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How to Choose an Agent: Top 3 Criteria and Why They Matter

5 min read
Porter Farthing
Head of Operations

Studies have shown that some 70% of home buyers and sellers hire the first real estate agent they meet.  It’s incredible that the real estate industry, where relationships are so important, has survived and progressed to this point on seemingly random connections.  As a broker, I’ve seen first hand how matching with the right agent can positively impact the outcome of a home sale, and the comfort it brought the client.  Choosing the right agent up front matters. Let's explore the top 3 criteria to consider before making that decision.

What to look for in an agent

1. Experience

Experience doesn’t simply mean how many homes an agent has sold.  Sales volume is one way to distinguish between agents, but simply using the number of transactions may be completely irrelevant to your needs.  When I say experience is #1 on this list, I mean relevant experience.  Let me give you an example: Jim has been transferred to Sacramento, will be working downtown, and would really like to ride his bike to work. Which of the following agents would be a better fit: 

Agent A: Has seen every home for sale in Sacramento neighborhoods surrounding downtown, Midtown and Curtis Park, and lives nearby.  He is an avid biker, has 5 years of experience and has sold 10 homes nearby in the last year. 

Agent B: Has sold 50 homes across greater Sacramento in the last year.  Manages two entry level agents, is very busy with his current listings, and has 20 years experience.  He lives in a Sacramento suburb with his wife and kids and likes to go hiking.  

It should not be a mystery that agent A might be a better fit for Jim, even though his overall sales volume is lower.  Agent A will be able to have detailed conversations about bike routes and can quickly share details of any home that Jim sees online.  Agent A knows the neighborhoods near downtown intimately, down to the best streets and blocks, public transit routes for non-bike days, and more.  These attributes will have Jim feeling much more comfortable accepting agent A’s advice.  Too many times buyers and sellers are wowed by a long transaction list when focusing on experience they can relate to makes much more sense. 

2. Local knowledge

Hiring an agent with hyper local knowledge is absolutely crucial to any real estate transaction.  It’s essential to give you confidence that you’re making the right home purchase and to avoid regret after closing. Local knowledge means more than being able to share the average price per square foot on neighborhood home sales, which with current technology you as a buyer can find on your own. Local knowledge means curating a match between your lifestyle and the place you want to live. Is there a neighborhood path that cuts down the walk to your must-have coffee fix? Did an agent's children attend the local school? Is there a family (or college!) block party down the street every week in the summer?   

Being confident in, and comfortable with, the answer to these types of questions depends on your agent’s familiarity with the immediate area surrounding your future house. Incomplete or mis-information could really cost you.  

3. Personality

Personality and the ability to get along with an agent often gets overlooked.  Worse, I’ve seen situations where clients knew they didn’t identify personally with their agent, but didn’t think it mattered until avoidable stress piled up.  Taking the time to become familiar with an agent's background and who they are in their spare time can really impact your experience buying or selling property.  Over the life of a home search or sale, chances are things could get messy.  Your loan could fall through, you could find out the foundation needs work, or you could write 5 great offers and none get accepted.  Being able to level with your agent and be comfortable having a difficult conversation will do wonders for your piece of mind during the process of buying or selling.  Being able to connect on a human level is crucial.  

How to apply these criteria to an agent search

Trusty was created to facilitate positive connections for agents with buyers and sellers. You will notice as you search that some agents appear repeatedly in neighborhoods you are interested in, which can help check the relevant experience box. It will be easy and well worth your time to check an agent's accuracy score, or ask a specific local question to see if an agent truly knows the neighborhood.   

Finally, take a few extra minutes to review an agent’s profile, and read their top reviews.  Note how they communicate and their interests, and be sure you can relate.  Knowing the agent’s relevant experience, local knowledge and personality will not only increase your chance of success, but will also create a more positive experience.  Still undecided or want more opinions? Trusty lets you interact with multiple agents before you make a decision, so you can ask a few locals and compare. Choosing an agent is an important decision. You’ll be glad you put in the effort up front.  

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