It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: You are ready to buy or sell an apartment, and now you have to decide if you want a real estate agent. After all, a good one can guide you through the process from start to finish — not to mention helping you achieve your home goals. So it’s critical to find someone you like and trust. But the burning question is, how to find a real estate agent? Well, there are a few things to know before kickstarting your search.
First and foremost, a real estate agent can have different roles. Here we share the differences between a listing agent and a buyer’s agent.
What Is a Listing Agent?
When it comes time to sell a home in NYC, you’ll need to choose a real estate agent for selling, also known as a listing agent. That’s because selling a home in NYC — not to mention getting the highest price possible — is a lot of work.
When Should You Hire a Listing Agent?
If you’re serious about selling, it’s time to get a listing agent. The person you choose can advise you on pricing your home. Perhaps most important, they will also create and oversee a marketing plan that gets your home sold.
How to Find a Listing Agent in NYC
Wondering how to find a real estate agent in NYC? If you’re selling, it’s vital to speak to multiple listing agents before choosing one for your home. Unfortunately, many NYC home sellers don’t do this.
“In New York, everybody knows a real estate agent,” says Matthew Bizzarro, who runs the Bizzarro Agency, a boutique brokerage specializing in Upper Manhattan. “But just because you know someone doesn’t mean they’re good at their job.”
Enter StreetEasy’s new Expert Match tool, designed to make choosing a listing agent a snap. Expert Match combines StreetEasy’s extensive proprietary research and years of market expertise to recommend up to three agents (out of thousands!) whose experience is perfect for selling your home. Even better, every real estate agent recommended is a top-tier member of StreetEasy’s Experts program.
Tip: Expert Match is 100% tailored to you — agents cannot pay for recommendations.
How to Interview a Real Estate Listing Agent
You can contact Expert Match agents right on your Owner Dashboard. Just click the button under each agent, and they’ll be in touch within hours. Plan to have a detailed conversation with each prospective listing agent. Just as you’re looking to see if they’re a good fit for you and your home, they will be seeking the same about you. Expect to spend the better part of an hour getting to know each one before you make a decision. Here’s what to ask:
What’s Their Deal History and Experience Level?
The top agents we spoke with agreed that experience is the most critical quality of an agent. “Your home is your main asset, so this is a big deal,” says Bizzarro.
Every agent shown to you in StreetEasy’s Expert Match will have a track record that makes them ideal for your property. In general, expect real estate listing agents to have different kinds of relevant experience.
- Agents who have done numerous deals in your very building and have the co-op board paperwork on file are a great asset.
- Agents who have an excellent deal history in your neighborhood but not in your specific building can also be helpful.
Tip: Compass agent Kristen Jordan says, “You don’t necessarily need someone who has done deals in your building. If they’re a good agent, they’ll be able to get you a good price and have a positive process and a transaction.”
What’s Their Selling Style, and Does It Fit With Yours?
Personal style may be nearly as important as experience, when it comes to how to choose a real estate agent for selling, according to Jordan. “People can do a bunch of deals, but it doesn’t make them the perfect broker for you,” she says. It would be best to find out which of these agents will be a great partner for you.
Things to consider:
- Do you share common interests?
- Are they a Type A personality, while you are not?
- Will you be comfortable — and trusting — if they have to deliver bad news?
- How will you feel about handing this person the keys to your home, knowing they’re going to bring strangers?
Tip: Doug Perlson, StreetEasy’s senior director of real estate strategy and operations and a seasoned NYC broker, says, “You want to feel good about that relationship, not frustrated or contentious.You want to pick someone who has a personality that you will like working with.”
How Much Can a Listing Agent Sell Your Home For?
Getting the most money for your home is a big concern — but it shouldn’t be the only deciding factor for choosing an agent. If an agent comes back with a price estimate that’s far higher than your StreetEasy Valuation, that may not be a good thing. (Read more about the StreetEasy Valuation.)
“Sometimes, unfortunately, brokers give a high number because they want to get the listing. But then they’re not able to sell at that price,” says Liza Nematnejad, a top broker at Douglas Elliman who specializes in luxury Manhattan properties. “That, I think, is the biggest trap for a seller.” In fact, the false hope it gives can delay a deal by months or even years.
What should a good broker bring to your interview? A competitive market analysis explicitly prepared for your property, says Perlson. It will show what homes they think are comparable to yours and how much those homes sold for recently.
