Home Buying in La Jolla>Question Details

Trulia San D…, Home Buyer in San Diego, CA

What kinds of questions should you ask a potential buyer's agent when starting the home buying process?

Asked by Trulia San Diego, San Diego, CA Mon Dec 10, 2012

Help the community by answering this question:


Mack McCoy’s answer
I think that if you have a question, you should also have an idea of what a good answer is.

Personally, I find that the "right" answers are generally those that apply to ourselves . . . the best agent is male, 6'0" and working to keep under 240 pounds, in his mid-fifties, with a beard and mustache . . . ideally has a photograph of him with a clear blue sky as backdrop . . .
2 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Dec 10, 2012
How long have you been in residential real estate sales? Is it your full-time job? While experience is no guarantee of skill, real estate — like many other professions — is mostly learned on the job.

What designations do you hold? Designations such as GRI and CRS — which require that agents take additional, specialized real estate training — are held by only about one-quarter of real estate practitioners.

How many homes did you and your real estate brokerage sell last year? By asking this question, you’ll get a good idea of how much experience the practitioner has.

Will you represent me exclusively, or will you represent both the buyer and the seller in the transaction? While it’s usually legal to represent both parties in a transaction, it’s important to understand where the practitioner’s obligations lie. Your realtor should explain his or her agency relationship to you and describe the rights of each party.

Can you recommend service providers who can help me obtain a mortgage, make home repairs, and help with other things I need done? Because realtors are immersed in the industry, they’re wonderful resources as you seek lenders, home improvement companies, and other home service providers. Practitioners should generally recommend more than one provider and let you know if they have any special relationship with or receive compensation from any of the providers.

What type of support and supervision does your brokerage office provide to you? Having resources such as in-house support staff, access to a real estate attorney, and assistance with technology can help an agent sell your home.

What's your business philosophy? While there's no right answer to this question, the response will help you assess what’s important to the agent and determine how closely the agent’s goals and business emphasis mesh with your own.

How will you keep me informed about the progress of my transaction? How frequently? Again, this is not a question with a correct answer, but it reflects your desires. Do you want updates twice a week or do you not want to be bothered unless there’s a hot prospect? Do you prefer phone, e-mail, or a personal visit?

Could you please give me the names and phone numbers of your three most recent clients? Ask recent clients if they would work with this realtor again. Find out whether they were pleased with the communication style, follow-up, and work ethic of the real estate agent.

Fred Yancy, Broker
Crye-Leike Realtors
(678) 799-4663
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Dec 10, 2012
I think it is also important that the 6'0" male likes baseball and classical music....

A good reason to work off referrals from an agent's standpoint is you avoid the beauty contest and the misc. questions that are regularly witnessed here on Trulia and in other venues when somebody says they are looking for an agent. I get to show buyers substance immediately, instead of talk to them about it. Less talk, more action.

Sorry, but designations are a joke. They are more about NAR and others collecting money than they are about providing cutting edge training. Nothing replaces experience and success - but volume doesn't mean one agent is better than another - take McDonald's with their billions and billions served as a great example.

There are many questions for which the right or good answer is more of a personal preference. Many agents will tell you their approach is the best and that they are #1. It is meaningless sales jargon. Some will say being with a big national company is best - others will say working with an independent broker is better - a buyer needs to decide what they feel is best for them. I will say that buyers who think that the big firms are going to stand by them when things get rocky are fools. Those companies protect themselves first and foremost, even if their agent is the one who messed up.

Many of the typical questions that buyers ask have scripted answers that agents practice over and over. That's their job - that is sales. My approach would be to ask more off the beaten path questions to get past the scripted answers, take them out of their comfort zone and get to the substance or lack there of in the agent to whom you are asking your questions.

I was to be a buyer, I start by going to a friend and finding out who they used and if they liked them. From that standpoint, the questions are less critical and should come naturally. You get a feel for them and their style and whether or not working with them will be right for you.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Dec 14, 2012
Are you liking Josh Hamilton, or are you wishing he'd signed with the Pads?
Flag Fri Dec 14, 2012
I've worked with some of the most busy agents, and they're not all equal.

The one thing that's most important when buying a home is your loan - and you wouldn't believe how many agents let you just go deal with that yourself! When you're under contract, you have a certain amount of days to remove your loan and appraisal contingencies, and most buyers have no idea what needs to happen before that, so your agent better.

When you remove your contingencies, you're saying to the seller that if for some reason you don't get your loan, you can keep my Good Faith Deposit. So, it's best to know exactly where you are in your loan process and what's still needed from the lender.

An agent that just hands you your offer documents to sign, without explaining them isn't doing their job. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances, or you may understand the legalese in the contracts, but that doesn't happen too often.

Be sure your agent works after 5:00 pm and on weekends! Make sure they answer their phones. If you have a pressing question, you shouldn't have to wait hours for an answer. When the market is as competitive as it is right now, you'll be missing a lot of chances to submit offers if you have to wait until the morning, and you'll likely need to submit more than one.

And, don't put too much faith in someone who specializes in a neighborhood. It takes a half hour for a smart agent to get a good read on a market, even on the trends. An agent who branches out and makes it a point to learn other markets is much more well-rounded in the market.

And, don't get a soft-spoken agent who's afraid to rock the boat on your behalf. We get paid to keep YOUR best interests in the forefront always. One example is the REO listing agent who coerces buyer's agents into having their buyer sign an addendum that's NOT from the bank, but they try to pass it off as a bank addendum. It shifts some of the listing agent's responsibilities over to the buyer and the buyer's agent. And, coercion in this case means when they won't submit your offer without it. Another example is asking for repairs that a buyer would expect to be done in a home they just bought, like an investor's flip where a contractor was already paid to do something and it wasn't done right.

