Hire the Right Real Estate Agent in the USA as a Foreigner

To hire the right real estate agent in the USA as a foreigner, look for someone with experience working with international clients, a good understanding of the local market, strong communication skills, and who can provide references from other foreign buyers.

Hire right real estate agent as foreigner

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If you are planning to buy or mortgage a house in America as a foreigner, you must contact a real estate agent at the earliest opportunity. Real estate agents have the market listings and can also offer valuable insights about the real estate market in a particular neighborhood that you wish to move in and help you choose a property that meets your budget and requirements. This article aims at assisting all U.S. newcomers, immigrants, and global investors in understanding the hiring process for a real estate agent in the United States of America.

So let’s start with the basics and proceed step-by-step, and unfold the process of how to find a real estate agent for buying property in the USA.

Who is a Real Estate Agent?

A real estate agent is a real estate professional who helps people sell or buy homes. They can also be real estate brokers and local realtors.

They use their market knowledge to help the client find the right property and then negotiate the final sale price on the client’s behalf. Once a sale is agreed upon, they help the client complete all the necessary paperwork and coordinate with the seller/buyer to ensure everything goes smoothly.

To sell or purchase a property in the USA, as a global investor, immigrant, or a U.S newcomer, it is recommended that you hire an experienced real estate agent who is a Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS), as they are backed by immense experience and knowledge to deal with the real estate at the international level.

Who is a CIPS Agent?

A Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) is a real estate professional with extensive training in international real estate transactions and has experience helping clients buy and sell property in foreign lands. They are well versed with the checklist of a foreign buyer or seller, the paperwork needed, and the authorities involved. Their knowledge and experience of international real estate is critical in ensuring a scam-free deal.

There are only about 5,000 CIPS agents worldwide, which makes it a bit challenging to hire one. However, HomeAbroad has a network of CIPS agents, and we can connect you with the right one for free to make your property buying process as smooth as possible.

What Does a Real Estate Agent Do?

Prospective buyers usually start their search online. And while they may come across many options, how to decide which home option would work the best in the given budget? A good real estate agent figures that out for you by,

  1. Being on top of new listings, scheduling the property tours, and communicating with the agent representing the other side.
  2. Also, though plenty of listings are available online, they may not be all that’s available. An agent can access the offline listings, which you may benefit from.
  3. Also, a good buyer’s agent is backed by vast experience, which comes handy while navigating through the purchase contract. It has direct implications on your mortgage loan payments.
  4. A good seller’s agent knows how to project and promote property that is up for sale.
  5. Also, since a good agent knows the market trend and people’s pulse, they can advise you which repairs you may invest in and which you may skip, depending upon the general sentiments of the buyers.

Differences Between Seller’s Agent and Buyer’s Agent

Seller’s Agent

A listed seller’s agent will be the right pick if you want to sell. Firstly, they can help you set the best price for your home. Then, they can also assist you in preparing your home for prospective buyers and advertise it effectively. Finally, they will walk you through the process until the deal closes.

Buyer’s Agent

A buyer’s agent mostly has a vast knowledge of available offline and online options. Thus, he/she is always in a better position to guide you accordingly, ensuring your housing requirements are met in an economically viable way as far as possible. They will also help you position your bid effectively.

Difference Between Real Estate Agent and Realtor

  1. Real estate agents have licenses issued by the state. To gain the license, they must pass an exam after completing the minimum amount of coursework.
  2. Upon receiving a higher level of training, agents can also become real estate brokers after clearing the broker’s license exam.
  3. Several agents and brokers are Realtors. It implies that they are members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and are bound by the Realtor’s Code of Ethics.

This gives the client the right to report an agent or broker if they find their conduct or work ethics inappropriate.

Steps to Take Prior to Hiring a Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents will expect you to do some groundwork before hiring them. Here are some crucial steps for buying and selling process that you must close before reaching out to an agent.