More useful tips:
- Review the agent’s deal history (it’s on their StreetEasy profile page). If many of the agent’s listings enter the market for lofty prices but then sell for much lower, that could be a red flag, Nematnejad says. (You can see the price history of any StreetEasy listing toward the bottom of the listing page.)
- Review your home’s value using StreetEasy Valuation. It is a great place to start for a data-driven, realistic price estimate.
How Do They Plan to Market Your Home?
A real estate agent’s marketing strategy is vital for selling success. “Anybody can hire a professional photographer and put the listing on StreetEasy,” says Bizzarro. “But are they going the extra mile?”
Here’s what to know or ask about marketing a home:
- Listings posted through Expert Match are automatically eligible to be featured on StreetEasy, meaning they could appear in the top two slots of search results pages.
- Social media is a big part of home marketing. Ask agents about their social network presence and whether their listing will include rich media like video and 3D tours.
- Staging can quickly seal the deal, so ask if an agent plans to do it in the physical space or virtually.
- Events and virtual tours are beneficial when promoting higher-end listings.
- Client lists and client outreach are also significant factors, so ask an agent how they plan to reach people who will be interested in your listing.
- Experience with your home type is essential. For example, if your home is an HDFC unit, a condop, or is in a land-leased building, you’ll want an agent with selling expertise.
Tip: Ask an agent if they have a great team in place to manage your transaction. Their arsenal of people and contacts may include a team to deal with floor plans and co-op board packages, as well as real estate attorneys, home stagers, and handypeople for small upgrades.
What Kind of Commission Do They Expect?
When wondering how to find a real estate agent, It may be tempting to consider the broker’s commission as a critical factor when searching or choosing an agent. But actually, Perlson advises thinking of it the other way around. “The first thing you want to do is establish whether this is a business relationship you want to be in,” he says. “Then, just like hiring anyone else, you’ll talk about fees.”
Here’s what to consider:
- The standard commission for a listing agent in New York is 6%, split with a buyer’s agent. But it’s negotiable, and it’s common for agents even at major brokerages to accept less. They may also throw in extras you’d usually pay for — like home staging — to sweeten the deal.
- The commission is partly an incentive for buyers’ agents to bring their clients to view your property. So going too low has risks. “Going under 5%, I don’t see how you’re getting enough engagement from the outside brokerage community to sell the home,” says Jordan. “Unless it’s a huge price point.”
Tip: If your listing agent finds a buyer who isn’t represented by another agent — meaning they’ll get the entire commission themselves — they may accept a much smaller percentage.
How to Choose a Listing Agent to Sell Your Home During COVID-19
When figuring out how to find a real estate agent, COVID-19 can make the process feel daunting. The top agents we spoke with all identified essential things to keep in mind when choosing a listing agent to sell your home during a pandemic:
- Trust matters more than ever. You’re not just trusting an agent to help you negotiate the market. You’re trusting them to decide who should be able to enter your home and when. COVID means there are vastly higher stakes anytime strangers occupy the same indoor space. So you want to feel extra sure about your listing agent’s judgment and caution.
- Buyers are vetted before they tour. Bizzarro says his brokerage vets buyers in four ways before allowing an in-person tour: They need to be preapproved for the mortgage amount, have the purchase funds immediately available, have viewed the home’s virtual or 3D tour, and certify themselves free of COVID-19 symptoms.
Tip: Those looking to sell during COVID-19 should expect the process to take longer. In today’s NYC real estate market, buyers hold the upper hand. Homes in Manhattan are selling more slowly, and while the number of signed contracts is rising in parts of Brooklyn and Queens, prices in most neighborhoods are flat or falling.
What if I Don’t Like My Listing Agent?
NYC home sellers usually sign a contract with an agent giving that agent exclusive right to represent their home on the market for a given period. Typically that period is six months, though it can be negotiable. After the contract expires, sellers are free to find another agent to work with if the home has not sold.
If your home didn’t sell or you don’t feel good about your agent anymore, remember StreetEasy’s Expert Match will recommend up to three top agents whose experience makes them an ideal choice to sell your home. Access Expert Match on your Owner Dashboard, where you’ll also find your home’s StreetEasy Valuation. (You’ll need to enter your property details first, but remember — your StreetEasy Valuation and Expert Match details can only be seen by you.) Read more about how Expert Match works, or visit your Owner Dashboard to get started.
What Is a Buyer’s Agent?
