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Whether you’re buying or selling a home, it’s best to work with a real estate agent. A professional has the experience and expertise to walk you through the entire process and help make sure you get what you need.

When choosing the right real estate agent for you, you’ll of course want to ensure you feel comfortable with and trust the person or company. For further guidance, the Better Business Bureau offers the following tips for picking an agent:

Ask for Referrals. Ask friends and family members who’ve recently bought or sold their home for recommendations. Ask if they were satisfied with their experience and whether they’d use the agent or company in the future. Be sure to ask if there are agents or companies to avoid.

Meet With Candidates. Once you’ve assembled at least four prospective agents, schedule a time to meet with them in person. If you’re selling your home, each agent should make a listing presentation. This presentation allows you to become familiar with an agent’s background, marketing plan and market analysis, which includes information about similar houses in your area that have recently sold. Many agents assemble a team to support them, which may include less experienced agents and/or non-agents working together to market your property. Think about whether you’d be more comfortable working with a solo agent or a team, as each has different strengths. Ask agents to provide a list of references who’ve previously used their services to buy or sell similar types of properties.

Ask the Right Questions. Make sure to find out how long agents have been practicing, how many transactions they’ve done in the past year and when they’re available. Agents who have more transactions and years of experience will be familiar with guiding you through the buying or selling process and handling any problems that may crop up. If you work a 9-to-5 job, you’ll need to choose a real estate agent who’s available weekends and evenings. And be sure your agent is familiar with your area.

Choose an Agent Who Acts in Your Best Interest. Whether you’re buying or selling a home, be sure to choose an exclusive agent based on your role. This way the agent will act in your best interest for the sale. Also, ask whether your agent is part of a reputable group. For example, a member of the National Association of REALTORS® is held to a specific code of ethics while practicing real estate.

Discuss Compensation. Usually, agents are compensated through commission. The commission fee is typically 5 to 7 percent of the selling price, but it can vary from area to area. The percentage of the commission fee can sometimes be negotiated depending on the housing market. The agent receives commission regardless of who finds the buyer but receives no commission if the property doesn’t sell. The commission is usually divided evenly between the listing agent and the buyer’s agent.

Carefully Read the Contract. Don’t choose a real estate agent who pressures you to sign documents immediately. Carefully and completely read the documents, and make sure the agent clearly answers any of your questions. If you’re selling your home, usually you sign a contract granting the agent exclusive rights to sell your property within a period of time. Make sure to ask about the length of that period.

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