- Different real estate agents represent different stakeholders in the homebuying process.
- Compare at least three dedicated buyer’s agents before making your decision.
- The agent’s neighborhood and property specialization should match your needs.
- Transaction volume also indicates an agent’s competency.
How do you choose the right real estate agent for you?
Paradoxically, the real estate agent representing the buyer is sometimes called the selling agent, while the one representing the home seller is called the listing agent.
Very rarely do agents represent individuals on both sides of the deal, but listing agents — that is, the seller’s representative — are often the first point of contact that a buyer has with a particular home. Remember that these listing agents have a vested interest in getting you to purchase, whereas a dedicated buyer’s agent can specifically work for you.
So when you’re shopping for a home, it’s wise to compare at least three buyer’s agents and ask them the following questions to help identify an agent that can help you close on your ideal home. Below are seven questions to ask.
1. Are you licensed with the state real estate board?
The first step is to look up the agent’s profile through your state’s licensing department and check for any complaints or incidents. Ask if the agent has completed any further specialized education, such as holding an Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR) designation. While extra courses are not essential, it may give you further confidence in their capacity to represent you as a buyer.
2. Do you require mortgage preapproval before taking on a client?
The answer should be yes. By now you have likely compared mortgage lenders and gotten preapproved for your home loan, but if you are still in the information-gathering process, this question is a good indicator of an agent’s seriousness.
A good agent should require financing approval before house hunting to have a clear understanding of how much house you can afford and how smoothly the closing process can be completed. You also may want to ask how active they are in providing guidance and oversight during the homebuying process, such as attending home inspections.
3. What price range and property types do you specialize in?
Your agent should understand your budget and desired home very well. If you are a first-time buyer looking for a modest starter home, it won’t benefit you to work with an agent specializing in luxury condos, for example.
Find an agent with a track record of deals on similar properties within your price range. The agent should also ask you several questions on your preferences in order to pinpoint homes that match your needs. One of the key benefits of a buyer’s agent is the ability to locate properties that you might have disregarded from the listing alone, while not wasting time showing you homes that don’t suit your requirements.
4. What neighborhoods do you specialize in?
Housing markets can vary greatly by neighborhood despite close proximities. Your agent should know your desired neighborhood inside and out and have experience in the specific neighborhood itself, not just the wider city or suburbs. A good buyer’s agent, however, may be able to recommend nearby communities that match the qualities you and your family are looking for.
5. How many transactions have you completed?
There is no hard-and-fast rule for years in business that denotes a great agent, but more experience and successful deals completed typically correlates with more competency. Look for an agent that has five years in business or a high transaction volume over fewer years.
6. What hours are you available for contact and how?
You want a full-time agent who can dedicate themselves to your search. Houses close very quickly in high-demand markets, so establish whether you can reach your agent outside of normal business hours, and on the medium you are most comfortable with — be it cell phone, email, etc.
Setting up communication expectations is important to a seamless house-hunting process. Additionally, ask whether the agent provides electronic closing or electronic mortgage — eClosing or eMortgage — services that streamline the loan-approval and closing process through digital documentation and signing.
7. May I have a list of recent client references?
Once you’ve determined that the agent is licensed, experienced in your property type and neighborhood, and attuned to your schedule, references can seal the deal. Ask past clients how available the agent was throughout the process, if they had a good understanding of what was wanted in terms of the home purchase, and if they were able to stick to the budget.
For privacy reasons, you may not be able to contact past clients directly, but the agent should at least provide you with testimonials. Solid references are arguably the most important advocates for an agent and can round out your decision to work with a particular individual.