Whether it’s a starter studio or pied-à-terre, buying a place in NYC can be a challenging experience. Fortunately, a buyer’s agent can make the process less daunting by acting as your advocate. Many different parties are involved in the home buying process, from listing agents to real estate lawyers. A buyer’s agent navigates all sides as your fiduciary. That includes confidentiality, undivided loyalty, full disclosure, obedience, accountability, and reasonable care, according to broker Johnathan Agrelius of Warburg Realty.
When Should You Hire a Buyer’s Agent?
Ask any real estate broker, and most will tell serious shoppers to find a buyer’s agent STAT. That way, the agent can get up to speed on the home shopper’s needs, advise them on the market, and then identify the suitable properties for them. The next question is, how to find a real estate agent?
How To Find a Great Buyer’s Agent
- Referrals generally are the best way to find an agent. If you trust your friends, family, or work colleagues with referrals on restaurants, movies, and vacation locales, you also should trust them with real estate professionals.
- Use StreetEasy Experts, a verified program that vets agents based on a verified deal history, listing types, and neighborhoods. The program helps buyers connect with agents who have done deals in the buildings they’re interested in, making the process run even smoother.
- Peruse open house or online listings. Checking out properties in the neighborhood where you’re looking to buy, rent, or sell is a great way to meet agents who know the area. While COVID restrictions have put many open houses on hold, many agents are still setting up viewing days with appointments. As long as you’re feeling healthy and wearing proper PPE, go for it.
How To Interview a Buyer’s Agent
You need to work very closely with this person so you need to feel compatible and in sync.
So get to know them. “Focus on their style, approach, and strategy,” said Vickey Barron, a top broker at Compass. “You need someone who understands the market and knows how to tell your story. They need the right aesthetic for photography, creativity to make the listing description stand out, how to articulate, negotiate, and lure a buyer to the home vs. having that person find another home.”
You want your broker to be an expert in exactly what you’re looking for. So, if that’s rentals, they hopefully have done many rental transactions, said Barron. Look at past deals on their respective web pages and do some homework.
This is especially true if you’re buying or selling a co-op. “There are plenty of great agents who specialize in condos but may not know how to put a package together for a co-op,” said Barron. Make sure your agent understands the co-op world if you are indeed looking to buy one.
What About a Buyer’s Agent’s Fees?
It’s an important step to think about when considering how to find a real estate agent. Whether you’re buying, selling, or renting it’s best to discuss any fees with your broker before working together.
However, as a buyer, you’ll never pay any fees to your agent. The home seller pays a buyer’s broker, who splits the commission with the listing broker. But it would be best if you understood how that works. The seller pays the commission at closing — often between 5% and 6%. That’s then split between the seller’s and buyer’s agents and the respective brokerages. But the critical thing to know is as the buyer; you are not forking over additional money at the closing table.
Why You Want To Work Exclusively with a Buyer’s Agent
Heads up! When trying to figure out how to find a real estate agent, this may be the most crucial tip. In some instances, the agent represents both the buyer and the seller on a listed property and acts as a dual agent. This is not ideal. “The risk associated with a dual agency is that dual agents can’t fulfill their fiduciary obligations to both parties,” says Alyssa Soto Brody, Licensed NYC Salesperson. “Some may argue that a dual agent can’t advance the best interests of both buyer and seller because those interests always diverge. At worst, a dual agency creates a harmful conflict of interest.”
So really consider working exclusively with a buyer’s agent. There are other important reasons to want exclusivity with this person:
- Property Education: “Buyers rely on the agent to advise and educate them on properties that fit their needs and one that will also be a smart investment long term,” says Douglas Elliman agent Yorgos Tsibirdis. “When you visit 20-30 properties with a buyer, you can weigh in and help buyers compare the various options to make a wise decision.”
- Deal Striking: Since the agent is solely focused on the buyer’s interest, it’s the agent’s responsibility to get the best possible deal on the property they are pursuing. That’s harder to accomplish in a dual agency scenario.
- Process Assistance: Buying a home is a process. The exclusive buyer’s agent helps by doing everything from making legal recommendations to suggesting inspectors and prepping you for the co-op board interview. Again, that can be more complicated when an agent is representing both sides.
What’s the Difference Between a Buyer’s Broker and a Renter’s Broker?
We would be remiss if we didn’t respond to this question. The main difference is that a buyer’s broker will represent you in a purchase, and a renter’s broker functions as a go-between for prospective tenants and landlords. While both will help you in your home search and have your interests in mind, a buyer’s broker will go through a much lengthier process with more parties involved. It’s just the nature of buying versus renting. Happy home hunting!