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Real estate agents can be helpful because they know the local real estate market. Most agents belong to multiple listing services that publish directories of all properties listed for sale in a particular market.

The real estate agent will consult the multiple listing directory for you and determine which properties are available that meet your specifications, like price, size and location. He or she will share those listings with you electronically – rather like a dating app, you’ll be notified when a new property is listed that meets your profile. Your agent will then arrange to show you the properties you’re interested in.

Another advantage of working with a real estate agent? One familiar with your area can usually tell you about school systems, tax rates, water and sewer charges, public transportation and other concerns that might affect your decision to buy a particular home. Real estate agents usually specialize in particular areas, so you may want to find someone who knows the area you are most interested in to help you find a home.

How to find a real estate agent

There are several ways to find a real estate agent:

  • Ask for recommendations from friends or family
  • Meet agents by going to open houses
  • Contact the real estate firms that are advertising properties you find interesting
  • Look up local agents online

Usually, it's best to choose one real estate agent you feel comfortable with and work with that person until you find the home you would like to buy.

The agent's role

Typically, sellers will "list" their home with an agent and agree to pay a commission if the house is sold within a specified period of time. During that time, the real estate agent will try to sell the property by advertising and hosting open houses.

It’s important to understand that the agent you meet at an open house or through a listing represents or works for the seller. The agent has certain obligations to the seller and will relay any information that you provide. In a real estate transaction, that agent is known as the “selling agent.”

A “buyer's agent” works directly for you as the homebuyer and represents your interests throughout the process of looking for homes and making an offer.

Real estate agents generally work on commission. Their fee is based on the purchase price and is paid by the seller. If a seller’s agent and a buyer’s agent are both involved in the home purchase, they share the commission. As a buyer, in most cases, you won’t pay a real estate commission.