Tips for Choosing a Realtor

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What is a Realtor®?

As a prerequisite to selling real estate, a person must be licensed by the state in which they work, either as an agent/salesperson or as a broker. After receiving a real estate license, most agents go on to join their local board or association of Realtor and the National Association of Realtors, the world’s largest professional trade association. They can then call themselves “Realtors”.

The term “Realtor” is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics (which in many cases goes beyond state law). In most areas, it is the Realtor who shares information on the homes they are marketing, through a Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Working with a Realtor who belongs to an MLS will give you access to the greatest number of homes.


Using an agent and the obligations that are owed to you

An agent is bound by certain legal obligations. Traditionally, these common-law obligations are to:

  1. Put the client’s interests above anyone else’s
  2. Keep the client’s information confidential
  3. Obey the client’s lawful instructions
  4. Report to the client anything that would be useful
  5. Account to the client for any money involved.

NOTE: A Realtor is held to an even higher standard of conduct under the NAR’s Code of Ethics. In recent years, state laws have been passed setting up various duties for different types of agents. As you start working with a Realtor, ask for a clear explanation of your state’s current regulations, so that you will know where you stand on these important matters.


The difference between a buyer's agent and a seller's agent

If you’re dealing with a seller’s agent, he or she may be duty-bound to tell the seller that important fact. In most states, the seller’s agent doesn’t have any duty of confidentiality toward you. Honest treatment might require that the agent warn you that “I must convey to the seller anything that would be useful so don’t tell me anything you wouldn’t tell the seller.”

NOTE: If you’re dealing with seller’s agents, it’s a good idea to keep confidential information to yourself. These days many home buyers prefer instead to hire a buyer’s broker, one who owes the full range of duties, including confidentiality and obedience, to the buyer. A buyer’s broker is often paid by the seller, regardless of the agency relationship.


How to evaluate an agent

  1. Is the agent a Realtor®?
  2. Does the agent have an active real estate license in good standing? To find this information, you can check with your state’s governing agency.
  3. Does the agent belong to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and/or a reliable online homebuyer’s search service? Is real estate their full-time career?
  4. What real estate designations does the agent hold?
  5. Which party is he or she representing—you or the seller? This discussion is supposed to occur early on, at “first serious contact” with you. The agent should discuss your state’s particular definitions of agency, so you’ll know where you stand.
  6. In exchange for your commitment, how will the agent help you accomplish your goals?