Your real estate agent can make or break your search for a home. That’s why it’s important to hire a great one. But how do you know when you’ve found an agent you can trust? The best way is to interview them.
We know it sounds strange, but you are in fact hiring your agent to do a paid job, even if you won’t be writing them a check directly. So once you’ve found one or two who might fit the bill, schedule an interview with each of them by phone or, even better, in person. You could meet for coffee in your neighborhood or in a neighborhood where you’re looking to buy.
Not sure what to ask? Below is a list of questions that we think should cover the bases. You probably have others, which you should feel free to add. We pulled our list together with some help from Dawn Lane, an independent Las Vegas–based broker and Realtor.
What to ask your real estate agent
Experience and references
- How long have you been working as an agent?
- Do you have any special credentials or designations?
- Who’s backing you up? Ask this of new agents. An enthusiastic novice can be a great asset, but they should be supervised by a broker or mentor.
- What price ranges do you specialize in?
- How many first-time buyers have you worked with in the last year?
- Can you provide me with two or three client references?
How they work
- How will you find the right property for me? What’s your process?
- What three things separate you from other agents?
- How are you paid, and how much is your commission?
Communication and availability
- How will we communicate?
- How long will it take you to get back to me?
- What if you’re out of town and something comes up?
- What days of the week do you work, and what hours?
- What if I want to buy the home of a seller you’re representing?
- What if I want to buy the same home as one of your other buyers?
- How do you resolve conflicts in general?
Still looking for the right agent? Check out our top ten list of what makes a great agent and how to find one.
Who first, lender or real estate agent?
Many people wonder who they should “hire” first: their lender or real estate agent. We’ve heard advice that goes both ways, and Lane says that she herself used to be on the fence on this one. But she finally landed on the agent side.
First, it’s the most personal relationship in the homebuying process, and the sooner you establish it the better. Ideally, you’ll have a little time to get to know each other before you start house-hunting.
Second, a great agent will quickly come to understand — and even help you understand — your needs, wants, and goals, and may then be able to save you some time by suggesting the most appropriate lenders. Your homebuying style can even be a factor. “I know which lenders like working with first-time homebuyers, which are well-versed in down payment assistance programs, work in a more personal way, or work in a more automated way,” Lane says.
Of course, you’ll want to do your own research on those leads. And once you settle on a lender, don’t delay on getting preapproved for a loan. Your needs, wants, and goals are best discussed in the context of your budget.
Wondering who else should be on your team? A homeownership advisor is a great person to talk to sooner rather than later. Especially if you want help working through your budget and deciding what you can comfortably afford.