If you’re a first-time homebuyer, you may be wondering how to start the process. After browsing homes online, the next step for homebuyers is often choosing a Realtor.
But how do you find the best ones out of all the available choices? HousingWire has you covered.
We asked one of the top five agents in Atlanta, Matt Hermes, and Happy Grasshopper Co-Founder Dan Stewart for their best advice and distilled that into these five questions to ask your real estate agent:
1. What is your experience working with first-time homebuyers?
Oftentimes, first-time homebuyers will rely on a personal referral from a family member or friend when they start the buying process. While this is a great way to be introduced to a real estate agent, you need to make sure the agent has the skill set and patience to work with a first-time buyer. A real estate agent should take the time to walk through the entire purchase process from loan pre-qualification, a needs analysis (what are you looking for, the area you want to live, commute times, price point, etc), how to look at homes objectively, reviewing the contract with you prior to writing an offer, how a contract will be written to your benefit, funds needed to close, funds needed AFTER closing, closing time lines, etc.
2. How long have you been in the real estate business and how many homes have you sold this year?
While there are many excellent agents that are new to the business, making sure you have experience working on your side is a key to your success in finding and negotiating a great deal. Working with a new agent or even an agent who has had his/her license for years, but has not closed a lot of transaction may not be in your best interest. Don’t get me wrong, there are some exceptional agents who have not closed a ton of transactions, but you should consider experience over someone you “like.” You want to make sure your agent is knowledgeable about writing offers with the terms working in your favor.
3. Are you working for me and in my best interest throughout this transaction?
Buyers often call on a home for sale from a sign in the yard, and the listing agent wants to show you the home. The listing agent has signed a contract with the seller to work on their behalf. They cannot work for you and the seller at the same time while trying to get both sides the best deal. If you do hire a real estate agent that also works with sellers, ask them up front how this will work if you are to view a home they are selling. Buying at a discount or at terms that work in your favor are extremely important when buying a home for the first time. I like to say that you earn your equity in the purchase of the property, not necessarily when you go to sell the home, but when you buy. Equity is wealth. You will need someone working FOR you and in your best interest.
4. How will you communicate with me?
The right amount of communication from an agent should reassure you that the agent is working hard to find you the home of your dreams. Buyers should hear from their agents without prompting. Agents should communicate often about open houses, new listings, setting up showing times, and changes within the market.
With prices high and inventory low in the current market, there’s likely to be multiple offers on the home you want, and a breakdown in communication could be the difference between an accepted and a denied offer. Ask how often the agent will communicate and what’s his/her preferred method. Will he/she primarily use email or phone, and how does that lines up with what you’re looking for?
5. Are there any fees I need to pay you?
This answer should always be: NO! A buyer’s agent is paid by the seller in almost all transactions. However, asking this question is going to be important so you know of any fees you may be responsible for at closing. Some agencies charge a “transaction fee” which may or may not be negotiable.