What to ask your potential real estate agent
The process of buying a home can be a daunting venture, especially for first-time homebuyers. That's where a real estate agent comes in. A good agent is your guide to finding your dream home, so you want to choose the right one for you.
The best way to find a real estate professional is through referrals. Ask your circle of family and friends for recommendations, look at reviews of agents online and do your research.
Once you've found a few likely candidates, you should have a face-to-face meeting. Come prepared with an idea of the house you're looking for and, of course, some of the following questions for your agent.
What is your background? What are you credentials?
Trust is a key part of the buyer/agent relationship, so choose a professional with a level of experience that gives you confidence. Ask about their education background and understand the differences between titles. For example, a Realtor is a member of the National Association of Realtors and abides by a strict code of ethics, while a broker has furthered their education and has passed a broker's license exam.
Also inquire about the agent's professional background and any specializations or extra skill sets.
"I would try to figure out what their strengths are," says Andrew Wendt, president of Be Realty in Chicago. "Someone might have design experience or they might come from a corporate situation and have good negotiation experience."
How many deals have you done in this neighborhood?
The more knowledgeable an agent is about the community you want to live in, the better, said Steve Goddard of RE/MAX Beach Cities Realty in Los Angeles.
"You want to ask [the agent], 'How well do you know this area?' Did they just move here or have they lived here for 40 or 50 years? How long have they been selling real estate?" says Goddard. These kinds of connections may be priceless throughout your home search.
What is your typical caseload?
This question is not necessarily about the number but rather their availability.
"Getting an understanding of what their caseload is or if they work with a partner will give you an indication as to how much time this particular person will have for your purchase," Wendt says.
Essentially you want to be aware if an agent is overloaded with clients and may not be able to dedicate the appropriate time to finding your future home.
Will you help me find other real estate pros?
Another characteristic of a reputable agent is their professional connections with vendors like mortgage brokers and home inspectors.
"A good Realtor should help you with some names of people they know and trust would service you properly," Goddard says.
How will we communicate throughout this process?
From first meeting through closing on a house, you should expect reliable and accurate communication from an agent, says Wendt. Inquire about how they make themselves available, whether it's via email, phone or text message, and how often you should expect an update.
Purchasing a home is one of the biggest (and priciest) decisions you'll ever make. And at the end of the day you want someone on your team who makes you feel comfortable with the process.
"Just make sure your personalities match," Wendt says. "You're going to spend a lot of time with this person so you want to make sure you get along with them."