By now you may know that finding the property is the easiest step in the process of buying a house. Actually, there are several property search apps and websites such as Zillow, Realtor, and Movoto that can do the job, and with just one click you will have a display of available houses. So, what would you need a real estate agent to buy your desired home?
You don’t. But buying a house is an emotional process, and a buyer agent can search for houses with “other eyes”, those who are used to finding, comparing, and pricing houses day in and day out.
However, finding the “right property” is still the very beginning of the process. Once you find one yourself, or with the help of a realtor, then what?
Having found property doesn’t mean you have a deal in the hand. To secure it you would need to have a winning offer that helps you negotiate a fair price. Just remember that buyers always want to buy for less, but sellers always want to sell for more. A knowledgeable and good negotiator agent would know how to secure for you the price that makes you happy.
Because of the high value that the real estate agent brings to the buyer, and because the buyer doesn’t pay for the agent’s services, it is always advisable to count on a good real estate agent in your team. But how to choose the right person for the job?
Here are some questions and pieces of advice to keep in mind while choosing your real estate agent.
How many active clients -buyers and sellers- is the agent working with?
This is a key point when you are hiring an agent. Many people find an “experienced” agent with many listings and buying clients, which can be a double-edged sword. Be clear about your needs when hiring that kind of agent. Time is only one, so make sure that the agent will have enough time for you.
What type of communication should you expect from the agent and what is the agent’s availability?
Many agents work in real estate as part-time jobs. Would she/he be there if bidding has just begun on the home you are placing an offer on, or if you have a last-minute closing issue? You do need a person working full-time in real estate and available to you 24/7.
Is the agent working directly with you or is another person in the team handling your transaction?
Many agents work in teams. And even when it can be a good thing, make sure that the person you are hiring is the one accompanying you during the whole process. Unfortunately, it has happened that clients get frustrated because of losing track of their transaction’s responsible person within a team.
What services does the agent offer in addition to finding a property and negotiating the offer?
It is already clear that a minimum of negotiation skills and paperwork handling is a must in a real estate agent. But to be better off, make a list of anything else you need from your agent, and don’t forget to ask for it. Are you savvy in the ins and outs of the inspection, mortgage, and title paperwork? If not, check whether the agent you are hiring knows how to help you “navigate these waters”.
Will the agent show you all of the properties available for sale?
There are several factors affecting the willingness of an agent to show you a certain property in the market: driving distance to the property, time availability, and commission to be paid are the main deterrents. But you as the client deserve an agent willing to show you the right properties despite his or her personal disadvantages. Client satisfaction and not money should be the main goal of a good realtor.
Can the agent provide at least three references from past customers?
Be sure you “google” the agent’s past-client references even before interviewing her. And take the time to contact a few to get a first impression of what previous customers really think about the agent. Believe it or not, that message or phone call to past clients will save you headaches.
Even when these are key questions for a fast evaluation of your to-be agent, the next questions tackle the agent’s expertise. So, feel free to ask her the following:
Can you explain to me each point of the “Contract for purchase and sale” agreement?
Together with the mortgage documents, the contract for purchase and sale is a key document for the buyer. Your agent should know that contract “by memory” and be able to guide you through the main points and explain to you which ones you have to keep an eye on.
Are you familiar with the diversity of financing programs?
Even when a realtor is not your expert in financing, she should have a decent background on mortgages to provide you with the best guidance. Do you know that a few real estate agents are also certified, mortgage originators? The more knowledge in your agent, the better covered you are.
Do you know the whys of the different types of property inspections?
Home inspection is a crucial part of the buying process. What the inspector finds and says during and after the inspection is going to be essential for the final sale, so the agent has to be familiar with the inspection process and be able to answer the client’s questions in a proper manner.
Can you “read” my closing costs?
When you buy a house your down payment is not the only money that is coming out of your pocket. You have other payment responsibilities such as loan origination fees, lender’s title insurance policy, settlement fees, recording fees, and a few others. Your agent should know the details about the closing costs, and be able to explain them to you.
Could you explain to me the closing statement?
The truth is most buyers don’t understand credit, debit, and proration in the closing statement. When choosing an agent try to find somebody able and willing to explain to you those numbers.