All buyer’s agents are not created equal. While they all do the same thing – helping buyers find their dream home – they are different when it comes to their amount of real estate experience, area focus, client service, availability, and professional education. Here are some of the questions homebuyers should ask a real estate agent to hire the right agent for their needs:
- Do you work full-time or part-time as a real estate agent? – Buying a home is a time-consuming process. It is important that your real estate agent is available to show you homes when it is convenient for you. Compared to a full-time agent, a part-time agent is likely to be less available, and perhaps even less committed, in helping you find your dream home.
- How long have you been a licensed real estate agent? – Home-buying is a multi-phase complex process with a series of steps involved in each phase. Having successfully gone through this process many times before, an experienced agent can ensure a smooth transaction in a timely manner. Ask the agent, and verify if possible, how many real estate transactions he/she has handled in the past 12 months? What value did he/she add in the process?
- How well do you know my chosen area? – An agent who is specialized in serving only certain areas is likely to be more knowledgeable about the neighborhoods and new developments in those areas, than the agent who is not. Agent’s area-focus can be valuable in finding a home in the right neighborhood at the right price. Ask the agent whether he/she specializes in your chosen area. How many buyers has he/she helped recently in buying homes in that area? What neighborhoods in that area are better for you, and why?
- Do you work on weekends? – You might be competing with hundreds of other potential homebuyers for the same house, especially in the seller’s market. Since many listings go in the FMLS on the weekends and open houses are usually held on Saturdays and Sundays, having an agent who is available on the weekends is crucial.
- Do you have other quality professionals that you can recommend to me? You will likely need to hire other professionals during the home-buying process, including a mortgage broker, home inspector, home appraiser, real estate attorney, and insurance professional. A quality agent is usually a member of a referral network of other quality professionals; as they know how one another work and what quality of service is to be expected.
- Can you give me references of your three most recent clients? – Good agents are always open to give client references. Talking to an agent’s past clients can give you an idea of what it might be like to work with the agent, what he/she does well, and areas where he/she might struggle.
- What is your ideal client profile? – Just as you prefer certain qualities in an agent, an agent also prefers certain characteristics in his/her clients, such as dweller vs. investor, cash buyer vs. mortgagee, first-time homebuyer vs. repeat buyer, etc. It is important that you and your agent are a good fit for each other, for the entire home-buying process to be a friendly, stress-free, and productive one.
- Why you? – Good agents are always ready to explain why they deserve your business. Let the agent sell you on his/her value propositions and tell you what sets him/her apart from the other agents. This will allow you to understand the agent’s strengths and expertise as he/she sees it, and consider them appropriately in your hiring decision.
- What professional real estate designation(s) and certification(s) do you hold? – Designations and certifications help define the special skills that an agent can apply to your particular real estate needs. The two most relevant real estate designations for the buyer’s agent are Certified Residential Specialist (CRS) and Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR).
- What do you expect from me? – An agent may have certain requirements to take you on as a client, such as requiring you to be pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage, have a proof of down payment, sign a Buyer’s Broker Agreement, be available for home visits, etc. It is important that you understand and agree with all of the agent’s requirements before hiring him/her as your agent.
Buying a home may be one of the biggest financial decisions of your lifetime. Hire an experienced agent who is specialized in buying homes in your area of choice, and has great client references.