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Guest Post by Linnaea Elzinga
Buying a home can be an intimidating experience, and one of those hurdles is picking the right real estate agent for you. Different specialties, personalities, availability, and communication styles can all factor into the relationship between client and agent.
Don’t be afraid to shop around and interview multiple agents. And, as you do so, be prepared by researching the agent ahead of time and having the following questions ready:
1. Can you meet my specific needs and wants?
First, you must know what your needs and wants are. Before talking to a real estate agent, make a list of must-haves (for example, budget, location, number of bedrooms, or a yard) and things that you want but don’t need. After you’ve made your lists, then ask the potential real estate agent if he or she can assist you in meeting your objectives.
Be open-minded to their input, though, because your expectations might not be realistic. For example, you could be hoping to get a house in a great location at a price point that is simply not feasible. This initial consultation can be a great test-drive for communicating down the road.
2. How long have you been selling real estate?
While the number of years in the business isn’t everything, it can tell you a lot about a potential real estate agent. Agents who have been in real estate for a number of years have likely weathered some ups and downs in the housing market, so they are more likely to be prepared for unexpected problems.
On the other hand, it’s helpful to know how many purchases or sales the agent has made. Longevity doesn’t always indicate success.
3. Will you be available at the times I have open?
This seems like a very simple concern, but if the agent is not able to meet with you or schedule walkthroughs during the times you have available, you obviously won’t be a good match. For example, if you work a 9 to 5 job, be sure that the agent makes evenings and weekends available.
4. Do you have any expertise in mortgage loans?
It’s helpful to test your agent’s knowledge of real estate loans and the process of getting a loan. There are a variety of loan options to consider, from FHA to VA home loans, and a knowledgeable agent can help steer you in the right direction. Many buyers are not in a financial position to pay cash up-front, and first-time homeowners especially usually require a mortgage.
Hiring a real estate agent with a strong knowledge of the loan process is essential, even if you’ve already talked with a mortgage professional.
5. How many clients do you have right now?
More clients isn’t always better, even if it is a sign of high performance as an agent. Lots of clients may mean the agent won’t have time for you.
A large number of clients isn’t a deal-breaker; just find out how the agent copes with the challenges of juggling everything. Does he or she have an assistant? Are there other people on the team available to assist with housekeeping tasks such as paperwork and scheduling?
6. Are you more involved in buying or selling?
If the agent works primarily with sellers, as a first-time home buyer you may want to seek someone more focused on buyers. However, a degree of experience in both buying and selling is valuable. Agents who have worked both sides of real estate will have a broader perspective and understanding. And if you ever plan to resell your home, it will be nice to be able to work with the same person.
7. Do you offer guarantees? Do you require exclusivity?
Most agents will require that you sign a contract, and you want to clarify what that contract entails. Use these questions as your guide:
- What does the contract guarantee for me as the buyer?
- What happens if I need to cancel the contract?
- How long is the contract for (most agents request a 90-day minimum contract)?
As for exclusivity, most agents require that you sign an agreement saying you won’t work with any other agents or buy elsewhere for the duration of your agreement. This is a fair request — after all, the agent is putting in the time to help you find a house — but you should know up front if it’s an exclusive agreement.
Yes, there are important questions you should ask your potential real estate agents. But remember that while expertise and other objective factors are important, it’s most important to choose a person that feels like a good fit and a capable advocate. Ultimately, you’re looking for an agent you can trust who is going to represent you.
Linnaea Elzinga is a blogger and digital marketing professional who is dedicated to helping people find their place online. She specializes in blog content for a variety of industries in every topic from wellness to plumbing.