Ready to Buy a Home? Ask Your Realtor These 8 Questions Before You Hire Them

An agent helps prevent costly mistakes and ensure a successful transaction—so it's important to vet this professional thoroughly.

Buying a home is easily one of the biggest and most important purchases you'll ever make. Financially, we're talking about an investment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and a mortgage that will last the bulk of your lifetime. It's also a significant milestone—having a place to call your own and bring to life is incredibly rewarding.

One of the best ways to set yourself up for success is to work with an experienced, reliable realtor who can steer your ship in the right direction. Hiring the best of the best gives you unlimited access to their expertise, helps prevent costly mistakes, and provides you with negotiating power once you're ready to put in an offer, says Anthony Garland, a real estate agent with the AGG Realty Group. Not to mention, it allows you to take a back seat and relax, since your agent will handle the intricacies of the buying process. 

Conversely, if you don't work with an experienced realtor, "you may face several potential risks, such as overpaying for a home, making mistakes on the paperwork, or experiencing delays in the closing process," says Garland. Along with getting referrals from people you trust and checking out reviews, asking the right questions can guide you toward the best real estate agent when you're ready to buy a home. Here are some of things everyone should ask a realtor before hiring them for the job. 

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What is your experience in real estate?

Understanding your realtor's background is the first step of the hiring process, so don't hesitate to ask them about their experience. "You are looking for competence in the process, knowledge of the area, and a sense of confidence that they can represent you as you move ahead in a home search," says real estate agent Emily Clancy LoPorto. "It is also okay to trust your gut a little here, as you want to connect and feel like this person can represent your interests." For example, if you leave the conversation feeling more confused than you were when it began, that could be a sign that this is not the agent for you.

How versed are you in helping buyers find homes in my desired location?

This question is a great follow up to the last one and really zeroes in on an agent's local knowledge. Your realtor should be able to provide valuable insight into the local real estate market, including schools, amenities, transportation, climate considerations, and other factors that could influence your buying decision. "A good answer to this question would be specific and detailed, demonstrating the agent's expertise and knowledge of the area," says Garland. "They should be able to provide you with information about the local housing market and share insights to help you make an informed decision." 

If the agent isn't familiar with your buying location, this is a red flag. Working with someone who's extremely knowledgeable about the area increases your chances of finding the right property and getting a fair deal.

What is the local real estate market doing now?

This question piggybacks off of the last two—and can really help solidify whether the real estate agent is versed in the intricacies of the local market. It can also help provide you with more clarity about what to expect during the buying process, as the industry is always in flux. What's more, having confidence in your realtor's expertise will make it easier to trust them during the buying process, thereby avoiding potential pitfalls along the way.  

"Usually agents have a good idea of what terms it will take to get the offer accepted while getting you the best deal possible," Zimbelman says. "Hear them out and realize that the goal is the same for all parties involved—to get you a great house with fair terms." 

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What is your communication style and availability?

Hiring someone for their expertise is important, but you'll also want to mesh on a more personal level. When you get along with your agent and they're able to communicate clearly and effectively, the buying process will feel more enjoyable. "You want to ensure that your agent is responsive, accessible, and communicates in a way that suits your needs," Garland says. "A good answer to this question would be that the agent is available when you need them, whether via phone, text, or email. They should also be able to provide an estimate of how often you can expect to hear from them and how quickly they will respond to your inquiries."

If the agent is difficult to reach, takes a long time to respond to your messages, or doesn't communicate in a way that works for you, it can create snags along the way. 

What will the process look like if we work together?

Any experienced agent should be able to list the basic steps of the buying process and the order in which these steps will likely occur, says Melissa Zimbelman, a real estate agent and property manager based in Las Vegas, Nev. 

You should receive a detailed answer with a basic timeline of what happens during the transaction, says Zimbelman. If an agent is unable to do this, they may not understand the process well enough to serve you. "Because this process can be stressful, it is important for you to feel 100 percent comfortable when working with the agent and lender," says Zimbelman. "Don't sign any buyer brokerage agreement documents with them until you feel like the relationship will work. It is important for both parties to set realistic expectations right up front." 

How do you plan to search for my home?

It's important to understand how your agent plans to find potential homes for you. "The answers can vary, but you want to get a concrete answer that illustrates all the channels and strategies your agent plans to employ," LoPorto says. "If your agent hesitates or says something like, 'Just send me links from Zillow of homes you like,' [that could indicate] you're likely not going to get the attention you deserve by partnering with this agent." 

What is your approach to negotiating and representing buyers?

Negotiation is a key aspect of the home-buying process, and it's a skillset that not everyone possesses. That said, you want to work with an agent who's versed in negotiating and can do so with your best interests in mind. "Asking this question will help you understand the agent's approach to representing buyers and how they will work to ensure you get a fair deal," says Garland. "A good answer to this question would be that the agent has experience negotiating on behalf of buyers and is committed to representing your best interests throughout the transaction."

To follow up, you can request specific examples of successful negotiations they've conducted in the past. Be wary if the agent seems hesitant or unwilling to discuss their approach to negotiation. 

Who are two to three lenders you recommend and why? 

The financial aspect of buying a home is huge, and you want to make sure you're in good hands. Asking your real estate agent about their preferred lenders can help ensure you're set up for success. "Having a strong lender to obtain your mortgage is just as important as finding the home you will end up purchasing," Zimbelman says. "Most loan programs offered by each mortgage company are going to be similar, but the amount of closing costs they charge, as an example, can vary drastically." 

She says that agents should have various lenders they work with, including those at a big box bank, a local bank, and possibly a mortgage broker. Know why they chose each and what each specializes in. "No agent should ever give you just one lender's name, so be cautious if they seem to be implying that you are required to work with any particular lender," Zimbelman says. "The choice of who you obtain a mortgage through will always be your decision."

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