Last week, we discussed some tips and strategies for choosing a lender for your home purchase. However, for many homeowners-to-be, the first person they meet along their journey is a real estate agent, or a realtor (a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS). But with roughly 2 million such agents scattered throughout the nation (virtually all of whom are friendly and have a great smile), how can you know you’re getting the right agent for you?
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This is particularly important for first-time homebuyers, who likely don’t have an existing relationship with an agent and aren’t likely very familiar with the ins and outs of the housing and mortgage market. HousingWire’s Kelsey Ramirez tackles the issue and distils interviews with top industry experts into the five most crucial questions to ask a prospective agent during an interview:
What is your experience with first-time homebuyers?
Getting a recommendation from a family member or friend is a great way to start, but don’t assume that because this agent was perfect fit for your uncle, that they will for you. Particularly for the first-time buyer (or if it has been a long time since your last purchase), you need to make sure the agent is patiently able to walk through the entire purchase process with you and is able to explain it in a way you can comfortably understand. Remember – this is likely the largest purchase you’ll ever make, so don’t rush into an agent relationship.
How long have you been in the business, and how many sales have you completed this year?
A friendly face and dazzling smile is nice, but prioritize experience over personality. And go further than just asking how many years they’ve had a real estate license – make sure that they have sold a fair amount of homes, and recently. The real estate market changes constantly, and the entire industry has seen massive upheaval since the financial crisis in 2008. In that environment, proven experience is critical.
Are you working for me and prioritizing my interests in this transaction?
Be careful when you contact the listing agent for the home you are interested in. Keep in mind that they are working for the owner and are obligated to get the best deal for them. Having an agent that is dedicated to getting a great deal for you is something that you’ll appreciate every month for 30 years!
How do you handle communication?
This is potentially one of the most important items to discuss. In the heat of a sale, particularly a multiple-offer situation, responsive communication between buyer and agent is huge. But there’s also that communication earlier in the process – make sure you aren’t going to have to badger your agent for listings or updates. They work for you and should be contacting you proactively. Make that the expectation when you interview a potential agent.
Do you have fees?
Typically the buyer’s agent is paid by the seller, so it should be a huge red flag if the answer isn’t a big “NO!” There are some exceptions to the rule, though, such as “agency fees” that a real estate company might charge. Regardless, get that information up-front and be fully informed as to your obligation.