Are you ready to start the home buying process? Find out when it’s time to identify the right real estate agent and begin having those important conversations.
Almost half of buyers start their real estate search online, and many look at homes for several weeks before contacting a real estate agent. If you’re still unsure about where you want to live, or if you’re still working on getting your finances in order, you may be unsure about whether or not you should be reaching out to an agent before you’re really ready to start the process. When should you contact a realtor to buy a house – and how early is too early?
When to start your real estate agent search
Did you know that many real estate agents field questions from potential buyers and sellers early in their process, staying in touch for weeks, months, or even years before the transaction is completed? In fact, many agents are happy to help early on, providing preliminary information so that you’re fully prepared for the process and able to enjoy a smoother, more streamlined transaction once the time is right.
In many ways, there’s no specific time to start your real estate search. If you have your financing worked out and a firm idea of exactly where you want to look, you may be able to begin working with an agent just a few weeks before you’re ready to make a deal. If you still need to get your ducks in a row, sooner rather than later will probably make more sense. To learn more about how long it takes to buy a house, we’ve written about this topic in detail on our blog.
How do market conditions affect your timing?
Sometimes, the market can have an impact on the timing of your real estate transaction. As a buyer, you may be impacted by a low inventory market or by high interest rates on home mortgages. You may also be affected by reversals in the economy that cause societal or job insecurity.
How does your personal timeline factor in?
Your personal timeline may be impacted by marriage, divorce, or a pregnancy. It could be affected by an empty nest when the youngest child goes off to college or by your retirement.
In addition, your personal timeline may be impacted by your personal finances, including a job loss or increased levels of debt. This can happen due to an illness or accident in the case of medical bills, or through too much personal spending.
In any case, talk with your real estate agent about what’s going on in your personal life so that they can help you make stronger decisions that are in your best interest. Your agent has a fiduciary duty to do what’s best for you, over and above everything and everyone else involved in the transaction.
What do you say when you reach out to a Realtor?
When it’s time to reach out to a real estate professional, you’ll no doubt have a number of questions for them. Here are a few to get you started.
1. How long have you been a real estate agent?
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, and a new agent who’s tuned into the neighborhood you love may be a better choice than a seasoned, more experienced agent who works in a different market. Still, you’ll probably want someone with a fair amount of experience under their belt so that they can answer your questions and offer guidance as needed.
2. How long have you worked in this market?
Here too, while an agent may have a great deal of experience in another market, you want to make sure that they have solid experience in the neighborhood in which you’re interested. That will also give them a local professional network with the ability to help guide you as needed.
3. Do you work individually or as part of a team?
An individual agent may be the one you talk to consistently, but they’ll have other clients, so you won’t always have their undivided attention. When you’re working with a team, you’ll almost always be able to find someone to take your call, but it may not be your individual agent. Think about the way you prefer to work and ask questions about the way the process will operate in either case.
4. What neighborhoods have you worked in in the last year or two?
Some agents specialize in a very specific part of town. In large cities, some agents may do most of their transactions on one or two blocks or even in a specific high-rise building. Make sure that your agent has been working in the neighborhood you have in mind in the recent past so that they know the lay of the land.
5. How do you help buyers compete against other offers?
In some markets, there’s plenty of competition for each listing that becomes available. Ask your real estate agent about the likelihood of multiple offer situations in the market you love and find out what strategy they have in place to give you the winning edge during a negotiation.
Now it’s time to let your agent know more about you. You might want to share:
1. Properties you’ve looked at and liked online
Keeping track of properties that made an impression on you and sharing them with your agent will give them a good idea of what you like and dislike and what your priorities are. They’ll find out how price sensitive you are and whether you’re open to a fixer-upper or need something that’s perfectly finished. That will allow them to make better choices when determining what properties to show you as you search.
2. Neighborhoods you’re interested in
Tell your agent about your commute or your favorite restaurants, shopping districts, and entertainment venues. Even if they can’t find the perfect home in your ideal neighborhood, they may know of similar neighborhoods in the area that would suit you just as well. In addition, they’ll be able to align your price range with the type of property and neighborhood you like and to widen your search parameters, if necessary.
3. Requests for referrals to lenders, closing attorneys, or other professionals
If you haven’t yet begun working with a mortgage lender, you’ll want to ask your agent for a referral. In addition, as you go through the process, your agent will be able to provide information about the home inspector, appraiser, attorney, title companies, contractor, movers, and decorator for every aspect of your home buying transaction.
