Important Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent
Background of Your Realtor
When you are looking to buy or sell property, you want to make sure that the person who will be representing your interest is the best one for the job. Choosing a Realtor is a lot like dating. You want to know as much as the possible about the person before you sign contracts with them. I was once asked to sign a contract with a Realtor before I we went to look at property together, a document that would have designated them as my Realtor for the duration of my house search until closing. Needless to say, I did not sign such a silly document, nor would I ever.
Ask your real estate professional about themselves.
Here are some questions that are relevant.
- Are they from the area. A good Realtor does not have to be from the area that they are selling in, but if they are not from the area, how long have they been there?
- Have they always been in real estate? My favorite real estate co-worker was a plastic surgeon before he went into real estate. A car accident damaged the nerves in his hand, but his attention to detail was still evident in his listings. Little details that would have sailed over the rest of us were very important to him. He always made sure that the kitchen and bathrooms were spotless. Knowing a background gives you an idea of what to expect in terms of professionalism.
- What is their specialty? Do they sell more houses or condos? Make sure that if you are dealing with a person who does this part time that their schedule will work with yours. Most Realtors that work a different job are able to do well in Real Estate because they are working nights and weekends as a Realtor. If you need someone with unusual hours, a part time Realtor may not going to be a good fit for you.
- Is their native language your native language? I speak some Spanish. I do not speak enough Spanish to be able to grasp the fine nuances of conversation. If I were showing a home to people who only spoke Spanish, there would be no natural flow between us.
Asking a Realtor about their past sales feels awkward to some.
I feel as though it is a good topic, because it gives them a chance to brag, or if sales are down, it is a great chance for them to share with you all of the good deals that are there in the marketplace.
What types of properties are the most represented by this Realtor? New Builds? Particular neighborhoods? Certain price points? Condominiums? Duplexes? A good Realtor will tell you what they are most comfortable selling. I had a Realtor turn me down on the telephone one time, telling me that they did not sell anything except a single street in the Dallas area. It is better that a Realtor and you get off to a good and honest start.
Budget and Listings
I have a pet peeve with a lot of Realtors. If you give them a budget, for example of "being approved for $90,000, they will show you up to $99,999. I feel as though a Realtor should be as cautious and careful with my money as I am. Additionally, you don't want the problems of having to find additional financing a house that you have fallen in love with.
Make sure that you speak with a money professional before you speak to any Realtor. Get a strong and healthy idea of your finances. You may be able to afford more or less house than you are aware of. Don't feel pressured to look at houses that are past your budget. Buying a house should be a joy, not a burden. If you have a Realtor who is always showing houses over your budget, tell them again what your budget is, and if they won't stop, find another Realtor.
Some states require that you have a home inspection. If you are in a state that requires it, your Realtor should be able to make some referrals to you. If you are not, they still may be able to make some referrals.
As a former home buyer, I feel as though we got so much value for our money by having a home inspection. We learned a lot about the house that the Realtor did not know, and it did not allow for the sellers to fail to disclose anything to us. We were in the home when the inspection was done, which if you are allowed to be, I firmly and highly recommend it.
Why? You get to see any and all problems as they come up. You get to flush toilets, see water pressure, walk around, see what cell phone reception is like. You can walk up and down the block and get a real feel for the neighborhood. There is so much that can be done in those few golden hours of the home inspection. During my home inspection, I learned from the neighbors of some awesome organizations, and I discovered some great neighbors who I am still friends with. A home inspection is a valuable tool.
Acts of Crime or Death in the House
Certain cities and states are required to divulge if a crime of certain types or deaths occurred in the house. If you live in one of these areas, and that is something that is important to you, make sure your Realtor knows. If you live in an area where this is not required, sometimes if you mention it to the Realtor, they are able to find it out for you if it is a house that you are ready to purchase.
I never experienced this situation as Texas at the time I was a Realtor did not require it. I don't know what the laws are now, but if it is important, ask.
Schools, Worship and Crime
When I was a Realtor, one of the questions I was asked a lot was about the schools. It was very easy to look up the schools. If schools are important to you, make sure you have a list of the schools that you would like your child/ren to attend as well as the zip codes of those areas. It can save a lot of time. If the schools that you want your children to attend are private, you will have to do the research on your own. In the Dallas area, although some of the private schools did provide a bus service, I did not know the boundaries of any of those school districts.
If living near a certain house of worship is very important to you, it is best that you map it out and bring that map with you to see your Realtor. Again, a huge time savings. I once had a delightful couple come in with several maps that they had superimposed over one another to create their "perfect neighborhood". It was a tiny area of less than 4 square blocks. The problem was that the neighborhood was very much outside of their budget. By making a few adjustments to the map, they were still in a near perfect neighborhood. When I saw them a few years later, they had been transferred to a different part of the world where real estate was far more affordable. A perfect neighborhood there was far more attainable.
No one wants crime in their neighborhood. There now exist various websites that will allow you, the consumer to do a search of an area for different types of crime and criminal activity. Think of these when looking for a house and ask your Realtor about crime when you are looking. Although Realtors cannot be aware of every single crime that happens, we can be mindful when we search on the computer for your dream property.
The List of Important
When you are looking for property, don't show up in a Realtor's office with no idea of anything that you want. You should be able to have a list of where you want to live, what features you are looking for and your budget at the very least.
Asking your Realtor the above questions will help you narrow your fields and get a clearer focus on what you are looking for and if you and your Realtor are a good match.
Keep a list and a notebook of what you are looking for as well as what you have looked at. I advise my clients to make notes on the back of every MLS sheet that we looked at so that there was no confusion about which house the notes were for. It also saved them from looking at the same house twice.
As you look at houses, you will notice that there are some features that are important to you, and some that are not as important. Make a list of Important. It is the list that you will change and show your Realtor, sharing what you need versus what you want.
By being willing to make trades and compromises on less important details you will get as close to your perfect house as possible. That is what Realtors do. They show you houses until you find your home.
Although I am no longer a Realtor, I still recall fondly my days when I showed bricks for a living. I love feedback and look forward to your comments!