learn like the present! Let’s talk about finding, evaluating, and choosing a real estate broker.

Do you need a real estate broker to buy property?

Do you need a real estate agent? No. Do most people use one? Yes. The good thing about buying rather than selling is the seller typically pays the broker’s fee, making it no more expensive to buy with a broker than without. A broker will also simplify the process for you, helping you track down the right property, negotiate the price, and handle the closing procedures [1].

Real estate agent vs broker

Yes, there is a difference! While the terms “Realtor”, “real estate agent” and “broker” are often used interchangeably, they each represent a different level of qualification in the world of real estate. Agents are qualified to help buy and sell properties; however, they must work for a broker or brokerage firm. Brokers have additional training, granting them higher qualifications compared to agents. At the top of the real estate hierarchy, sit Realtors, licensed members of the National Association of Realtors. Realtors are obliged to abide by the NAR’s Code of Ethics [2].

Types of real estate agents

There are two different labels attached to agents depending on which side of the transaction they’re supporting. It’s important to note that they are not mutually exclusive – an agent can sit on the buying or selling end of the table in any given situation, just not both sides at the same time [2].

Listing agent

The listing agent is the agent acting on behalf of the seller. A real estate agent in this role is responsible for helping the seller determine the price, suggesting renovations that can increase property value, and generally assisting with the marketing process. The listing agent will also negotiate on behalf of the seller and help guide the closing process [2].

Buyer's agent

At the other end of the table sits the buyer’s agent – the agent who acts on behalf of the buyer. The buyer’s agent helps with the search process, finding properties that fit the needs and price range of the buyer. They also arrange home inspections and appraisals for properties the buyer is interested in and aid in the negotiation and closing process [2].

Types of brokers

Brokers act on behalf of buyers and sellers in the same way that agents do, however with greater credentials come several tiers of expertise.

Designated broker

Just like every business has a boss, every real estate office has a designated broker. The designated broker is the highest tier of broker and supervises agents to ensure they are all in compliance with the law [2].

Managing broker

The next tier down is the managing broker. Managing brokers oversee daily operations at the office and help manage the completion of transactions. These brokers are also typically responsible for hiring, training and generally managing staff [2].

Associate broker

Associate brokers have their brokerage licenses but work under other brokers [2].

How to find a real estate agent

Now you’re familiar with every kind of agent, broker and Realtor you might encounter, it’s time to get down to finding one. Oftentimes you won’t have to look far! You’ve probably seen signs for agencies or individual brokers outside of properties for sale. Most brokers will list contact information on those signs, which you might be able to use to get your first lead. You can also search on local or regional estate association websites and in local publications like magazines [3].

Questions to ask a real estate agent

Once you’ve found an agent or broker, it’s time to put them through a vetting process. You might not feel completely comfortable with the idea of asking questions about things like experience and track record, but it’s important to remember your agent is likely expecting them. Trust is important in buying and selling property, so start building it at the beginning of the process [3].

How long have you been a real estate agent?

Experience is a good place to start. You’ll want to know you’re in good hands, so don’t be afraid to make sure they’ve been around the block before. You’re doing business with this person for their expertise, after all.

What areas do you specialize in?

Just because a real estate agent operates in your town doesn’t mean they’ve worked in the area you’re looking to move to. Different neighborhoods may have different property values, crime rates, access to public goods, etc. Make sure you’re talking to someone who knows the area you’re searching in.

Will you also represent the seller and buyer?

You need to know where their interests lie! If your agent is representing both sides of the deal, then you might need to be concerned about a conflict of interest. The real estate agent you use should be on your team one hundred percent of the way. You might also want to be wary of agents managing many clients, since this might make them harder to reach and less likely to prioritize you [4].

Negotiating with a real estate agent

Remember, your business is worth fighting for. Negotiating is your right in any business deal and that includes choosing a real estate broker. If they can’t make a strong case for their services, then find someone else who can. This person will be guiding you through a very expensive and immensely important transaction, it’s crucial they’re right for the job. Discover tips for negotiating realtor commission.

Once you’ve found an agent, picked the perfect property and signed the dotted line on your new home, you’ll have one more step to take. Home buying can be an exhausting process you certainly don’t want to go through often, so after you’ve got your dream home, make sure it’s protected for the long run! Get a free homeowners insurance quote online or by calling 1-888-869-5727 and learn how the right policy can help you protect the things that matter most.

[1] "Can you buy a house without a Realtor?” Sarah Li Cain, www.bankrate.com (Accessed August 7, 2022).

[2] “The Differences Between a Real Estate Agent vs. a Broker vs. a Realtor,” Troy Segal, www.investopedia.com (Accessed August 7, 2022).

[3] “How to Find a Real Estate Agent,” David Thorsby, https://realestate.usnews.com (Accessed August 8, 2022).

[4] “10 Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent Before the Pro Helps You Buy a Home,” Daniel Bortz, www.realtor.com (Accessed August 8, 2022).

The information included in this publication was developed or obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Nationwide Insurance its related entities and employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with the information provided. This publication is for informational purposes only, does not provide a substitute for engaging professional financial advice or legal counsel, and does not constitute professional financial or legal advice. It is the user’s responsibility to confirm compliance with any applicable local, state, or federal regulations.