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Finding a Real Estate Agent Who Can Get the Job Done

Selling or buying a home can be complicated. Many people rely on a real estate professional to help seal the deal. A good real estate agent does a lot of the heavy lifting - marketing your house or helping you find your next home, networking with other real estate professionals, and helping you navigate the maze of documents you'll need to sign.

A couple talking with a real estate agent.

Before deciding who to work with, you'll want to know what kind of real estate professional you're using. The terms "real estate agent," "Realtor," and "real estate broker" are often used interchangeably, but they're not really synonymous.

  • A real estate agent has a real estate license in the state where he or she practices. To get this license, the agent must complete up to 90 hours of coursework and pass a state exam.
  • A Realtor is a real estate agent who's earned additional certification from the National Association of Realtors. A Realtor must also pledge to abide by a tightly monitored code of ethics.
  • A real estate broker refers to an agent who can legally practice real estate independently and can oversee other agents. The broker typically acts as a middleman between the buyer and seller.
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    So how do you find the right agent for you? Here are some helpful tips.

First Things First

If you're selling your place, think about what makes it special and take an honest assessment of the things you never found time to fix. Making a list of your home's selling points and problems is good prep work for your discussions with potential real estate professionals.

And when it comes time to show the house, something as small as baking cookies before the open house can increase your chances of selling—check out Insider Tips on Selling Your Home for more info.

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Make sure your agent is familiar with the neighborhood. Ask friends who've bought or sold in the area or start paying attention to "For Sale" signs in your neighborhood. An agent who knows the neighborhood can tell you what other properties in the vicinity are selling for, where the neighborhood is headed, and more.

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The Price Is Right

Make sure your agent specializes in houses within your price range. Agents who typically sell expensive houses might not do everything they can for a house that's less expensive. Similarly, agents who normally sell fixer-uppers might not know all the ins and outs of high-end properties. And agents who work within a specific price range have a stronger knowledge of the amenities, fixtures, and overall house conditions within that range.

Talk the Talk

Some experts recommend actually interviewing potential agents as a face-to-face way of making sure everybody's on the same page. Request references and check them. Put together a list of tough questions, and don't be afraid to walk away if you don't like the answers. What's the average length the agent's properties have been on the market? What sets this agent apart from others? What is the agent's average list-price-to-sales-price ratio?

Make sure there's a personality match, as well. You'll be working closely with your real estate agent—driving from showing to showing and making plenty of plans—so you want to be sure you'll work well together.

Don't Be Afraid to Talk Dollars and Cents

Real estate agents make a commission when your home sells, typically around 6% . But these fees aren't set in stone, and agents sometimes negotiate their commission—especially if you use the same agent for the sale and the purchase of a new property. If you do interview prospective agents, be sure to add commissions to your list of questions.

Do Your Homework

An extensive Internet search on your prospective agent can tell you a lot about how he or she works. Is this agent active online? Does the agent get good marks on ratings sites? Has the agent written articles or commented thoughtfully on other articles? An agent who doesn't have an online presence might be behind the times.

Timing Is Everything

Once you sell your place, you'll need to find the right movers for your next destination. Read our Five Common Mistakes to Avoid When You're Moving to help make sure your next move is a smooth one.

Make Sure Your Protection Moves with You

Once you move into your home, make sure you're fully protected with Allstate homeowners insurance. A homeowners policy with Allstate protects your personal property, your home's structure, and more.

Protection for Your New Place

Once you sell your home, make sure you're fully protected with Allstate property insurance. Whether your new place is a house, condo, or apartment, Allstate can protect your personal property, your home's structure, and more.

Protect yourself and your belongings. Get an easy no-obligation quote or find an agent to see how Allstate can help you save on property insurance.

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General: Coverage subject to terms, conditions, and availability. Policy issuance is subject to qualifications. Allstate Insurance Company, Allstate Indemnity Company, Allstate Fire and Casualty Insurance Company, Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company, Northbrook, IL. © 2015 Allstate Insurance Company, Northbrook, IL.

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