New research from Realtor.com reported that 40 percent of recent home buyers only spoke to one agent before deciding to work with them. But shopping around could save you time and money in the long run. Still, how do you decide who to work with and who to kick to the curb? We asked Clare Trapasso, deputy news editor for Realtor.com, about the interview questions to ask—and any red flags to look out for.
House-hunting? These Are the Most Important Questions to Ask a Future Realtor
1. Do you have any exclusivity clauses?
Unless you sign an agreement, you’re generally not bound to work with one specific realtor throughout your home buying process, Trapasso explains. That said, sometimes sellers sign exclusivity agreements for a specified time period with agents to list their homes. (This serves to protect the agent as they often have to pay for professional photography, marketing and other services.)
What this means for you: While you’re not beholden to work with any one agent, the inventory they have access to could vary. As a buyer, it’s smart to have a conversation up front to discuss any exclusivity clauses and fees so you know any limitations on the properties they show.
2. What’s your experience and do you have references?
In a preliminary conversation with a future realtor, you should focus on three key interview areas: Asking for references, researching their background and expertise and finding out the professional relationships they maintain. Here, a bit more detail on each:
• References. Before you decide to work with a realtor, you want to speak with a few recent clients about their process, Trapasso says. Do they know their stuff? Are they respectful of your needs and wish list for a new home? How do they communicate throughout the process? The answers to these questions can provide valuable insight into how they work and if they’re a good fit for you.
• Research. Basically, you want to get to know their expertise. In an introductory call, find out how long have they been working in real estate and where. Do they cover areas where you hope to buy a home? How familiar are they with the location? Which price points do they typically represent? Have they helped clients successfully purchase homes in this super competitive market?
• Relationships. Here’s where you can really maximize the bang for your buck. Find out from a future realtor about the relationships they have beyond the actual sale—can they recommend a home inspector or real estate attorney? What about a mortgage lender who can make the process go smoother? (And remember, you can, and should, shop around for these services as well.)
3. How pushy are you?
Ok, maybe you don’t actually have to ask this one, but it’s something to be on the lookout for. According to Trapasso, the biggest red flag when starting your search is a realtor that overly pressures you about the process. “This is often the most expensive purchase someone will ever make,” Trapasso says. “Buyers should feel like their agent has their best interests in mind instead of their agent just wanting to make the sale.”
More than anything, you want a realtor that helps you weigh the pros and the cons of any investment. “A real estate agent can be a fountain of local information and can advise prospective buyers of potential pitfalls, not just the perks,” she says. For example, do they see anything in the home that looks problematic? Are there local zoning ordinances that could prevent buyers from doing their desired remodels or additions? Are taxes very high in this area, but less one neighborhood over? These are all insights they should have.