If rule number one for real estate is location, location, location, then rule number two is hiring a killer agent. In fact, when you are buying a house, you don't even have to pay for the services of an exclusive buyer's agent. Their pay comes out of the commission that the seller pays. Who is going to say no to free? The problem, of course, is that free doesn't always translate to good, or great, or killer agent.
DO ask your friends and family for recommendations.
If you know someone who has recently purchased a home, ask them about the agent they used. Did they like that agent? Was the agent receptive to their needs? Would they recommend that agent? If they didn't like the realtor, ask why.
DON'T hire an agent from an open house.
Many buyers assume that they can just work with the friendly agent that they met at an open house. By all means, if you click, then go for it. You should know that most agents that work open houses are newer agents who are simply holding the house open as a way to get a new client, like you. They are not necessarily experienced agents with an established client base.
DON'T just work with the listing agent.
Listing agents work for the sellers. They will not have your best interests at heart, and they will share any information you tell them directly with their client. They aren't bad people. They are doing their job, and that entails putting the seller's interests first in all things. Get a buyer's agent. Remember -- its free.
DO ask about the agent's experience.
It is not offensive to ask how long an agent has been licensed, how many houses they sold last year, or how many they sold this year. Your goal is to find a high-volume producer. The more houses an agent has sold, the more experience they have. If you are a first-time home buyer, you need experience on your side.
DO work with someone you like and can communicate with.
If you keep telling your real estate agent that you want a four-bedroom colonial and they keep scheduling showings for one-level homes, you may have a communication issue. If you cannot communicate comfortably with your agent and they are not 'hearing' you, move on. Buying a home is a long process, you need someone that understands you.
When you are looking to buy real estate, you need to hire a killer agent who can guide you through the choppy waters of the home buying process.