Buying Your Home - Working With A Real Estate Agent

How do I find a real estate agent?
Getting a recommendation from a friend, family member or work colleague is an excellent way to find a real estate agent. Be sure to ask them if they would use the agent again. You can also call the managers of reputable real estate firms and ask them for recommendations of agents who have worked in your neighborhood, and look online at sites such as Zillow to read agent reviews from their clients, along with additional details about those agents including experience, areas of expertise and other professional information.
In any case, whether you are a buyer or seller, you should interview at least 3 agents to give yourself a choice. A good agent typically works full-time and has several years of experience. If you are a seller, you should expect to review a comparative market analysis, which includes recent home sales in your areas, when you talk to a prospective agent.
How do you find a good agent?
Again, a recommendation from a friend, family member or work colleague is a great way to find a good real estate agent. If you are a buyer, you don't usually pay for your agent's services (in the form of a commission, or a percentage of the sales price of the home). All agents in a transaction are usually paid by the seller from the sales proceeds. In many states, this means that your agent legally is acting as a subagent of the seller. But in some states (such as California, for example), it's legal for an agent to represent the buyers exclusively in the transaction and be paid a commission by the sellers. You can also hire and pay for your own agent, known as buyer's brokers, whose legal obligation is exclusively to you. If you are a seller, you should interview at least 3 agents, all of whom should make a sales presentation including a comparative market analysis of local home sales in your area. The best choice isn't always the agent with the highest suggested listing price for your home. Be sure to evaluate all aspects of the agent's marketing plan and consider how well you think you can work with the individual. 
Can I use an agent for a new home?
Yes, however buyers should be aware of the difference inherent in working with sales agents who are employed by the developer, rather than traditional real estate agents. Builders commonly require that an outside agent be present, and sign in, the first time a prospective purchaser visits a site before payment of commission even is discussed. At times when buyers use an advertisement to find the development themselves first, the builder can refuse to pay any commission regardless of how helpful an agent may have become later in the process. It is advisable to call the development first and inquire about their policy on compensating real estate agents if you are using one.
What about a buyer's agent?
In many states, it's now common for an agent to represent the buyers exclusively in the transaction and be paid a commission by the sellers. More and more buyers are going a step further, hiring and paying for their own agent, referred to as buyers brokers.
How much does my real estate agent need to know?
Real estate agents would say that the more you tell them, the better they can negotiate on your behalf. However, the degree of trust you have with an agent may depend on their legal obligation.  Agents working with buyers have three possible choices: they can represent the buyer exclusively, called single agency, or represent the seller exclusively, called sub-agency, or represent both the buyer and seller in a dual-agency situation. Some states require agents to disclose all possible agency relationships before they enter into a real estate transaction.
Here is a summary of the three basic types of relationships you can have with an agent:
  • In a traditional relationship, real estate agents and brokers have a fiduciary relationship to the seller. Be aware that the seller pays the commission of both brokers, not just the one who lists and shows the property, but also to the buyer's broker, who brings the ready, willing and able buyer to the table.
  • Dual agency exists if the same agent represents both the buyer and seller, or if two agents working for the same broker represent the buyer and seller in a transaction. a potential conflict of interest is created if the listing agent has advance knowledge of another buyer's offer. Therefore, the law states that a dual agent shall not disclose to the buyer that the seller will accept less than the list price, or disclose to the seller that the buyer will pay more than the offer price, without express written permission.
  • A buyer can also hire his or her own agent who will represent the buyer's interests exclusively. A buyer's agent usually must be paid out of the buyer's own pocket but the buyer can trust them with their financial information, knowing that it will not be transmitted to the other broker and ultimately to the seller.
Where can I get information on buyer agents?
For information on buyer agents, contact your area's Realtor association or the National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents:  320 West Sabal Palm Place, Suite 150, Longwood, FL 32779. Phone: (407) 767-7700, Toll-Free (800) 986-2322 or online at