Questions to ask when choosing a realtor to buy a home
Hiring a real estate agent is a natural step in your home buying process. But you need to do your research first. These are the questions to ask a real estate agent in person (or on the phone) after you’ve sent the email pre-qualifying them as your real estate agent. Their answers will go a long way in helping you find a good realtor.
Which area(s) of the city are you most familiar with?
You want to make sure your real estate agent has experience in the neighborhood(s) where you want to buy a house. If they don’t work in the neighborhood(s) you’re looking in, you can ask them to refer you to a real estate agent who specializes in those areas. Many real estate agents will want to take you on as a new client, so make sure to screen them accordingly.
If they work in the area, ask them to provide some addresses you can drive by. This allows you to determine what kind of homes the real estate agent typically lists.
Do you often work with first-time homebuyers?
Not every real estate agent wants to work with first-time home buyers. There is a certain stigma with first-time home buyers, and many feel there is a lot more hand-holding. This is because it’s a new experience, and it’s often filled with a fair amount of indecision and second-guessing.
This is perfectly normal when purchasing your first home, but not every real estate agent wants to work with first-time home buyers. It’s best to know upfront what type of clients the real estate agent is used to working with.
Can you set up a search function that will automatically let me know when new properties come up that match my criteria?
This should be an easy thing for your real estate agent to do. It should be free of charge. However, the real estate agent may want to have you under contract before performing this service.
Do you have a lawyer that you can recommend?
Working with a real estate attorney that was recommended by your real estate agent can often make the process smoother because the two have a working relationship. They will need to be in communication once a deal is reached (provided you feel comfortable with the recommendations offered).
You are, of course, not obligated to use the lawyer that your real estate agent recommends, but it’s a nice place to start your search.
Do you have a mortgage broker you can recommend?
Like the lawyer recommendation, working with a mortgage broker that has been endorsed by your real estate agent can save you the headache of searching for one yourself. But the due diligence is still on you to make sure that it’s the right mortgage broker for you. Visit our section on hiring a mortgage broker for more on this.
Do you have any first-time home buyer references?
Again, you want to emphasize that you’re a first-time homebuyer. Going through the process with someone who’s already bought and sold multiple houses is much easier for a real estate agent because the client already understands the process and knows more about what they want.
As a new home buyer, your needs are different, and you don’t want to pick a real estate agent who is impatient when showing you multiple houses and pressuring you to buy something you don’t want.
Are you a buying or a selling real estate agent?
Some real estate agents specialize in finding homes for others (buying real estate agents), and others can specialize in selling homes (selling real estate agent). There is also a good majority that does both. It’s good to know if you find your real estate agent is a ‘selling home real estate agent,’ as they may not be the best fit when looking to purchase your first home.
Are you a dual agent?
Often realtors are both buying and selling, and they may only want to sell you the houses they have in their listings so that they can earn more. If they are a dual agent, use the following questions to ask real estate agents.
Are we able to see houses that you aren’t listing?
If this is a yes, it’s all good. But if they say no or give you any kind of resistance, you should look for another real estate agent. You don’t want to be limited in your house selection at this point in the process.
Do you have any open houses coming up that I can visit?
As we discussed above, stopping by an open house that a real estate agent is hosting can provide you with a feel for how the real estate agent interacts with people and what kind of sales personality they have.
It’s also a good idea to stop by some other open houses in the area to meet some additional real estate agents. Again, this will provide an opportunity for a first impression without them knowing you’re vetting them. (Fun Fact: this is how I met my real estate agent).
Do your clients sign a contract? And for how long?
Pay attention to these questions to ask real estate agents. This is fairly common, but you want to make sure you know what you’re getting into. If your real estate agent has you sign a 90-day contract and you find a house on your own, depending on your contract, you might still owe them a commission.
Ask them about the terms of the contract and what happens if you chose to terminate it.
Tip: We’ve heard horror stories of people signing contracts with real estate agents, resulting in the real estate agent doing nothing for them during the term of the contract. This can force people to go out looking on their own, and when they find a place, the real estate agent still gets their commission because they’re under contract.
While these cases are generally a minority situation, we think it’s best that you know it does happen, so you’re aware and prepared, should this ever come up.
How much do you charge?
Since you’re buying a home, you shouldn’t be charged anything. Your real estate agent will get paid once you purchase a home, and the amount they are paid will be deducted from the seller’s commission.
How do you get paid?
This is an important question to ask a real estate agent. Real estate agents should only get paid once you purchase a house. Some real estate agents may want to charge you upfront for their services. If that’s the case, we recommend looking elsewhere for a new real estate agent.
Questions to ask a realtor when buying a first home
Once you have asked all these questions, it’s a good idea to take some time to evaluate your choices and sleep on it. A good realtor knows they are worth it and will wait. If you are being pressured by an agent, it can be a sign to step away and regroup.