What to Look For When Choosing a Realtor to Buy & Sell a Home

Some people view buying or selling a home on the same level as a trip to the dentist. They know they need to do it but aren’t looking forward to the experience. Others view the same buying or selling process as an exciting adventure. What makes the difference? Most people say it’s the real estate agent that they chose. Having the right real estate agent by your side can turn a task you must accomplish into a joyful and productive milestone in your life.

Here are some tips on what you need to look for when you choose a real estate agent to buy or sell your home. There are four basic steps: 1) figure out what you need; 2) find an agent who could meet those needs; 3) make sure you’ve found a good agent; and then 4) partner with your agent to complete the sale or purchase of your home. You’ll find helpful tips for accomplishing each of these steps on your way to a successful partnership with a qualified real estate agent.

1. Assess – What do you know?

The first step is to ask yourself some questions. The key question is the easiest — are you buying a new home or selling your home? This determines what you’ll look for in an agent and will shape the types of questions you will ask a prospective agent.

A seller’s assessment

If you’re selling your home, consider what makes it distinct and a great place to live. You may have made renovations or updates that increased the house's value. On the other hand, repairs that need to be taken care of could lower the value. Make a list of what makes the house an attractive place to call home, and look at it with a buyer’s eyes. Recognize also that your house exists in a neighborhood. What are the overlooked benefits of living in your community — the things that people might miss at first glance?

A buyer’s assessment

Home buying requires a different analysis. Most people begin with an online home search and hope to land upon the home of their dreams. But this is not where your assessment begins.

The first question to answer is financial; it takes some research and isn’t nearly as enjoyable as browsing the web for homes. How much can you afford to spend on a home? To arrive at that answer, you need to know your credit score, how much of a down payment you can afford, and what your borrowing power is. The best practice for home buyers is to get prequalified or preapproved for a home loan. Preapproval gives you the upper limit for the price of your future home and will help you narrow your search to the best properties for your budget.

Once you know your price range, start listing features you want for your new home, and consider neighborhoods that you’d like to explore. Visit the areas you’re interested in at different times of the day and week to get a feel for the life of the community. This is when you turn to the internet for your research. Let’s say that you are considering the Berkeley real estate market. A general online home search, such as “Berkeley homes for sale,” will give you an idea of available houses in the area.

Recognize the gaps in your knowledge

Most of us are independent-minded. We want to do things for ourselves. But whether you are buying or selling, you soon recognize that there are limits to your knowledge of everything involved with buying and selling a home. This is where the need for an expert Berkeley real estate agent becomes clear. You need a professional to provide more information, answer your questions, and guide you through home-buying.

2. Search – How do you find a real estate agent?

Personal referrals

The most popular method of finding an agent is word of mouth. You may have already done what most people do when buying or selling a home. They ask the people around them — coworkers, friends, neighbors, relatives — if they know any good real estate agents. You can find out more than just a name by using this method. Ask your source about their experience — what they liked and did not like about the agent and their services. If you hear the same name from several people, that may be a good person to take a look at.

Internet searches

You might turn to an internet search with a simple query such as “Berkeley real estate agent.” Your result will be a lot of smiling faces offering you their services. But how do you know if they truly are “good” real estate agents and, more importantly, if they are the right agent for you? Examine their website. Is it professional and current? Are the types of homes you are looking for represented on the site? Is the agent from the area you are looking into? Do they offer the right price points for your search?

Referral services

Referral services are businesses that match home buyers or sellers to real estate agents. Some lenders also recommend affiliated agents. When considering a referral service, be sure to find out what qualifications the service requires for agents to be part of their referral network.

Get your list and get ready

Once you have a list of agents, the next step is to develop a set of questions and get ready to interview your prospective agents. This is one of the most important transactions of your life, and you want to know that you’re selecting the right agent to assist you. This is why the vetting process is so important.

3. Vet – Is this the right agent for you?


As you dig into your professional evaluation of an agent, a simple place to start is the state’s department of real estate. You can search by name or license number. Here you can find out how long the agent has been licensed. Be sure to look for any disciplinary actions that may be listed, which would be a red flag. You can also determine who the listed broker is and search for the broker’s own licensing info.


You want to know if this is a new or an experienced agent. How long have they been working full-time in the real estate business? Experienced agents are happy to share their successes and will likely be able to provide a portfolio of past sales. Ask also for reviews or recommendations from former clients.


Does this agent work alone, or do they have a staff to support them in the many responsibilities of real estate transactions? There may be an office manager, a marketing coordinator, or a transaction coordinator. These staff members may handle advertising and marketing, home tours and staging, photography and signage, and the complex paperwork involved with home buying or selling.


Ask what the agent’s commission is. In most Berkeley real estate transactions, the seller is the one responsible for the commission or the fee the agent collects. On average, commission rates are in the 5-6% range. You may see agents or services who advertise low commissions, but in general, expect to receive the service that you pay for. To save a few percentage points, you could risk getting a lower value for your home or a longer time to complete the sale.

4. Partner and close

Once you have interviewed your potential agents, it’s time to make a decision. You need to feel confident in the person you partner with to buy or sell your home. Hopefully, you feel comfortable with one or more of the agents you interviewed. If not, go back and do more searching until you feel you’re making the right choice for you.

The right agent helps to take the anxiety out of buying or selling your home. You can trust them to negotiate for you as they guide you through all of the possibilities and complexities of the process. If you’re ready to step into the adventure of buying or selling a home in the Berkeley area, consider Berkeley realtor Michael Lane as the real estate agent for you. Michael and his team at Michael Lane Homes have proven success in the East Bay and makes certain that you have an enjoyable, rewarding experience backed by integrity and industry-recognized expertise.

Work With Us

Michael is an experienced East Bay agent with a passion for his business. His clients know that he represents them with the highest level of integrity and experience throughout the sales process. Contact Michael and his team to begin your real estate journey today.
Contact Us