Looking for the home of your dreams? You could go it alone — or you could take our advice and work with a reputable real estate agent.
Hiring a real estate agent to help you buy your first — or next — home can put you at a significant advantage when competing with other buyers for what’s become a very limited housing inventory. Back in April, CNBC stated that homes were selling in just over two weeks on the market. That’s exceptionally fast!
Buying a home is, potentially, the most expensive transaction of your life. If you choose the right one, a real estate agent can help assure you get more for your money than you could by doing it by yourself. An experienced agent should be a skilled negotiator (or at least better than you, as a novice). Along with their thorough knowledge of the industry, local sales activity, current housing inventory and what’s coming — but not yet — on the market, your home buying adventure is sure to get a boost just by working with them.
So, how do you start looking for a real estate agent, and how do you find one who is right for you? That’s the topic of today’s blog.
How to find a real estate agent
If you’re a first-time homebuyer — or even if you’re not — finding a compatible agent can be overwhelming! Even if you’re in a rural area, there are probably a handful of local real estate offices you can reach out to. More than that, many realtors have started their own business, perhaps without having a physical office — like everyone else, they’ve discovered they can work from home and carry less overhead! And even though they’re busy these days, realtors always have an eye out for their next client. In one way or another, they’re all vying for your business.
Here are four important tips for finding a real estate agent you’ll be happy with!
1 – Take Your Time & Do Your Research
The most important thing you can remember is that you need to take your time and do your research. Just like dating or job interviews, if the fit doesn’t seem right, trust your gut and move on.
Many prospective home buyers rely on friends for referrals of real estate agents they’ve previously worked with. That’s a great start, especially if you’re thinking of moving to the same neighborhood that they bought in. But, remember, every buyer’s journey is a little bit different: this relationship is all about you and your family. You have to evaluate how well you think you and your agent will work together.
Even though many homebuyers do a lot of their house-hunting online these days, open houses are a great way to see real estate agents in action. And in the course of a weekend afternoon, you’ll undoubtedly meet half a dozen or more if you strategically map out the local open houses. Chat them up and try to get a feel for their experience and familiarity with the area you’re considering.
Make sure you get a business card — yes, real estate agents still use business cards — and follow up your open house visit with a phone call to help you qualify him or her even further. If you get a voicemail, consider how long it takes for them to return your call. Do you feel comfortable talking to them? Does the conversation flow smoothly? Is it also informative and insightful? Any agent can be professional and experienced, but it’s all about how you communicate with each other. If you talk about homes with nice backyards and they’re going on and on about a high-rise condo complex, it might not be a match.
2 – Ask intelligent questions
Getting along with your chosen real estate agent is essential, but there’s more to consider before jumping into this relationship fully. An agent’s experience will be invaluable when it comes to two critical parts of any home-buying decision: your time and your money. You might think you’re pretty good at assessing the market value of homes in the area you’re hoping to live in, but trust us, these guys live and breathe this stuff. Their livelihoods are dependent on it – and if they are busy agents, they see many more homes in a week than you will in your entire house hunting journey.
Still, you’ll want to poke the bear a bit to be sure you’re making the right decision. If you’re considering working with a particular real estate agent, ask them the following:
- “Overall, how long have you been doing this, and – specifically – how long have you worked in this particular local real estate market?”
- “What do you think about the neighborhoods I’m considering? Do you specialize in any specific communities that you think would be a better fit?”
- “How much experience do you have with homes in my price range? How many of these types of homes have you helped someone buy in the last year?”
- “As a first-time homebuyer, I’m new to this. What advice can you give me so that I can make it easier for you to help me?”
Know that you’re not going to click with every realtor you meet. Some may be too busy to give you much time. Out. Some may be cocky. Out. Some may be condescending or disinterested. Out.
You’re looking for someone with whom you can establish a good, strong relationship. This person will be the one you’ll need to rely on during what may end up to be a stressful few months – so take your time and be 100% confident that you’re making the right decision.
3 – Don’t cheat
Remember, this is a relationship. Your chosen real estate agent is going to put time and effort into working with you. If, along the way, you decide the working relationship is not progressing as you think it should, give them a call and let them know. They may be able to rectify the situation quickly. Just don’t ghost and start working with a new agent. Real estate agents are very competitive, but it’s a tight-knit community, and they all know each other. Cheating on one and hooking up with another on the sly is not good form. In the long run, it may not get you the service you need for such a big step in your life.
4 – Get pre-approved ahead of time
Sure, agents like pre-qualified home buyers, but they LOVE buyers who go one step further and get pre-approved.
What’s the difference between pre-qualified and pre-approved? A home loan pre-approval puts you in a different category of shopper: it makes you a more desirable, qualified lead and sends a clear signal that you’re ready, willing, and able to take action if they can find you the right home.
Better yet, once you do find a home you want, you’re much closer to closing than you’d be if you had to start the mortgage process from scratch once your offer was accepted. That means there’s less chance of the whole deal falling through, wasting the realtor’s precious time. In the long run, they have their eye on a commission, and they want to work with someone who will see it through. To be prepared, here are some of the things you’ll need to gather before starting that pre-approval application.
Ready to get started?
Keep in mind, good communication is invaluable, and when working with the right realtor, you’ll find a rhythm and a yin to your yang. Where you might have an emotional approach to buying a home (falling in love with something that’s not a great fit), a great real estate agent can be the perfect counterbalance. They’ll remind you of your wishlist, keep you within your budget and timeframe, all while still understanding and respecting your wishes.
And even though homes are selling faster than ever, it might take a long while to find one that’s right for you (and that isn’t swallowed up in a bidding war). You may be spending a lot more time with this person than you thought possible, so make sure there’s a real connection before agreeing to work together.
If you’re in the market, keep these tips in mind as you search for that referral-worthy realtor. And seriously consider getting pre-approved for a mortgage. Just give one of our loan officers a call, and they’ll help answer any questions about the process. Or, if you’re ready to get started now, you can always apply online!