In many places around the country, homebuyers work with their own real estate agents, known as “buyer’s brokers.” The idea is that every seller’s broker is trying to please her client—the seller—while a buyer’s broker’s aim is to please you. Therefore, a buyer’s broker might show you a greater range of inventory without being pushy about any one property, just like a personal shopper in a department store might pull a bunch of different dresses for you.
However, the person who does the best job of looking out for your interests is you. To that end, when you’re househunting, make sure you ask a potential broker the right questions during the home-buying process. Here are five questions to keep in mind:
Before You Hire Her:
1) Can I talk to one of your previous clients?
Of course your agent is going to refer you to a satisfied customer, but it can still be helpful to talk to that client for a little preview of what working with that real estate agent is like. Is she reachable quickly? Does she use phone calls, email, or text? What’s her biggest flaw?
2) How do you find out about listings?
With the rise of aggregator websites like Zillow and Trulia, buyers can see most of what’s for sale in a given neighborhood. Does your agent have access to listings that you can’t see—perhaps through a network of former clients who don’t have their homes on the market yet? A response like “I see pretty much the same listings you do, but I’m more of a pro at knowing what I’m looking at and how to avoid hidden surprises” is acceptable too.
3) Do you have an attorney/mortgage banker/contractor/landscaper you work with?
My boss, Gil Neary, calls buyer’s brokerage “relocation therapy” and that’s got a ring of truth to it—your agent should hold your hand during a very stressful process. Part of being good at that is having team members to recommend to you—everyone from an attorney, to a trustworthy handyman the agent has worked with before. You don’t just want to hire a broker, you want to hire a broker who comes with a problem-solving team.
After You Hire Her:
4) What would you do in my shoes?
Buyers’ agents are usually going to show you their best properties first, because they want to get you to buy something so they can move on to the next deal. It can be helpful, though, to ask your agent which of the crop of properties she is showing you is her favorite for you, and why. She may see potentials in the layout or neighborhood you might not have thought of.
5) What do you think of the resale value of this property?
Let’s face it; when you’re buying a house or an apartment, the shopping is the fun part. It can be kind of a game to look at remodeled kitchens and to daydream about how you’d live in different spaces. But in addition to having that fun with you, your agent should also be a reality check. So always ask about the pluses and minuses of a property. One good way to is to ask about its resale potential. If you like a property with a dream kitchen, but it’s right next to a busy highway, it’s your agent’s job to warn you it will be hard to resell.
Tell us in the comments: If you've ever used a real estate agent, how did you know that she was the right fit?