So, you’ve decided to buy a home, and now it’s time to find an agent. When buying a home the agent you choose to work with can make a huge difference – and could literally save you thousands of dollars, a ton of stress, or worst case, be the reason a transaction fails. Yet despite the high stakes, very few buyers give major consideration to who they are going to work with. The average person will take anywhere between 6-18 months before they decide to buy a home, yet they will select an agent within 24-48 hours. Most of us spend longer researching customer reviews when buying a $100 electronic appliance !
Here are my top tips for selecting a buyer’s agent:
- Ask friends and family for a referral. Personal experience is always the best barometer of what it’s really like to work with someone. But the journey shouldn’t stop there. Don’t assume that just because your great aunt Maud had a great experience with a particular agent, she’s the right agent for you. One size does not fit all – especially when it comes to real estate agents.
- Do your online research. Check out their website, Facebook pages, blogs and vlogs. If their online presence brags solely about their successes that could be a red flag. Instead, look for an agent that spends their marketing time and money educating prospective buyers about the process.
- Pick up the phone. I strongly recommend you speak to a handful of agents. How they handle that phone call will tell you a lot about how that agent works with their clients and what their priorities are. If they quickly want to take you out and view inventory before taking the time to understand your needs, it’s possible they care more about the transaction (and ultimately the paycheck) than they do about you and your buying journey.
- Meet with at least 2 agents. An in-person meeting (often referred to as a Buyer’s Interview) will tell you a lot. How do they show up, What do they ask of you in advance of a meeting, what materials have they bought with them, how do they present themselves, how much preparation have they done? If they haven’t done the prep work before they meet with a prospective client, chances are they will do even less once you commit to working with them.
- Is there Chemistry? Although this is number 5 on the list, it’s perhaps the most important. Admittedly you’re not entering a lifelong commitment with your realtor (although if he/she is a good agent you’ll want to continue working with the broker over multiple years/transactions), but you do form a very intense relationship with your broker over a very short period of time. A good agent will not just care about your ‘whats’ but also your ‘whys’. So you want to work with someone who your comfortable sharing financial, and personal information with. And believe me, a lot of personal information gets shared between buyers and agent – most of it nothing to do with houses!
- Ask questions. You want to work with an agent who is knowledgeable about, and conducted business, in your preferred areas, is familiar with your price point, works full time in the business, and can accommodate your schedule. Don’t be afraid to dig deep and get personal about their experience and work schedule.
In summary, not every agent is created equal. Take your time, do your research and go with your gut instinct. A good agent will save you money, time, stress and will be a trusted resource for many years to come – hopefully even a lifelong friend.
My next will focus on what not to look for in an agent – or rather red flags to be aware of.
Is it just me, or does the majority of advice we all receive about life, business, and relationships always focus on the what we should be doing? The internet is full of Top 10 things you should do if you want to…retire by the time you’re 55, lose 10 lbs, find true love, become a better you. You name it, just fill in the blank and do a google search and you’ll have a to-do list. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good to-do list just as much as the next person. In fact, as a semi type A person, I’ve even been known to write things on my to do lists even though I’ve already done them – just so I can have the satisfaction of crossing them off.
But sometimes we need to focus on the ‘to don’ts’, and never is that more important than when you’re buying a home, or in fact borrowing money for any major purchase. So in my attempt to bring some balance to the to-do vs. to-don’t equation (I am a Libra after all!) here’s my list of things you shouldn’t be doing if you are in the process of buying a home, or even considering it in the near future.
- Change jobs, become self employed, or quit your job.
- Buy or lease a new car
- Pay off your vehicle loan
- Use credit cards excessively – or more than normal. In fact a little credit card usage is a good thing, just keep it minimal
- Stop paying bills
- Spend money you have set aside for closing
- Make any major purchases – furniture, appliances etc, or in fact do anything that will originate new inquiries into your credit
- Make any large deposits without checking with your loan officer
- Change bank accounts
- Co-sign a loan for anyone
- Change marital status
Many of these may seem counter intuitive but each of the above could jeopardize your chance of receiving your mortgage – even if, in fact especially if, you’re already pre-approved and waiting to close.
So, I leave you with two words of advice. 1) Stash your Cash, and 2) If in doubt call your loan office before doing any of the above. If you’re looking for a lender, or need any further information about the home buying process continue to poke around on my website, or better yet let’s chat directly. firstname.lastname@example.org or 425 753 1810.