If you’re considering buying a home, you may have a number of things on your mind: finding a house that suits your budget; locating a house in the right school district; deciding on the right floor plan. While all of these things are important, the single most critical decision you have to make when home-shopping is which Realtor you will choose. It’s true, you could go it alone, but without
proper representation, you’ll be at a distinct disadvantage, not only in negotiating a deal, but also in finding the right house.
For your sake and the sake of your family, it’s best if you work with an agent. An agent can help you locate properties for sale in the neighborhood you desire. He or she can also provide valuable advice during the “looking stage”; your agent is likely to notice things that you don’t and therefore could end up saving you a great deal of money. In addition, since chances are the seller will be represented by an agent, you’ll want an agent there to look out for your best interests.
Once you make the decision to retain an agent, the next decision you’ll have to make is whom to choose. This is not as easy as it might appear. You’ll want to do more than just flip through a phone book to find a name. You’ll need to do some homework to make sure you select an agent who’s right for you.
Given this fact, there are a number of questions you should ask when agent-shopping. Some agents work as “Exclusive Buyer Agents.” These are agents who represent buyers and buyers alone. They do not list properties; therefore there is no danger of a conflict of interest. However, you can retain an agent who also sells property, although you might want to ask whether the agent will be showing you properties that his company is also selling. It’s best to know these things in advance, so there are no misunderstandings down the road.
Find Out How Long the Agent Has Been in the Field
A more experienced agent is likely to give you better service and greater attention to detail. Also, ask how much of the agent’s work involves representing buyers. This will give you a clue about whether the agent is likely to ask the right questions throughout the buying process.
Ask for References
Specifically, the names and phone numbers of about a half-dozen buyers the agent has represented in the last six months. If the agent is readily willing to give you this information, it shows his or her confidence and provides some indication of trustworthiness. Once you have the contact numbers in hand, be sure to follow up by making calls. You can find out whether the agent was responsive, helpful, and knowledgeable. And who would know better than the clients he or she has represented?
Also, ask the agent if he or she will have information about “For Sale By Owner” properties. You’ll want to ensure that you get a chance to view a wide variety of properties so that you can make an intelligent decision about which home is right for you.
In addition, ask the agent about credentials. Has the agent had specific training related to the unique needs of buyers? Does he or she hold special accreditation? Any agent who is not willing to share this information with you is probably not worth dealing with.
Also, make sure you settle financial matters with the agent before you look at your first house. Find out whether he or she will receive a commission on the purchase of a house, or whether he or she works on an hourly basis. Obtaining answers to such questions now will eliminate headaches in the future.
Another important question is whether the agent has a list of lenders, home inspectors, and contractors that he or she likes to work with. It will certainly save you time, and probably money, if you can rely on your agent to supply this information rather than trying to hunt it down yourself. The answer to this question will also give you an idea as to whether the agent is knowledgeable about the community.
Finally, be sure to interview at least three agents before deciding on one to represent you. You’ll be able to do comparison shopping this way, and you’re more likely to find the right agent if you have a pool of applicants from which to choose.