So, you’ve decided you’re ready to buy a house, now what? One of the first steps you’ll want to take is finding a real estate agent.
You may be tempted to go through the buying process without an agent in an effort to save on closing costs. Don’t! Almost all sellers have a real estate agent representing their interests, so you need someone to represent yours. A buyer’s real estate agent will ensure you find a house you love, point out potential problems with properties you go through and help negotiate to make sure you get a fair deal.
However, it’s important to find a real estate agent with a solid reputation and experience. Here are 10 things you should look for when shopping for a real estate agent:
1. Find an agent who has worked with VA Home Loan buyers before – Different loans have different requirements. Make sure your real estate agent has experience representing clients using VA Home Loans and is familiar with the property requirements and fee limitations associated with the program.
2. Work with an agent who specializes in your price range – If you’re buying a house in the $250k range, you’re not going to want an agent who specializes in negotiating $1M+ homes. It’s beneficial to work with an agent who specializes in your price range. They’ll be focused on the properties you can afford, and help you pounce when a good deal comes up.
3. Make sure you have chemistry – You’re going to be spending a lot of time with this person, plus, you’ll probably be sharing a lot of personal financial information with them. Make sure your real estate agent is someone you like and trust.
4. Find out what Realtor designations the agent has – The National Association of Realtors gives certain designations to real estate agents who take additional courses and pass exams. As a buyer, you may want to find an agent who is certified as an Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR). This means they have additional training in buyer representation. You can see other Realtor designations and the associated specialties at http://www.realtor.com/advice/designations-understand/.
5. Ask what their strategy will be for helping you find a new home – Ask if they specialize in a particular area or neighborhood, how familiar they are with the type of property you want (condo, townhome, single-family, etc.), what factors they consider when sending potential homes to you and how often they will send you these homes.
6. Ask for references – Most real estate agents will have a list of references they will provide. Don’t be afraid to ask for this list and call a few. Ask their past clients how satisfied they were with the agent, how often the agent communicated with them and how organized there were.
7. Find out how long they’ve been in the business – Lack of experience doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t a good agent, but you do want to find an agent who is comfortable negotiating and pushing back on things if need be.
8. Find out how knowledgeable they are about the area – You want someone who is familiar with the area/neighborhoods so they can advise you on the value of homes in the area. You’d hate to walk through a house, put an offer in and then later find out the home was overpriced. An agent knowledgeable about the area you are looking in will be familiar with what’s recently sold, what’s currently on the market and the average market value of the properties in the area.=
9. Find out if they are able to give you advice on maintenance or improvements – If you’re planning on doing any upgrades to a home, find an agent who is familiar with how home improvement projects can help a property maintain (or even increase) its value. They should be able to give you an idea on the rough cost of upgrades, which projects will give you the most “bang for your buck” and tell you what the average home buyer looks for.
10. Find out how many clients they are currently working with – You want the agent to have more than one client, as it shows they are experienced, but you also don’t want them to have too many clients that they don’t have any time for you.
With the right real estate agent by your side, we’re confident you’ll find the perfect house for you and your family.
Curious on what else you need to be doing before you buy a house? You’ll definitely want to read our article on 16 Things You Need to do RIGHT NOW if You Want to Buy a House This Summer.