Buying Real Estate? Ten Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Real Estate Agent
Buying your home is both exciting and stressful, calling on you to provide time, knowledge, contacts and skills that you may not possess. Hiring an experienced real estate agent is one way to move through the process efficiently and relatively smoothly. As with hiring an expert for a job – plumber, nanny, lawyer, etc. – you need to look behind their professional credentials to their experience, trustworthiness, skills and whether you can work with them. In other words, you need to interview them so here are ten questions to ask any potential real estate agent before you make your choice.
1. Have you bought or sold homes in the neighborhoods I’m interested in?
Much information about a neighborhood is available online. However, nothing beats local, on-the-ground knowledge of the neighborhood to understand the context behind that data. This ultimately comes from the experience of buying and selling properties in the area or living there. Your real estate agent should also know details such as whether the neighborhood is growing or declining; and if many of the residents are retired versus a demographic of families with young children [1,5]. You should also ask if they have expertise in buying the property type that you are interested in. Wowa provides information about the neighborhood experience of the real estate brokers near you.
2. Where can I find testimonials from previous clients? Can I contact the clients?
As well as pointing you to client testimonials, your potential real estate agent should be more than willing to provide you with contact information for former home-buying clients. A personal phone call to the client can provide a context for the testimonials on the agent’s website (Wowa provides these). Questions to ask include whether the client was limited in the number of homes they saw or pushed to buy quickly, the availability of the agent, and the agent’s negotiation and communication skills [1,3].
3. How do your real estate agent fees work?
The commission rate for real estate agents in home buying is paid by the selling agent and is typically around 2-3% of the selling price of the property. In large cities such as Toronto and Vancouver, where the average price of homes is above $500,000, buying agents often pass on part of their commission to the buyer as cashback or rebates. You can negotiate the amount passed on to you since, unlike the old times, buyers are doing some of the agent’s work such as searching for the properties they are interested in and evaluating the price [1,5]. Wowa’s agent listings identify if the agent provides this kind of rebate (cashback).
4. Do you work alone or are you part of a team?
This is another way of asking what the real estate agent will be doing themselves and what they will hand off to an administrative assistant or a sales colleague. If your real estate agent is just the face of the team and someone else will be doing all the work, who should be your contact? On the other hand, if your agent is part of a team, they may be a specialist in buying homes. Another question to ask is if they’re a full-time agent or if they have a second job [4,5]. This will affect when and for how long they can spend time working on your behalf, as well as if they will have someone else doing the work [2,3,4]. Many agents on Wowa indicate that they are part of a team.
5. What other professionals do you have in your network?
Buying a home requires the expertise of other professionals including a mortgage broker, a home inspector and a real estate lawyer. Later on you may need the services of renovation or construction consultants, landscape architects and other specialists . While some of these real estate services such as mortgage services are provided by Wowa, for others you may need the help of your real estate agent. It will save you time and effort in looking if your real estate agent already has professional contacts in their network with these skills.
6. What credentials/experience/knowledge/skills do you have?
Look beyond the usual questions about the agent’s current real estate license, number of years experience, etc. Do they have expertise in particular property types or a related degree or previous experience so they can point out to you any flaws in a home? Have they taken a negotiation course? [2,3] Also be sure to google the name of the agent to ensure that no complaints have been registered against them.
7. How will you communicate with me?
This question covers all the elements of communication and more. How often can you expect to hear from the agent? Will someone else be the main contact? How can you reach them and how often can you call/text/email? Will they give you regular updates or just contact you when something happens? But there’s more; ask your agent if they’re going to be completely honest with you. If they spot a problem with the home you’re viewing, will they tell you about it straight away? Or if you’re becoming emotionally attached to a property that doesn’t meet many of your requirements, will they calm you down? Your agent should have your best interests at heart [6,7].
8. Can I cancel our contract without penalty?
Real estate agents may ask you to sign a buyer’s representative agreement (BRA) that says that they’ll be your exclusive agent for a specified time. Look for an agent who will let you ‘test run’ them on a few home viewings to make sure that you can work with them before signing the contract and will let you terminate the contract with only a small penalty fee, if any at all. The termination penalty is to cover any expenses that they’ve already spent . But always try your best to not sign a BRA until you are almost sure that the agent fits your needs.
9. How many properties do you typically show to your clients?
Asking this question will show if the agent may rush you through the buying process. An answer of “one or two homes” is cause for further investigation. The best agents support you in viewing as many homes as you need to, offer you honest advice about the properties and negotiate to get you the best deal. The worst agents may push you to buy one of the first homes you see. Everyone gets their money, commission or keys quickly and moves on.
If you have any doubts about the professionalism of an agent in this regard, check online at Wowa for reviews and ask their previous clients about it. Also, make clear to the agent that you won’t be hurried in your decision making. If you’re still not sure, cross this agent off your list of potential partners.
10. What can I do for my home buying to be successful?
Asking this question lets you know if the real estate agent plans to work with you in the way that you want the relationship to be. It also lets you know what you have to have in place to move at a moment’s notice if you find the home you’re looking for . It’s essential for you to do your bit in the buying process and your agent guide is essential to avoid common mistakes that buyers make.
The bottom line
Buying your dream home takes a team of you and your real estate agent working harmoniously together. Don’t feel pressured into hiring an inexperienced friend or relative for this complex transaction. Even though you and your real estate agent will be together for just a short time, it is an important partnership in your life. Make sure you ask the right questions to find the best partner.
- 6 Questions to ask Your Potential Real Estate Agent. Moneysense.
- How to Interview a Real Estate Agent. The Balance.
- How to Vet a Real Estate Agent: 10 Questions to Ask before Hiring. Forbes.
- How to Interview a Real Estate Agent. REW.
- 7 Questions to Ask a Real Estate Agent Before you Commit. Remax.
- Does Your Real Estate Agent Measure up? 7 Questions to Ask Before you Commit. Chicago Tribune.
- Hiring a Real Estate Agent? Ask These 6 Questions First. Forbes.
- BRA sets the terms with your real-estate broker: Ask Joe. The Star: Toronto edition.