Buying a home can be equal parts excitement and anxiety, whether you’re a first-time buyer or veteran homeowner, but you don’t have to go it alone. To help you navigate the process, choose an experienced local real estate agent and put their knowledge and skill to work as you start your home-buying journey.
Below are some key questions to ask a realtor before you start your home search.
Finding the Right Agent for You
You’ll most likely be spending a lot of time with your realtor, so it’s important to work with a professional you feel can trust. Treat this process like a job interview and talk with several agents. Their experience, track records and fees are not all the same.
Your realtor should be able to walk you through the process of what to expect, from securing a mortgage to inspection and everything in between. If you feel rushed, pressured, or that the realtor is not being transparent, find another agent.
1. Are You a Full-Time Agent? What’s Your Availability Like?
An agent who juggles another full-time job or does real estate “on the side” is less likely to be up to date with the local market or able to respond in a timely manner, potentially causing frustration for you, or impeding your home search.
A successful agent might be busy, but they will always have time to show you houses, answer questions, review paperwork, negotiate on your behalf, and see your transaction all the way through to closing.
2. Can I Speak to Some of Your Past Clients?
An agent with experience in your market will be willing to put you in touch with satisfied clients. Of course, these clients are likely to give the agent a glowing review, but you’ll also have the opportunity to ask questions to get insight into the agent’s strengths, potential weaknesses, communication style, and overall expertise.
In addition, check out online reviews for the agent, as these reviews are more likely to be unfiltered and could provide an overall picture of what kind of agent they are.
3. What Are Your Fees?
Real estate fees are negotiable, but agents typically charge between 1% to 6% to represent either side of a transaction.
It’s important for a buyer to understand that if working with a traditional real estate brokerage, it’s the seller who pays the fees for both the listing agent and the selling agent — a buyer doesn’t pay their agent a fee directly. For example, a 6% fee on the total transaction might be split evenly with 3% going to the listing agent and 3% going to the selling agent.
4. What Sets You Apart from Other Agents?
A good realtor has anticipated this question and will have prepared at least one solid reason as to why you should choose them. Their answers might range from highlighting their market knowledge (“I’ve lived in this area my entire life” or “I’ve sold more than 50 homes in this ZIP code”) to their years of experience, quick communication style, or reputation for handling difficult situations with poise.
The important thing is that their qualifications align with what you value most in a realtor.
Finding the Right Home for You
Once you’ve found the right realtor, put their expertise to work when you start shopping for a home with the following questions:
5. What’s the Neighborhood Like?
Your agent can help you pinpoint areas that are suitable for your lifestyle. Are you looking for good schools? A quiet neighborhood? Vibrant shopping and nightlife? Is there access to public transit? Tap into your agent’s neighborhood knowledge to get a picture of what the area is really like. You can also ask how much homes are selling for in the area, the average resale value, and if there are any developments on the horizon that may change the neighborhood’s character.
6. What Should I Look for When Viewing a House?
Remember that many homes on the market have been prepared for sale with eye-catching updates, fresh paint and staging. It’s easy to focus on the new appliances and overlook less exciting features. But your agent might point out potential deal breakers — like a roof that will need to be replaced within a few years, water damage, too few bathrooms, or a yard that’s too small. Pay attention to anything your agent red flags.
7. What’s the Story With This House?
Asking your agent to tell you everything they know about the home you’re interested in could work to your advantage if you move forward with an offer. Why is the house for sale? Is the seller moving for work and requiring a quick sale, or are they long-time residents who are downsizing?
Your agent will be able to tell you how long the house has been on the market (or is likely to stay on the market), its tax history and if there are any other offers on the table. They can also tell you the home’s history of insurance claims, and if they feel the home is priced fairly based on a competitive market analysis (CMA).
Partnering with the right realtor and getting your questions answered before you embark on your home-buying journey is a smart way to ensure you end up with the home you want.