Home Buying: Choosing the Right Realtor

Home Buying: Choosing the Right Buyer’s Agent

A guideline of items to consider and questions to ask a Realtor when looking to purchase a home.

I started writing this blog literally months ago, and FINALLY I am getting around to finishing it up!  I had another interview last week with a buyer looking to purchase their first home, which inspired me to finish up and share with you some tips to consider when looking to work with an agent.

The first time I was interviewed by a buyer I was tagged in a Facebook thread from a post that read: “Looking for a good realtor in Austin, TX.” Boom! An hour later we were face-timing and I was answering all sorts of Questions. Sadly, this was maybe the second time in my career a buyer had taken the due diligence to reach out to several agents and pick the right one for them. (Thanks for the referral, Ana).

Often times as a Real Estate agent (ahem…Broker Associate, now) I am interviewed by SELLERS who want to sell their home. We go over marketing, timing, pricing, the process, but very seldom does a BUYER sit down and interview me among others.

Austin has a ton of agents (I think around 5000 or something crazy with active licenses) so it isn’t uncommon that when you mention “buying a home” your co-worker says “Hey my wife can help you!” or someone at that friend’s birthday party steps in and says “I am a Realtor, let me get you set up in a search, how much you wanna spend?!”

You probably know a few Realtors (statistics say at least 7). So when it comes to purchasing a home (your first, an investment, or planning to buy in a year or so…whatever it may be), you may or may not want to work with your newly licensed brother-in-law or Mother’s best friend of 45 years—and that’s ok, but I wanted to give you some pointers on what you should be looking for in a buyer’s agent and some tips/interview Q’s.

I will break it down to three qualities I think you should look for:

-Experience

-Great Communication

-Professionalism

Not that I am against you working with a brand new agent, because we all have to start somewhere, but when you are making one of the biggest purchases of your life, some experience will be good to have under your agent’s belt.

Questions to ask when Interviewing a buyer’s agent:

-How long have you been selling real estate?

-Are you a full time real estate agent?

-Are you a broker?

-Do you have any designations—and what do those mean?

-How many buyer’s have you represented? In the last year?

-How many are you currently working with (roughly)?

-Have you sold any homes in this area?

-What’s the percentage of homes have you won in multiple offer situations?

I remember how grateful I was for some of my first few clients. But I will be honest and say—I much prefer working with strangers in the beginning than mixing business with some of my dear friends (and mainly because when you are new you are more likely to make mistakes). Not that I want to mess up stranger’s deals (ugh, I will never forget when I forgot to add the kitchen fridge in a contract!) That was an expensive mistake. But when I first started real estate I didn’t have someone to guide me, look over my contracts, offer advice and when I did finally receive that–it made a difference ten fold in my business and guiding clients (saving friendships).

It can be a slippery slope, so if you are working with your best friend, hopefully you can be very transparent and they will do their best to serve your best interests and have someone to answer any questions and clarify your concerns as well. 

If they are a newer agent some important things to find out:

-If they are not full time yet, how do they make time for showings and writing contracts? 

-Will they be available at the times you plan to see homes?

-Do they have a mentor, team leader or someone over looking every contract before presented to the other agent?

-How many homes have they sold so far?

A common complaint I get when I start working with someone who has left a previous buyer’s agent is “they were showing us homes we weren’t interested in…” Or in sum “they weren’t listening.”

As an agent, and in this time period—I often times will get Facebook messages, text, email, phone calls and even private messages on SnapChat or Instagram with real estate Qs of the sort or comments on property tours etc. It’s daunting but important to keep track. One thing I like to ask in a meeting is—how do you prefer to be communicated with?

Sometimes my buyers work jobs where they can’t check personal emails all day and have strict desk hours, sometimes I work with buyers who practically only text and work from home—It is important to set expectations and preference up front. So think about what you prefer and works for you too.

While I don’t like “it” and try to break the bad habits… texting has become quite the norm these days. I try to set boundaries, but often when we are busy-we (I) revert back to texting information because it is quick and easy. Personally I think texting should be for small details, to answer questions or shoot a quick update, etc, and emails and phone calls to explain or discuss items. I usually use phone calls for important/emotional items (my personal favorite: “You got the house!” and an email to recap (“You won the house, here is what’s next, I need checks to….” I tend to like a paper trail for reference too, in the real estate industry, but at times even that can get lost– but everyone is different. 

You may be able to tell what kind of communicator the Agent is when you set up your appointment to chat with them as well, so pay attention to how fast they respond, (not that responding “asap” is what you should be looking for) how professional they are in their response, what kind of questions they ask when on the phone/email—and did they listen to you?

Some other Questions you may want to ask:

-Do you have a team or assistant/anyone else who would be updating or communicating with me?

-What is your “process” when working with buyers—from showings to post contract?

-What kind of follow up do you have after we close on the house?

-Who will be doing the showings?

When working with a Realtor, you want to “feel good” working with them. There’s usually a trust, a “vibe” if you will, that you feel comfortable with moving forward with this person to help you. It may sound cheesy, but not everyone will be the perfect fit (and that goes both ways). When I have a buyer consultation and go over representation, I often state—“I want to make sure this relationship works first, and when I write an offer for you, that is when you will sign the buyer’s representation agreement. But I want us to have a transparent relationship and if I don’t think I can find you what I want—I have the right to tell you and if you feel I am not working hard enough for you—I want you to tell me.”

I recently had an interview with someone who did not choose me and said “at the end of the day we felt they were in the same stage of life as us and they lived in the area we are looking.” And while it “hurts” to be rejected and it certainly won’t be the last time either—it is certainly something I will learn and grow from–and can’t take too personal. I am very fortunate that many of the people I work with are referrals from friends and past clients, and perhaps that is how you will meet the buyer’s agent you decide to work with.

I have helped everyone from first time buyers, empty nesters, investors, multi-generational families and the like. But I suppose you could say the majority of the people that work with me are similar-ish in age and maybe life stage—and that’s completely normal (I think) for someone like me who doesn’t work with too many “strangers” or “leads” as I am about 99% referral based.

Again, there has to be a trust there regardless of how old or where the agent lives.

Do I think a Realtor needs to be an “area expert” or live in the exact neighborhood they are selling? No.

Can it help at times? Maybe.

I often argue that real estate isn’t rocket science, and there is no possible way for me to keep up with all the houses in this great city and what sold for what off the top of my head—the key, in my opinion is being pro-active, being current in what is happening in specific areas, being able to research/ visiting in person the comparable homes, and having resources (utilizing other co workers or past clients that live in the area to help as well).

While the internet is definitely the #1 way home buyers find their homes these days (through the MLS—multiple listing service) it can’t hurt to have a buyer’s agent who reaches out to co-workers and gets you into a property before it hits the market (if they can).

Which leads me to some other Questions to ask an agent (especially in a hot market):

-How do you find or go about finding properties not yet on the market?

-Have you sold any homes in that area off market?

-What are your tips for winning in a multiple offer situation?