Buying Process:

1. Get Mortgage Pre-Approval

A mortgage pre-approval is critical because it will determine the price range of your new home search. This will help you from wasting time looking at houses you can’t afford. However, suppose you are not clear about navigating through the process of applying for mortgage pre-approval. In that case, an experienced agent can help you find the loan products to make homeownership affordable for you.

However, If you have an experience with mortgages and feel confident about a specific lender and the programs they offer, getting pre-approval before hiring a real estate agent can expedite the process.

2. Understand the Process of Mortgage Loan

This is important for first-time homebuyers. While making the budget for your new purchase, remember to include,

  • Down payment: This is around 20% of the total pricing of the real estate property.
  • Earnest money: A deposit that can be applied towards closing costs or the down payment once the bid on a home is accepted.
  • Annual Property Tax: Do not forget to account for annual property tax and insurance costs, which you will pay into an escrow account as part of the monthly mortgage payment.

3. Know your housing priorities and list them

This would include the type of home you want, which amenities you need, the kind of neighborhood you prefer, etc.

Selling Process:

1. Start the search for a local agent early.

It takes a lot of time to get a house ready for sale, especially if it needs significant repairs. However, if you have discussions with a listing agent several months before you put up your house for sale, you can budget and plan for necessary repairs and skip the not-so-important ones.

2. Organize your home

If you have a cluttered house, you must put it in order before it goes into the home sale process. Keep what’s relevant and valuable, and sell or discard the items that have just been lying around unused, occupying the space.

Once these things are taken care of, you can confidently progress towards the next step, which is,

How to Find a Real Estate Agent?

Having a real agent to negotiate on your behalf and conclude the transaction ensures you get the best deal in a speculated time frame. But do you know how to find a proficient real estate agent? By simply following these steps,

1. Mortgage pre-approval

Knowing your finances is the first step towards any kind of real estate dealing. Before you start looking out for the best real estate agents, you must have a fair idea about your reach and affordability. You have nothing to worry about if you have all the money you need to buy a property in your bank. But if you need financing, you must check how much finance you may lend, from where, and whom. You may need to contact a bank or mortgage lender for the same.

2. Do the research

Searching the real estate portals is an easy way to build a primary list of real estate agents, as these portals have contacts with the best of agents. They also provide information about the agent’s success rate, experience, license, etc. Once you raise a query or request, agents will get in touch with you.

You may also explore the multiple listing service (MLS). It provides detailed information about the listings and agents. Most agents have access to it and will contact you if they deem themselves a fit. MLS is an excellent tool for researching available homes too, as they provide valuable inputs like price comparisons.

3. Reach out to your network

Reach out to the family or friends who recently have purchased or sold a real estate property. There are high chances that they would have sought the help of a real estate agent and can provide a first-hand review and referrals based on their experience. Also, a National Association of Realtors survey indicates that 90% of buyers who used an agent would recommend them and prefer using their services again.

4. List Out Good Real Estate Agents

Once you have found a few potential real estate agents, you should start reaching out to them. The most reasonable way to do it is to set up a meeting or call so you can discuss your needs and see if they would be a good fit for you. Be sure to come prepared with questions about their experience, understanding of the market, and what they can do for you. And don’t forget to ask for references!

5. Interview the Real Estate Agents

When interviewing a real estate agent, it is essential to ask the right questions to get a good idea of their experience and expertise. Here are some questions you must ask:

1. How long has the agent been in the business?

2. How many deals has the real estate agent closed in the past year?

3. What is the success rate of the real estate agent?

4. Does the real estate agent has any experience with international buyers?

5. What do they know about the neighborhood you are interested in?

6. What does the agent think is a fair price for the property you are interested in?

7. Does the real estate agent specialize in any particular property or transaction type?

8. What is their experience with international real estate transactions?

9. Can the agent provide you with references from past clients?

These questions will help you choose the best real estate agent among the several real estate agents you will interview. It is also essential to check whether the agent you are planning to work with has a good reputation. You can look up their name on the National Association of Realtors (NAR) website or check with your local Better Business Bureau.

