Assembling the right team of professionals to assist you during a home purchase or sale is imperative, particularly in today’s challenging home-sale market. Selecting the right real estate agent can be critical to your ultimate success.

As in any business, there are good agents and ones that aren’t so good. Don’t confuse years in the business or number of homes sold with quality service. Some top-performing agents provide their clients with excellent service. Agents who do a lot of business have a wealth of experience to draw from that can be helpful when problems arise.

Assembling the right team of professionals to assist you during a home purchase or sale is imperative, particularly in today’s challenging home-sale market. Selecting the right real estate agent can be critical to your ultimate success.

As in any business, there are good agents and agents who aren’t so good. Don’t confuse years in the business or number of homes sold with quality service. Some top-performing agents provide their clients with excellent service. Agents who do a lot of business have a wealth of experience to draw from that can be helpful when problems arise.

However, some agents are more interested in making a commission than they are in satisfying their clients. They might sign up the listing promising to sell your home quickly for the best price possible. After that, you may see or hear little from that agent. Rather, you’ll interact with assistants who may or may not have the experience needed to adequately take care of your needs.

Make certain before you list your home for sale or select an agent to represent you as a buyer that you fully understand what your agent will and will not do for you. Find out if you’ll be working one-on-one with your agent or if others will be involved.

There are some facets of your home purchase or sale that don’t require an agent’s expertise, like managing paperwork or copying house keys. An assistant can take care of these sorts of things. However, your agent should oversee the marketing if you’re a seller and the house hunting if you’re a buyer. Your agent should review all disclosures and reports, negotiate the purchase contract and do whatever is required to facilitate a successful closing.

Your real estate agent owes you a duty to put your best interest ahead of anyone else’s in the transaction, even above the agent’s own interest in collecting a commission. This means advising you against accepting or making an offer if it’s unwise.

It’s easy to be won over by an agent’s enthusiasm about your home. You want to work with an agent who feels positively about your home and who believes it can be sold in the current market if properly priced and prepared for sale. However, you’ll be disappointed if the agent’s interview demeanor disappears after you commit to working together. …CONTINUED

If you don’t already have an agent who you’d like to work with again, ask for references from friends whose opinions you trust. You may want to interview several agents until you find one that you feel will do a good job and with whom you have a good rapport.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Don’t underestimate the importance of good rapport and mutual trust. You’ll be working with your agent for some time. Invariably problems crop up during a transaction. Working through the tough spots is far easier if you hire an agent that you respect, trust and with whom you communicate well.

Have agents you interview provide references of people they have represented recently. Call or e-mail these people and ask them what they liked most and least about working with the agent, and if they would work with the agent again. The qualities you’re looking for in an agent include: good communication skills, diligence, determination, promptness, trustworthiness, persistence and responsiveness.

Some agents take on too much work, leaving them unable to return calls promptly. In one instance, a buyer’s agent had an offer to present on a listing. After calling the listing agent three times, leaving messages each time, she resorted to calling the office manager to arrange for her offer to be presented.

THE CLOSING: Don’t let this happen to you. Trust your instincts.

Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years’ experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide."

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