4. Things that might interfere with the timing of your purchase process
Are you waiting for a tax refund to add to your down payment? Do you want to wait until your divorce is finalized before purchasing your home? Not sure what your credit score should be to buy a house? Any personal or financial issues that could impact your home purchase should be shared with your real estate agent ahead of time so that they can help you plan ahead more effectively.
5. The way that you prefer to communicate
Do you work in an office where personal calls are unwelcome? Do you get annoyed when juggling too many documents via email or text, preferring to be walked through paperwork in person? Talk to your agent about the communication style and platform that works best for you to avoid misunderstandings or frustrations down the road.
How do I choose a buyer's agent?
Ultimately, your choice of a buyer's agent will come down to a combination of your personal preferences and the professional experience of the real estate agent with whom you consult. Is the agent easy to talk to and do you get a good feeling about the way they relate to you? That will be important as you move through the process since communication and trust will be foundational for your work together.
Don’t hesitate to ask your agent for references to other clients so that you can get some feedback on what it’s like to work with them. If they have online reviews or testimonials available, check them out to get an idea of how other clients found their service and professionalism.
Who pays for my buyer's agent?
So, who pays the real estate agent? Generally, the buyer's agent commission is paid as part of the overall commission on the property you end up buying. That means that it comes out of the seller’s proceeds from the home sale.
What happens if I work with a FSBO seller?
If you end up buying a home from a For Sale by Owner (FSBO) home seller, find out what provisions they’ve made for your real estate buyer agent’s commission. When you sign your representation agreement, talk to your agent about their fee structure in the event that the home you choose does not include a buyer commission.
Selling first? How can your real estate agent help?
Unless you’re a first-time homebuyer, you may be wondering how to buy a house while selling your own. In many cases, you may be able to use the same agent for both your sale and purchase. This can offer many advantages, especially since it may allow you to streamline the entire process, including timing and logistics related to the closing and the move.
If you’re starting well before you plan to sell and purchase, your real estate agent can be a valuable resource to help you get the most out of your sale and determine a timeline and marketing plan that works. Your agent can assist with all of the following:
- Help you identify repairs that need to be made before your home goes on the market or determine whether you want to conduct a pre-inspection or pre-appraisal
- Help you identify value-added improvements and enhancements to the property so that you can get top dollar for your home sale
- Help you identify the time of year that is best for putting your home on the market in your area, especially if you have flexibility in your timeline
- Connect you with contractors, repair personnel, landscapers, and housekeeping services so that your home is ready to show its best by the time it goes on the market
- Implement professional staging, photography, videography, copywriting, and other services to ensure a top-notch marketing strategy for your listing.
What do the acronyms mean after real estate agent names?
When you’re looking for an agent, you may find that many of them have long strings of letters after their names. These indicate designations and certifications held by agents who have pursued advanced education and professional development. Some common ones include:
- ABR: Accredited Buyer’s Representative for agents who have advanced work with buyer clients
- CRS: Certified Residential Specialist for agents, managers, and real estate brokers who have pursued advanced studies in preparation for industry leadership roles
- GRI: Graduate, Realtor Institute for in-depth training in ethics, technology, legal and transactional issues
- SRS: Seller Representative Specialist for advanced training in seller representation
- SRES: Seniors Real Estate Specialist for agents who have special training in working with senior adults
- LHC: Luxury Homes Certification for agents looking to increase their effectiveness working within the luxury real estate market
- RENE: Real Estate Negotiation Expert for agents seeking to increase their negotiation and client advocacy skills
- RSPS: Resort and Second Property Specialist for agents working with buying, selling, management, investment, development, retirement, or second homes in resort, recreational and/or vacation destinations
If the agent you’re interviewing boasts one or more of these designations, ask them how it informs the way they work with clients and how they do business. It’s good to understand more about the nitty-gritty of what your agent knows and how they operate. That will give you more insight into what it will be like to work with them.
Wondering what’s the difference between a broker and an agent? The easiest way to identify the difference is that an agent is licensed to help people sell homes while a real estate broker has the license to put up their own real estate firm.
How do I reach out to a real estate agent through Dwellful?
Finding a real estate agent with Dwellful starts with the agent finder. This tool allows you to add your information so that you’re matched with the right agent for your needs. If you’re looking for a first time home buyer real estate agent, for example, Dwellful can connect you with one in your target market. Best of all, your satisfaction is guaranteed, and you may even be eligible for cash back after your closing.
Buying and selling at the same time? Find a buyer’s agent, a listing agent, or both through the agent finder as well. You’ll find a top-performing agent with the experience and expertise you’re looking for – and Dwellful’s service is 100% free. Not happy with the agent you’re paired with? Let us know, and we’ll help you find a more perfect match- satisfaction guaranteed.