When you’re starting the home search process, you may know exactly what you’re looking for, which neighborhood you want, and you may be completely firm on price. On the other hand, you may have a vague idea that you’re ready to buy a home while having little understanding of the logistics involved. Think of your real estate agent as a trusted friend and wise advisor, helping to guide you through the process no matter what your previous experience may be.
We’ve identified ten questions that you should ask at some point before or during your home search process. Even if you’ve bought and sold homes in the past, each search is different and rules and regulations change every year. Talking to your agent is the surest way to streamline your transaction and make all the right moves.
1. Do you work with more buyers or sellers?
It’s good to get a sense of your real estate agent’s normal process, and part of that involves knowing with whom they work the most. If they work with a lot of buyers, they’ll have a good sense of what you need and what you’re looking for in the current market. If they work with more sellers, they will have a better understanding of the psychology of sellers and how willing they are to negotiate right now.
2. What is your average buyer like?
An agent who works with a large number of first-time homebuyers may have a different perspective on the market than one who works with older, more experienced luxury buyers or even investors. Determine who your agent’s typical client is in order to ensure that you are communicating effectively and getting the most from his or her expertise.
3. How can I choose the right neighborhood?
You may have a very specific neighborhood in mind, or you may just have a general idea of where you’d like to live. Let your agent help you look at factors like prices, local amenities, traffic, and more so that you can find the neighborhood that’s right for you and your family. In addition, talk to your agent about the location of your job, local family members, and other factors that might affect your decision.
4. How can I determine what home style is right for me?
Do you love doing lawn work and want a yard for the pets? Do you get hay fever and prefer a high-rise condo? Do you want added security features like a manned gate, or are you more interested in a country club atmosphere? Talk to your agent about your lifestyle and determine what type of home will work best for you, which may also help you narrow down your choice of neighborhoods.
5. What does [insert real estate term here] mean?
Remember, the only silly question is the one that was never asked. If you hear or see an unfamiliar term, abbreviation, or phrase, be sure to ask your real estate agent what it means. He or she loves educating buyers and sellers about the industry and will be happy to offer insight and expertise along the way.
6. How can I keep track of the different homes I’m seeing?
You may want your real estate agent to bring printouts from the MLS for each of the homes you’re seeing so that you can make notes as you walk through the house. You may want to share a spreadsheet with notes and observations on each property. Your agent may be keeping track of your evaluations as you go along and would be happy to share them with you via email. Talk to your agent and come up with a way to streamline communications and keep your first impressions organized.
7. Can you facilitate virtual showings?
Whether you’re practicing social distancing or working from out of town, having your real estate agent provide you with virtual walkthroughs via FaceTime, Skype, or Facebook Live may allow you to see more homes and narrow down your choices. This can save you time and help you avoid a wasted trip when a potential home just doesn’t live up to its photos.
8. Can I go to an Open House without you?
You can, of course, attend an open house without your real estate agent, but it’s a good idea to discuss it before you go. Let your agent help you develop a strategy regarding what you’ll be looking for and how to give his or her information to the listing agent. Then, if you’re interested or have questions, your agent can reach out on your behalf for follow-up.
9. What if I find two homes I love?
If you’re deciding between two homes, both of which work for you and your family, Congratulations! That’s a good problem to have. Talk to your agent about each and determine if there are things you’re overlooking. Is one home in a more desirable neighborhood? Does one home have more updated systems, fixtures, or features? Talk to your agent about how this affects your negotiation process, as well. If you know you have a backup plan, you may be able to negotiate more confidently than you would otherwise.
10. Should I make my decision with my head or my heart?
For many buyers, this becomes an issue at some point. You may have one home that has it all on paper and offers a great buying opportunity. Then, there’s another home that just gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling you’re looking for. Talk with your agent about both and determine whether there are red flags that would disqualify the “heart home.” Ultimately, only you can make the final decision, but your agent can provide you with insights you might not have considered.