When you buy a home, your real estate agent is effectively a business partner. You’re both working toward the same goal: Closing a real estate deal. That’s why it’s in your best interest to know both how to hire a real estate agent and how to build a good relationship with them.
Because the better an ally you are, the better an ally your agent will be. Here’s how to pick a real estate agent and work well with them.
Know what you want
A lot of home buyers dive into the house hunt with no idea what they want, so the first and best way to be a good client is to know exactly what you’re looking for in a house.
Ask yourself a couple of basic questions. What’s my budget? What type of house do I want, single family or town home? Is there a design style I must have? A neighbourhood I need to be in?
Knowing these specifics — and telling them to your agent — will help him or her find homes that match your criteria. Because neither you nor your agent wants to waste time looking at dozens of houses that aren’t even close to what you have in mind.
Over-communicating your intentions and goals is a really good idea. And knowing exactly what you want can help you know how to pick a real estate agent, too. Some agents specialize in certain neighbourhoods, and some specialize in old houses or particular architectural styles.
Meet agents in person
It’s fine to start off your relationship with an agent via email, text and phone, but before you hire the agent to work with you, set up a meeting. Yep, do a face-to-face interview.
It’s a good idea to interview three agents before picking one. Here are some questions you should ask:
1. How long have you been an agent?
2. What neighbourhoods do you specialize in?
3. How many homes have you helped people buy in the last year?
4. How many clients are you currently working with?
Meeting in person can help both sides determine compatibility and establish trust. To the agent, meeting them IRL is a sign you’re serious about buying.
“When I ask a question of a buyer, if I can’t see their face (then) I can’t see their reaction, and I have no idea if I’m really getting the emotions that are behind their answers,” says Jackie Leavenworth, an agent and real estate industry coach.
Set up expectations for communication
Tell your agent how you’d like to stay in touch during the buying process. Do you prefer texts? Facebook messenger? Or do you like old-fashioned phone calls. (Telephone calls: Still a thing!)
Tell them how often you expect to hear from them, too. Daily? Weekly? And tell them the best times of day to reach you, too.
Be mindful of an agent’s time. Don’t flake on showings. Be prompt.
If you disagree with your agent, respectfully tell them why.
Resist the urge to freak out if the agent doesn’t immediately respond to a text or phone call. People hire an agent because they’ll do everything they can to help you successfully buy or sell your home. But you need to remember that they’re people, like you, and they have a life, too.
Communicating your wants to your agent is key. Here’s a good way to do it: Write them down. This gives you time to think about what you really need in a home. And when you instantly fall in love with a house that seems perfect, you can pull out your list to remind yourself of the deal-breakers before making an emotional decision.
Give a copy to the agent. He’ll be better able to find homes that match your criteria and help you avoid buyer’s remorse. If you’ve always dreamed of a two story with a front porch, don’t buy a brand new bungalow because you love the laundry room.
You should also have your financial records in order. This means getting pre-approved for a loan. Pre-approval for a mortgage says you’re serious about buying a house and not just window shopping.
Admit what you don’t know
Real estate transactions are complicated. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know what all the terms mean, or what to expect from each step of the process.
If you don’t know what escrow means, ask. If you’re confused about the terms of an offer, say so. It’s totally normal to ask an agent for a little hand-holding — that’s what they’re there for. That’s why they’re the expert.
Part of knowing how to hire a real estate agent is finding one you trust enough to tell you things you don’t know.
Don’t play the field with other agents
If you’re working with an agent who is hustling for you, don’t dally around with another agent. In real estate, just as in romance, that’s cheating. It can backfire by damaging your relationship with your agent.
If your agent finds out you’ve got other agents showing you houses, he may prioritize other clients. So a big part of knowing how to pick a real estate agent is knowing that you need to stand by your agent once you hire him or her. Loyalty counts and will guarantee the best result.
In fact, it’s in both your interest and the agent’s to sign a buyer’s broker agreement for a set period of time. The agreements spell out the rights and duties of both parties, including exclusivity.