two women sitting beside table and talking

Home Buying – Step One, Choose a Realtor

A quick note on this series about home buying.  The series contains information that is specific to Minnesota and may not apply to other states.  Especially as it discusses forms and contingencies.

You may have seen this advice repeatedly, but in today’s market of low inventory and multiple offers choosing the right Realtor could mean the difference of your offer being accepted or not.  If you’re waiting until you find the right home to contact an agent, you don’t have a chance in this market.  Home buyers are being notified of new listings by their agents as soon as they become available on MLS.  This notification could be hours or days before the same home gets listed on the large national sites.  And by then it could already be sold.  So really, if you want to see and have a shot at the best homes coming on the market you need to develop a team of professionals that can help you.  Otherwise you are just going to be viewing the leftovers.  Step one, pick a Realtor who can guide you through the process and use their knowledge and negotiating skills to give you the best odds in getting the home you want.

So how do you choose a Realtor.  Below would be the questions I’d ask based on my 20 years’ experience.

  • How many buyers are you currently working with? (do you have time for us?)
  • If it’s a real estate team, make sure you are talking to the person who will be showing you houses.  What are their credentials?  Is that the same person who will be writing up the offer? Negotiating the offer? Handling the paperwork?  Make sure you are comfortable with all the team members qualifications and understand their process.
  • How many buyers have you represented and what can you do for us if we are unable to find a home on the market?  The Realtor should have a network of agents to reach out to for pre-listings.  Mailing to an area has also been successful.
  • What sort of lead time do you need for us to set up a showing?  Understand that Realtors have lives too and you need to get to the home to see it asap but also work with everyone’s schedule.
  • If you are unable to show us the home, do you have someone you work with who can get us in.  You don’t want to miss out on a home if the Realtor is traveling or busy.
  • Ask for references and contact those references.
  • What are their affiliations?  Make sure they are a licensed, are a Realtor, and are a member of the local MLS.  If there are other credentials have them explain the significance of those.
  • Can you refer us to Closing Agents, Inspectors, Mortgage Brokers who you have good experience with?  These people play a big part in the transaction and can make or break it.  Get a list of names, check them out.
  • Based on our wants, what do you see as the hurdles and how can you help us overcome them?  If you interview a few agents, you will learn a lot about their experience with this question.
  • And finally, make sure you understand Buyer Representation and what is expected from the Realtor in representing you, as well as, what is expected of you during the transaction.
  • If you decide to go with a specific agent, make sure you have a performance guarantee or can cancel with them should you decide you’re not happy.

As a buyer, there should be no commission fee but there may be other fees working with different brokerages so just ask what specific fees are involved in purchasing a home with this agent and their brokerage.  If you decide to go with the agent there should be a representation contract that puts these fees in writing (See: Should I Sign a Buyers Representation Contract?).

Click here for the next blog in this series – Home Buying – Step 2, Get your Finances in Order.