Home buyers: 5 questions for choosing real estate agents

Ginger Dean

April 25, 2013

By: Ginger Dean, Home Finance Specialist

In: Finance and Legal

Spring is upon us and you may be in the market for a new home as the spring house-hunting season gets underway. One of the first things you'll need to do is settle on a real estate agent if you don't have one already. Of course, this can be tricky because an agent can make or break your transaction. This ranges from a lack of expertise to personality conflicts. You'll want to make sure that you and your agent are on the same page as it relates to your expectations and how they handle your business.

Check out the following must-ask questions you'll want answers to before signing on the dotted line:

1. How long have they been an agent? Is this their full or part time job?

Expertise is the reason behind this question. You want your agent to have at least 5-8 years experience, depending on your needs. At the very least, they should have been able to weather two economic cycles so they understand the boom and bust pattern of their own market.

2. How well do they communicate with clients?

Regardless of whether you're selling or buying, you will need an agent who is able to communicate well throughout the process to keep you informed and up to date. Even if they have 20 other clients, it's important that they treat you as if you're their only client. For example, personal emergencies notwithstanding, it is inexcusable to go two days without hearing from your agent after you've made an inquiry.

3. Will they give you contact information of previous clients?

It's a good idea to contact old clients to discuss their experiences. It's normal for agents to have some clients whose experience with them may not have been great; however, what matters is how the agent handled the situation. What you don't want is an agent who behaves in an unprofessional or unethical manner while dealing with your transaction. Talking to old clients gives you the scoop on how well they approached previous client relationships.

4. Is she or he primarily a buyer's or seller's agent?

Sellers and buyers have different needs and requirements. Whether this is your first home or a luxury home purchase, discuss with your potential agent their experience in both areas. This gives you a sense of where their experience lies in both areas.

5. What is their market expertise?

What's their specialty? Are they most experienced in foreclosures, short sales, high-end luxury homes or low-income homes? If you're planning to go through a short sale, then you want someone with experience in today's market and even a few contacts behind the scenes to push your transaction through as necessary. If their experience lies in the low-income housing market, then you don't want that person dealing with a high-end home purchase for obvious reasons. They don't know the market well enough to guide you effectively.

These questions just scratch the surface around all the information you'll need to select the right agent. However, they provide a good starting point as you interview each agent to find your perfect fit.

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