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It’s fun to research home buying on your own. Watching TV shows about house hunting, renovating and flipping, and using websites to narrow your search are all part of the initial process. However, when you take the leap from thinking about buying a house to actually shopping and financing a home, the specialized knowledge and experience of a real estate agent can help you find and purchase the home of your dreams.

Stress Relievers

Working with a professional real estate agent can make the home-buying process less stressful. The education and experience your agent has means you don’t need a crash course in real estate. In addition, your agent acts as a buffer between you and builders or sellers who may pressure you into making uncomfortable choices.

Pricing and Negotiating Experts

An important step in the home-buying process, and one that makes some buyers nervous, is making an offer and negotiating price. Your real estate agent is an objective and experienced ally in the negotiating process. They’re trained to present your best case to the selling agent or seller, and to keep your information confidential from competing interests.

Paperwork Gurus

From the purchase agreement to the closing papers, the paperwork stacks up. The average real estate file is between one and three inches thick—with many legally binding documents that can greatly impact your finances. With the help of a real estate agent, you can trust that your papers are in order and save yourself hours of combing through legalese.

Market Intelligence

Real estate agents have helpful knowledge about both your local market and the real estate market at large. Ask your agent for advice in identifying the right neighborhood, especially if you’re moving to a new city. In addition to knowing the cultural lay of the land—think crime rates and school ratings—they’ll have access to more detailed histories of comparable homes. Your agent will also share information about the real estate market, including data like average cost of a comparable property per square foot, median and average sales prices, and average days on market. All this information can help you make the right decision.

Finding the Right Real Estate Agent for You

When it comes time to choose an agent, it’s important to find a reputable one you can trust. Word-of-mouth referrals from friends or family are a good place to start. Navy Federal members have access to RealtyPlus®, a program that offers referrals to experienced local real estate agents and nationwide home searches. When you buy or sell a home with a RealtyPlus agent, you can receive $400-$9,000 cash back.1 Whether your new home is going to be down the street or you’re relocating to a new area, these agents can help make your move easier.

For more helpful home-buying information, Navy Federal’s MakingCents home-buying track offers helpful guidance for the first-time or seasoned homebuyer.

1Cash back from $400-$9,000 is available in most states for individual sales and purchases; offer limited to one cash-back bonus per property, with no limit on the amount of times you may use the program. No cash back in AK, LA, OK. This program is not available in IA or outside the U.S. You must be referred by RealtyPlus to a program real estate broker/agent and be represented by the assigned RealtyPlus real estate firm and real estate agent at closing to qualify. Standard listing fees apply. Obtaining the full $8,000 cash-back award requires transacting in a property valued at $1.75 million or greater. To calculate the size of your potential cash back, visit Contact RealtyPlus for terms and conditions.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.