Finally, once you’ve found a real estate agent that you’re comfortable working with, be sure to sign a contract, so there is a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each party. It will ensure a successful and smooth real estate transaction.

6. Take HomeAbroad’s Help

If you don’t want to do all the things mentioned above, you can take HomeAbroad’s help to connect you with the best CIPS real estate agent. We have a large network of CIPS agents, and we can connect you with the best one according to your case for free.

Find the best real estate agent with international expertise

Connect with a HomeAbroad real estate agent in your area.

What is a Buyers’ Representation Agreement?

A buyers’ representation agreement is a contract between you and your real estate agent. It outlines the terms of your relationship and ensures that your agent is working in your best interest.

The agreement should include the following:

1. The agent’s duty to confidentiality: The agent should not share confidential information about you with the seller or agent.

2. The agent’s fiduciary duties: The agent should always act in your best interest and disclose any potential conflicts of interest.

3. The duration of the agreement: The agreement should state how long the agent will represent you. Usually, it is between two to six months.

4. The scope of the agreement: The agreement should state what type of services the agent will provide, such as helping you find a property, negotiating the purchase price, and more.

5. Compensation: The agreement should state how the agent will be compensated, such as through a commission on the sale of the property, which usually varies from 5% to 6%of the purchase price.

6. The agent’s duty to disclose material facts: The agent should disclose any material facts about the property that could influence your buying decision.

7. Exclusivity: The agreement should state that the agent will work exclusively with you during the duration of the agreement. The buyers’ representation agreement is critical in your relationship with your real estate agent. It ensures that your agent is working in your best interest.

8. Term of the agreement: The agreement should state the duration of the agent’s representation. It is typically from the date of the agreement until the transaction’s closing.

By signing a buyers’ representation agreement, you ensure that your agent works in your best interest and is legally bound to keep your information confidential. This will give you peace of mind throughout the home-buying/selling process.

Before you sign a buyers’ representation agreement, please read it carefully and understand all the terms. Then, if you have any questions, ask your agent for clarification.

Documents Needed for Buyer’s Representation Agreement

The following documents are typically needed to sign a Buyer’s Representation Agreement:

  1. A copy of your I.D. ( passport, driver’s license)
  2. Your contact information. (phone number, email address, mailing address)
  3. The property you are interested in. (address, MLS number)
  4. The price range you are willing to consider.
  5. The type of property you are interested in. (house, condo, etc.)
  6. Your preferred method of communication. (phone, email, text)
  7. Any special requests or requirements you have (location, school district, etc.)

Once you have gathered all the necessary information, you will be ready to sign a Buyer’s Representation Agreement with your real estate agent.

How to Make Sure if the Agent is Legit?

These days, many real estate agents list themselves online for better reach. However, all of them may not be legit for your cause. To ensure that the information and reviews provided online are correct and authentic, it’s advisable to run through the following pointers.

1. Check on the Agent’s Real Estate License 

All real estate agents have a license issued by the state, permitting them to engage in real estate transactions. You can ask for any of these licenses as proof to ensure the agent has undergone proper training and education and has the desired experience.

2. Check on the Brokerage’s Information

Most of the legit real estate agents are associated with a real estate brokerage with additional licensing. You may contact the company to verify the agent’s works and check reviews of the brokerage online. It will help you decide if the agent and the company are genuine and worth associating with.

3. Ask for references for the Real Estate Agent

While going through the references, ask if the agent’s dealings involved anything out of the ordinary, like

  • Did they ask for payment before closing on the property?
  • Did the agent represent both the buyer and seller during the same transaction?

If the answers to these questions are yes, you know who you need not hire, as they won’t work in your best interest.

Parameters of a Good Real Estate Agent

As a home buyer, you want to ensure you’re working with a competent and experienced real estate agent. Once you have too many options, you can use these parameters to filter out the most compatible real estate agents and choose the best one. Here are some parameters to look for when hiring a real estate agent:

1. Experience

On average, good realtors are members of NAR with at least eight years of experience. However, depending on the client’s needs, some agents are likely to have more experience than others in specific categories, such as working with first-time buyers or doing deals in condos or co-ops.