And, finally, get an agent who can think outside the box. Sometimes, you just have to get creative!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Dec 10, 2012
I would meet them in person first, and ask them:
1) are a full time REALTOR?
-Describe full time, because I work more than 40 hours a week.
2) do you work evenings and weekends?
-Of course, you can reach me up until 10pm and return emails until midnight usually, and my weekends are your weekends.
3) what do you do in order to get your offers accepted in a market with so little inventory?
-I used to be a lender and underwriter, so I when I write an offer, I know what I am talking about because I took a look at your loan package. Also, the fact that I was a lender means that most likely I have a very good relationship with the listing agent and took them to lunch or happy hour at one point or another, and believe me, having those relationships intact matters. If we cannot find in the market what you are looking for, I will be more active and go marketing/looking for a transaction for you.
4) What do all those designations mean and how come you don't have one?
-It means you took a class and passed it. I am very good at what I do, have been in the industry since 1997 and here are some letters of recommendation from my clients. Are you pre-approved already and know what you want to buy so I can find it for you?

Hector R. Gastelum
Realty Executives Dillon
REALTOR #01382940
efax 619-270-2516
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Dec 10, 2012
Hello Trulia San Diego,

First and foremost, take the approach that every question is a good question. Often times in life, people are afraid to ask questions for fear of appearing "stupid". Well, there is no such thing as a stupid question and anyone who makes you feel that way after asking a question is certainly someone you do NOT want to be working with. The home buying process can be stressful enough! However, with the right questions, which I address below, the process can be a lot less daunting. Doing your due diligence up front will put you in the best possible position to have an experienced, proven REALTOR lead you through the process in the most efficient manner possible. While the list of questions can be endless, here are some that come to mind:

1. Do you have an "Accredited Buyer's Representative" (ABR) designation? (less than 4% of all Realtors have earned this designation-it shows a commitment to a higher standard and a proven track record working with buyers- for more information, visit Rebac.net/homebuyer_resources.cfm). On the flip side, just because someone has their ABR designation does not necessarily make them a great buyers agent

2. How long gave you been selling real estate? (You don't want to trust what is probably the biggest financial transaction on your life to someone who is new in the business! However, you don't necessarily want to use an "old timer" who is not up to speed on all the latest technology and tools that put you in a better position than all the other buyers out there.)

3. Are you a full time agent? (If they are not fully engaged, how can they possibly be giving you the best service?)

4. How many transactions did you represent a buyer in the last year? (There are many good agents who specialize in listing homes and representing sellers but seldom work on the buyer's side.) There are definite differences when working each side of the transaction.

5. Which particular areas do you specialize in? How many transactions have you closed in that particular zip code?

6. Who will be handling the transaction? (many agents/teams will only be there for part of the transaction. Be sure that you can be in touch with that agent from beginning to end and even beyond closing!)

7. Do you provide a commitment in writing as to the level of services I can expect from you? (Many agents may say one thing to get your business up front, but then won't follow through on their promises. Get something in writing so you can go back to them!)

8. How many buyers are working with you right now? (This gives you a sense of how busy and active they are)

9. Do you have a list of your previous clients that you have represented in buying a home and can I contact them? (It is very important to speak with actual clients so you can get a great feel for how that agent conducts their business.)

10. Why should I use your services? (The agent should be able to specifically identify factors that make them stand out from other agents)

11) What happens if we are not satisfied with your level of service? (The agent should be of the believe that they only want to work with those who are happy with them. They should give the client no reason to want to terminate their relationship. However, if it comes to that point, the clients should be able to move on.)

As noted initially, these are some great questions and there are more. However, I'd have to get rights from a publishing company to keep writing this novel.

Best of luck!

Chad Basinger, REALTOR®, CPA, CFP®
Web Reference: http://www.chadbasinger.com
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Dec 10, 2012
You want to make sure you truly feel comfortable with your agent and that your personality's mesh well. You will be spending a lot of time with your agent and you need to have the peace of mind that they are working on your best interests.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Feb 14, 2014
I think knowlege of the area is key. I was in real estate in Florida from 2001 to 2006 and have just started in real estate in California. I've lived here since 2006 and I'm just not sure I would have been that effective an agent in the first few years. I know the different San Diego neighborhoods, I've watched the fluctuation in values and I have a much better feel for the market because I've lived here for 6 years.
In addition to local knowlege I think rapport with your agent is much more important than any other single factor. We're all in sales, we understand negotiation and making deals work, but are we interested in making them work for you? Are we interested in selling you a house or selling you the house that's right for you?
It takes a little time to figure out if the agent you are talking to really wants to help you specifically or just make another sale. But it's usually not too hard to figure it out. Do they listen to you? Do they send you properties that match your criteria? Do they show you properties that match your critieria? If they seem to go outside of the box in what they show you, is it apparent they think a certain feature of the house or neighborhood fits your criteria or are they just trying to get you to bite.
Most agents love what they do and will try to find you that perfect property but you need to feel they are working for you and if you don't get that feeling then you need to find one who gives that feeling to you.

Maureen Hanley
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jan 28, 2013

One of the best trulia answers of "All Time." This one deserves its own personal designation with a logo for the side of the page.....no kidding!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Dec 15, 2012
Thanks, Bill!
Flag Sat Dec 15, 2012
first, i would google them, second i would ask how many transactions did they close last year representing buyer's, third check out their license number and see when was their licsnesed issued, are they a broker or just an agent, do not fall for the neighborhood agents, it means nothing these days, these days you could sit in NY and buy in CA with the internet being available, aslt ask if they are also bank brokers and closed bank assets, those that do have a deep experience and know their stuff
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Dec 10, 2012
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