Looking at real estate has evolved into something of a national pastime, especially over the last few years. From scrolling through listing photos on our phones to watching any one of several television networks dedicated entirely to home remodeling, it’s undeniable that checking out how our friends and neighbors live is fascinating. But when you’re ready to advance from casually browsing listings to actually buying or selling a home, it’s time to get a professional involved: specifically, a real estate agent, also known in Illinois as a real estate broker.
Choosing a real estate agent, though, can be daunting. Unless you have a trusted professional already in your circle, selecting the agent for you can feel like trying to choose a home just based on thumbnail listing photos — it’s tough to get enough information to know you’re making the right decision. Luckily, there are some easy-to-employ tips and tricks that can help you choose a real estate agent who will serve your specific needs, and be the right fit as you pursue your real estate goals.
What Is A Real Estate Agent?
A real estate agent or broker is a licensed professional who has completed the coursework required by the State of Illinois, passed the required examination, completed the application process, and been sponsored and mentored by a designated managing broker.
Many people use the terms “real estate agent” and “Realtor” interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Illinois has two license designations, a “Broker License” and a “Managing Broker License”, and either can be considered an “agent”. Somewhat confusingly, Illinois has adopted slightly different definitions than other states. A Realtor is a licensed broker or managing broker who is a member of the National Association of Realtors, and who has agreed to abide by that organization’s code of ethics and professional standards.
A real estate agent represents your interests as a buyer or seller and negotiates on your behalf in a real estate transaction. A buyer’s agent helps buyers find and view homes for sale, make offers on properties, and negotiate with sellers. A seller’s agent, also known as a “listing agent,” helps the seller price their home for sale, list the home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), markets the home, and negotiates the final deal with potential buyers. At Baird & Warner, most of our agents are both – a buyer’s agent and a seller’s agent. In some cases, Baird & Warner teams contain specialists who will individually, but cooperatively help with both your purchase and sale needs. During the process, your agent should give you the background information you need to make a decision, answer your questions, and help you understand anything you don’t understand.
Reach Out To Your Network
If you speak to any successful real estate agent, they’ll tell you that their number one source of new clients is referrals. It’s not surprising, really, as people are generally happy to share when they’ve had a positive — or not so positive —experience with a professional. So as a buyer or seller, leverage your network first. Reach out to friends and family who have recently bought or sold homes, and reach out via social media. If you’re selling, don’t be afraid to ask around among neighbors who have recently bought homes in your neighborhood.
However, your research shouldn’t stop, even with a referral. It still pays to do your homework on the agents you’re recommended. What is their approach to ensuring their clients’ interests are well represented? Do they have expertise in your neighborhood? What is their track record? Are they familiar with circumstances that might be unique to your needs — for example, can they help you find an accessible home that will accommodate a family member’s disability? Do they have familiarity in facilitating a purchase with an FHA or VA loan? Are they comfortable working in a language that’s easier for you? This is where doing some research can help you out.
Use The Internet — But Use It Wisely
The internet is a great way to search for an agent, but it’s important to know how to approach the process. Simply searching for “real estate agents in my area” is likely to yield a lot — a lot — of results, many of which are likely to be ads, paid referral networks, or, worst of all, sketchy “review” websites that don’t give you a lot of information. Spending hours sorting through this information can leave you feeling like you know less than when you started.
Like all things on the internet, searching for a great real estate agent is easier if you start with a little information. For example, if you’ve received three or four names of potential agents from friends and family, looking up the agents’ websites can give you a great sense of whether they might be a good fit for you. Some things to consider include: whether the agent generally works around the price point and geographic area you’re considering; whether their specialties align with what you’re looking for; and whether their reviews and testimonials line up with the kind of experience you’re hoping to have.
If you’re not happy with the referrals you’re receiving, start by checking out your local Baird & Warner office. Each office has a dedicated page listing agents and secondary offices that operate in your area. Because Baird & Warner is the nation’s oldest real estate firm, and has dedicated its 167+ years to the Chicagoland area, we know the local market better than anyone else. Our agents will give you the advice and “inside information” that can help you negotiate the best possible deal.
Interview Prospective Agents
Once you’ve got a list of prospective agents, it’s time to chat with them. You’ll want to get a sense of their experience with your target area and price point, as well as their background, training and qualifications. But most importantly, you’ll want to understand if this person is someone you want to work with. Be upfront about your expectations and how you want the process to go: do you want to look at a lot of homes before making a decision, or be more selective based on specific criteria? Do you have a target price in mind, or do you need to learn more about the market first? Ask about their usual philosophy and methods for marketing or searching for homes. Understanding an agent’s specific philosophy and approach can help you understand whether they’ll be a good fit for your needs.
When Home Means More, You Need A Team With More To Offer
Whether you’re buying or selling your Chicagoland home, we know that home is about so much more than just four walls. Buying or selling a home is a big deal, and our homes have never been more important. That’s why your local Baird & Warner agent is with you at every step of the way, from finding the perfect home to connecting you with local experts in mortgage and title. Whether it’s the beginning of a story or the end of a chapter, we’re here to help.