Choosing a Real Estate Agent When Buying a Home

Reader question: "I need your advice on choosing a real estate agent to help me buy a home. I'm a first-time buyer, so I'll need plenty of hand holding. I'm buying in a new city where I don't know many people (yet), so the referral thing isn't really an option for me. Thanks in advance for your help."

In my opinion, the best way to find an agent is through somebody you know. There's nothing better than a recommendation from a trusted source. But, as you've said, this might not be an option for you. Not to worry. There are other methods for choosing a real estate agent when buying a home. Here are four strategies you can use:

1. Find Local Real Estate Blogs

I wrote another version of this article back in 2007, and I had to explain what a blog was. Most people had never heard of them back then. But you're probably familiar with the term by now. Heck, you might even be a blogger yourself.

A lot of real estate agents are into blogging these days. They publish blogs to share information about their local housing markets, and also to connect with new clients. If you haven't done so already, I recommend that you find a handful of the best real estate blogs in your new city.

You can get started by using Google's blog search tool. You could also do a basic Google search for "real estate agent blog" followed by the name of your city. You'll find some great websites using this approach, but you'll also find some clunkers. You just have to do some digging. Bookmark the ones that seem promising, for future reference.

There are two reasons for doing this. It can help with choosing an agent, and it's also a great way to learn about the local real estate scene. You can find out about home prices, market trends, new neighborhoods, foreclosure statistics and more. You can even leave a comment on the agent's blog, which is a great way to test their knowledge.

A word of caution: I have found that a lot of agents resort to plagiarizing. I can't tell you how many times I've found my own articles posted onto some agent's website (without my permission). This is both lazy and unethical -- not the kind of person you want representing you. So look for genuine bloggers who share detailed information about their own real estate transactions and experiences. If the agent is only posting a bunch of generic "how to" articles, it's probably plagiarism. Lazy.

2. Leverage Your Network

You said you don't know "many" people in the city where you're buying. But surely you'll know someone eventually. A coworker, a neighbor, any new friends you make along the way -- these can all be a good source of referrals. This is the best way to find a real estate agent, in my opinion.

The benefit of getting input from a third party is the fact that they are neutral. They're not being paid to recommend a certain agent. There's no incentive for doing it, other than helping you out. So you'll probably get the straight scoop.

Start casting your net as soon as possible. When you meet people, let them know you're in the market for a home, and that you need help choosing a real estate agent. You'll be surprised how eager people will be to help you out. Most people love to recommend products and services they've been pleased with in the past. 

3. Have Agents Compete for Your Business

There are websites that let you solicit information from several real estate agents at once. Some of them allow you to remain anonymous, until you choose to make direct contact with a particular agent.

I like this approach, because it lets you compare the professionalism, response time and communication skills of several different agents. They will send you info about their qualifications, expertise and the locations they are most familiar with. And you can remain anonymous until you're ready so speak with one directly.

There are several websites that offer this kind of service. I have never used one personally, because I've always been able to get recommendations from a friend or family member. But it seems like a smart approach to choosing an agent.

4. Use the NAEBA Website

There are different types of real estate agents. The listing agent is the one who represents the seller. A dual agent can represent both the buyer and seller (though this practice is now forbidden in some states). And then there's the EBA, or exclusive buyers agent.

As the title implies, an EBA firm works with buyers exclusively. They never take listings or represent sellers. Choosing a real estate agent in this way has some obvious benefits. You'll know that your agent is representing you, and only you. There's no chance for a conflict of interest.

You can find an EBA in your area by using the organization's website. The organization is called the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents. The web address is Just look for the button or link that says "Find an EBA."

I hope this helps you out. Good luck with your home buying process.