A Guide to Interviewing and Selecting Your Ideal Buyer’s Agent

Ask any experienced listing agent and they will tell you that there is a huge chasm in quality between good buyer’s agents and average agents, let alone weak agents. Some agents demonstrate professionalism, reliability, and resourcefulness, contributing positively to deals, while others hinder transactions due to unreliability, inexperience, or lack of trustworthiness.

As one of the top listing agents in the nation, I have personally seen the full spectrum of buyer’s agents: From exceptional agents that instill much confidence that the transaction will close smoothly and on time, to scary agents that sellers should avoid if at all possible. Unfortunately, many buyers are unable to discern these differences. Frequently, buyers erroneously assume that their chosen agent is a top producer, well-educated, experienced, knowledgeable, and well-regarded within the industry.

As a starting point, people that are very good listing agents are often not good buyer’s agents, and vice versa − the skillset is actually surprisingly different. That is one of the reasons Audrey, Francis and I work exclusively with sellers, whereas Ken and his team work exclusively with buyers.

Similarly, a buyer’s agent that is very knowledgeable and well-connected in one area may be a fish out of water in a town just 15 miles away. Yet when a potential client speaks with an agent, some agents will explain that they are good at everything, everywhere. Afterall, according to many agents, it is always a good time to buy or sell.

So, the question remains: How should a potential Buyer determine which agent is really best for them?

The process of buying a home involves numerous complexities, and a skilled buyer’s agent can streamline the journey, ensuring that their client finds the perfect property at the right price.

Before delving into the interview and selection process, it’s crucial to understand the role of a buyer’s agent. Unlike the listing agent, who represents the seller’s interests, a buyer’s agent works on behalf of the buyer. Their responsibilities include guiding the buyer through property searches, negotiating offers, handling paperwork, and providing valuable insights based on their knowledge of the local market. Additionally, an experienced and resourceful buyer’s agent can assist their clients with property related questions for years to come. Even long after the sale closes, a good buyer’s agent can help with everything from finding a vendor to do some tree or roof work, to responding to a legal or tax notice.

Research and Recommendations

The first step in finding a suitable buyer’s agent is conducting thorough research. Although seeking recommendations from friends, family, and colleagues who have recently bought a home is a common starting point, many clients don’t have enough experience in buying homes to know just how great an agent can be.

Therefore, we recommend starting with an objective list of the top agents ranked by actual buyer-side sales in the specific area you are targeting. Third-party objective services such as Broker Metrics® provide detailed lists of the sales in various areas.  If an agent can’t, or won’t, provide a list of the top agents in a given city or area, you can rest assured that they would not be on that list.

It is important to focus exclusively on buyer’s-side sales because many top agents work primarily with sellers. In fact, Ken DeLeon is the only top agent in California who works exclusively with buyers.

Interviewing Prospective Agents

Once you’ve compiled a list of potential buyer’s agents, go to their website to read about their approach, background, and services. It is common for agents to “adapt” their answers to match what the particular client wants to hear, but their website is often a more straightforward picture of the agent’s true area of focus. For example, if you call an agent and tell them that you are looking to buy a home in Palo Alto, then they may say that they specialize in Palo Alto buyers. On the other hand, that same agent may say that they specialize in San Mateo listings when speaking with a potential seller in that area. However, the public-facing website is less malleable.

After narrowing the field down to three to five potential agents, savvy buyers will make up a list of the questions that matter most to them and ask each agent to respond to them directly (ideally in writing). Some of the questions may include:

  • Do you work mostly with buyers or sellers?
  • How long have you been an agent in the _______ area?
  • How many buyer’s sales have you done in the ______ area over the past 5 years?
  • How well do you know the ____ area? Do you have any videos or publications that highlight that neighborhood or city?
  • What is your educational background? Which schools?  What degrees?
  • What is your commission rate?
  • Do you provide summaries of the disclosures drawing extra attention to the most important items?
  • Do you provide guidance on post-acquisition renovations? If so, what is your professional training and educational background that make you qualified to provide this guidance?
  • Do you have legal training to give advice on the contract and the disclosures?
  • Who covers for you if you are unavailable at any particular time?

Although many agents are trained with “scripts” that may distort reality a bit, buyers will be able to discern the truth through detailed questions. buyers should treat these interactions as job interviews because they are hiring someone to represent their interests in a significant financial transaction.

Making Your Decision

After interviewing all of the potential buyer’s agents, evaluate their responses, demeanor, and overall compatibility with your preferences. Consider factors such as communication style, market knowledge, and negotiation skills and training. Remember, the goal is to find an agent who not only possesses the necessary expertise, but also communicates effectively and aligns with your personal preferences.

It is also crucial to assess the chemistry between you and the prospective agent. A strong rapport and clear communication style can foster a positive working relationship throughout the home-buying process. Trust your instincts and choose an agent with whom you feel comfortable and confident.

Checking References and Reviews

Before finalizing your decision, contact the references provided by the agent. Ask about their experiences, the agent’s responsiveness, and the overall satisfaction with the services rendered. Additionally, review online testimonials and ratings to gain insights into the experiences of other clients.

Negotiating Terms

Once you’ve identified your preferred buyer’s agent, negotiate the terms of the Buyer/Broker Agreement. Clarify commission rates, contractual obligations, geographic areas of coverage, length of time of the agreement, and any specific conditions you want to include. A transparent and mutually agreed-upon contract sets the foundation for a successful partnership.

Selecting the right buyer’s agent is a crucial step in ensuring a smooth and successful home-buying experience. By conducting thorough research, interviewing prospective agents, and considering factors such as experience, communication, and negotiation skills, you can make an informed decision. Remember that a skilled buyer’s agent is not just a guide through the intricacies of the real estate market, but also a reliable ally prioritizing your interests above all.

By Michael Repka


Michael Repka | michael@deleonrealty.com Tel: 650.405.4631