Buying a home is a huge step, especially if you’re a first-time homebuyer. Realtors or real estate agents will facilitate a high-priced, long-term investment― you need to be confident in their qualifications and experience. Even once you’ve verified that you’ll want to make sure your personalities match. Therefore, it’s critical to interview a few realtors before deciding on a partner.
First, we’ll discuss why you need to be careful and a little picky about which Realtor you choose. Who you will work with can not only change the kind of home you end up in but your stress levels during the process. It may feel overwhelming to know what to ask, so we’ll cover the top 11 questions during the Realtor interviews.
Did you know that there’s a difference between a real estate agent and a Realtor?
A real estate agent is the first tier of credibility. The certification process includes hours of study and passing a test. The number of study hours varies significantly from state to state, with California requiring the most at 135 hours.
“Realtor” is a prestigious title, indicating membership of the National Association of Realtors. The NAR has additional requirements and standards that hold a Realtor to a higher standard than a real estate agent.
Qualifications are essential but do not automatically reflect experience. You’ll want to make sure you understand how many years your real estate agent or Realtor has been practicing, if they specialize in assisting buyers or sellers, what kind of neighborhoods they usually work in, and their success rate. These factors will contribute to how you will work together and if they are likely to find the kind of place you want.
Finally, you’ll want to make sure you’ll get along with whichever real estate agent or Realtor you choose. You’ll be spending a lot of time together― going to showings, communicating throughout the day as you put in offers, going through negotiations. Closing alone takes 30-45 days. You may find an agent or Realtor before you’re even going to showings. Partnering early means you can have coaching to prepare to buy a home and get your finances in order.
All in all, a purchase this significant means you should take time to find a Realtor or agent that has the right qualifications, experience, and personality for you.
How will you find out if you’re a good match?
Conducting interviews gives you a chance to vet the person’s experience, check their qualifications, and more easily gauge their personality. While reviews can provide you an idea of qualifications and experience, the only conversation can tell you if you feel comfortable and happy to be around the perspective agent or Realtor.
It may seem intimidating to interview a Realtor or agent, especially as a first-time homebuyer. We’ve prepared 11 questions to ask so you can feel prepared and confident during the Realtor interview.
Questions to Ask in a Realtor Interview
- How long have you been a realtor?
This is a fundamental question to feel out experience. Of course, years of expertise alone don’t make a good agent or Realtor, but it will help you set expectations for their network and understanding of the market.
- What areas do you cover? Do you live in that area?
Depending on where you are buying, Realtors can cover a city, a few counties, or a state depending on the size and housing market. Some agents and realtors travel to the areas they work in, while others are residents themselves. Those who are residents are much more likely to have a much deeper understanding of the community and housing market.
- What’s your schedule/availability? How will we communicate?
Agents should be flexible in communicating through a number of channels– email, text, and phone calls.
- Do you help buyers or facilitate sales more often?
While Realtors and agents are licensed to help buyers and sellers, they often specialize in one or the other. Specialization is a good thing because it takes a very different skill set to sell than it does buy, so make sure whoever you are interviewing is prepared to help you buy.
- How many houses did you close in the last year?
Context is critical when asking this question. Certain markets are much more competitive than others. While it is encouraging when a Realtor or agent has sold many homes, don’t automatically discount a low number. It would help if you did some research beforehand to understand your target market to have a realistic idea of what a successful realtor sells.
- How long does it take on average for your clients to find and close on a home?
Context is also crucial here. Depending on the area you are shopping in, it may take a long time to get into a home. So, again, it would be best to prepare before the interview to know the average move-in rate in your area.
- How many clients do you have right now?
The answer to this question provides you with two pieces of information.
First, it will tell how high in demand the agent or Realtor is. If they have several clients, they are more likely to be good at their job.
The downside is that the more clients they have, the more split their attention will be. While neither are necessarily deal-breakers, it’s important to have accurate expectations going into the purchase process.
- How will you protect my interests?
Buying a home is more than finding the right aesthetic and layout. It’s about the neighborhood, school system, politics, taxes, scenery, commute, and community. You want to make sure that whoever you partner with is dedicated to finding the best match for your values.
You also need an agent or Realtor who will protect your money. Do they have a plan to safeguard earnest money? Are they skilled negotiators? Are they going to push you to buy a home that isn’t ready or needs many repairs?
- Do you have references?
Whether or not you contact the agent or Realtor’s past clients, it’s an excellent way to gauge their relationship with their clients as well as their level of professionalism.
- What do you think will be the most challenging obstacle we’ll have in getting a house?
Honesty and transparency are critical attributes of a quality Realtor or real estate agent. If they are willing to share the difficult parts about buying a home, they are less likely to hide things later.
By the way, be wary of anyone who offers a “guarantee.” If someone you interview promises to have you a house by a specific date, you can cross them off your list. The housing market is unpredictable and getting into the right home takes a combination of work and luck. Anyone who promises otherwise is not being truthful.
- What haven’t I asked about that I should know?
An open-ended question like this is excellent to ask in an interview, especially as a first-time homebuyer. By asking this question, you allow the prospective Realtor or agent to show their expertise and experience. You need them to know more than you do and be proactive in protecting your needs. If they have nothing else to share after a brief interview, you may question their preparedness.
Talk with Anita
Anita is a Realtor with 13 years of experience and is a resident of Sonoma County. Anita has the resources and expertise to get you into your dream house― whether you’re preparing credit and finances or wanted to move yesterday. Call her today!