2. Certifications

NAR offers varied real estate-related certifications, which lead to designations. The certifications reflect upon an agent’s experience, education, and training. You can refer to an agent’s certification to gain an idea of his/her efficiency and knowledge of the local market.

Following are the certification categories,

  • Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR)
  • Seller Representative Specialist (SRS).
  • Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES). Agents from this category are more focused on the senior citizen’s need for buying and selling property.

3. Knowledge of the neighborhood

At any given point, a good agent will be aware of the recent trends, upcoming projects, amenities, pricing, and the general pulse of the neighborhood, as these factors influence the selling and buying costs to a great extent. Owing to their knowledge of the neighborhood, they can also predict if the real estate pricing will spike up or go down.

4. Online Marketing Skills

Selling or buying from online portals can be quite a gamble if you are not well versed with real estate portals. Your agent must know about authentic websites like Zillow and Redfin and the process involved in advertising your property through them. When choosing the right agent, ensure they are proficient at using the real estate websites slotted for buying and selling properties.

Your agent must know what kind of description, photo, and video of your property would attract the attention of potential buyers and rank in the listing. He/she must also have a nack of providing virtual tours and be proficient at handling the dealings online. 

5. Availability

Your agent must treat your case as a priority. You can gauge his/her availability by observing these few things,

  • Prompt replies to your queries.
  • Keeping up with the appointments and schedule.
  • Timely and elaborate property tour.

An agent who often misses your calls or text is not punctual and keeps you hanging for a last-minute visit to the property is not a wise pick.

6. Agency or Agent

Some people trust an agency over an individual agent. Agencies usually have a team of agents to ensure that someone is always working on the client’s case and following the developments alongside answering their queries.

However, others may prefer a reputed and recommended agent. They may prefer the agent due to their rapport with him/her or because a friend or family recommended him/her.

7. Clash of Interest

Agents work on the concept of commission, which varies between 5% to 6% of the purchase price. Half of this amount goes to the buyer’s agent.

There have been incidences where the same agent has represented both the buyer’s and seller’s side, leading to a clash of interest, more so for buyers. That’s because you can not be sure if he/she is working towards winning the lowest price for you or towards gaining a higher commission for themselves.

Being vigilant and informed is the key to choosing the right real estate agent for buying a property in the USA.


Hiring a real estate agent is a crucial decision with a long-term impact. When hiring a real estate agent, be sure to do your homework. Check for agent’s license, references, and reviews. Read the agreement thoroughly and ensure you are confident about the details provided by them. With the right agent by your side, you will be one step closer to finding your perfect real estate deal.

HomeAbroad can help you connect with the right real estate agent for free.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who is a real estate agent?

A: A real estate agent is a professional who helps people buy and sell properties.

2. How do I find a good real estate agent?

A: You can ask for referrals from friends, family, or colleagues. You can also check online reviews.

3. How much does a real estate agent cost?

A: Most real estate agents work on commission, so they don’t charge a fee upfront. It is usually 5% to 6% of the purchase price.

4. What should I look for in a real estate agent?

A: Look for an agent with experience, good reviews, a legit license, and client referrals. He/She should be knowledgeable about the home buying/selling process and willing to sign a buyer’s agreement.

5. How do I know if a real estate agent is legit?

A: You can ask for proof of the agent’s NAR license and check with the company they are associated with. You can also ask for references from past clients.

6. What are the parameters of a good real estate agent?

A: A good real estate agent should have at least three years of experience, closed at least ten deals in the past year, and have a success rate of 80%. The agent should also be knowledgeable about the neighborhood you’re interested in.

About the author:
Michele Lawrie, a seasoned real estate professional licensed in New York and Florida, serves as the Chief Real Estate Officer at HomeAbroad. With over 15 years of experience and specialized certifications from the NAR (National Association of Realtors), Michele is a trusted expert for foreign nationals buying US real estate.

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