How do I "Interview" a buyer's agent?

Asked by Chuck, 22314 Thu Dec 27, 2007

What is the best way to interview an agent to find out if he is right for you? I have read from many, that it is sheer insanity to purchase a home without a buyer’s agent, but how do I know that the agent has my best interest at heart? What are the questions that I need to ask to ensure the agent is knowledgeable, experienced, and professional? Would it be a good idea to bring three agents to the same house to compare how they approach the process?

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Danilo Bogda…, Agent, Reston, VA
Thu Dec 27, 2007
As a Buyer Specialist, I get interviewed all the time. Not everyone goes with me nor do I want to work with every buyer I come across. Though there are variables such as personality that may affect your decision (as well as the agent's decision), I strongly believe that the following things are very important for you as the buyer to consider and review:

1) The number of buyer (NOT seller) transactions the agent has had within the last 12 months in the area(s) you are considering buying in.

2) If looking at new construction, the number of new homes the agent has sold within the last 12 months.

3) The sales price to list price difference/percentage (including seller concessions and other terms) of the last 12 transactions the agent has facilitated to see what their negotiating skills are like.

4) References from the last 3 to 5 buyer clients the agent has worked with.

5) Their online presence and invlovement within the real estate industry (e.g. "google" their name for results, check for them on Trulia and other sites to see what their responses have been to real estate related questions/topics, etc).

6) Check with the Virginia DPOR to see if there are any complaints or actions against the agent -

7) Ask them how many properties they preview per week on average. This will indicate whether they are staying on top of the local inventory and market trends. If they don't preview, they can't be up to date.

8) How well do they communicate with you and how do they go about doing that? Do they respond quickly and with accuracy and knowledge?

9) Did they ask you what your specific needs are in detail? This indicates that they care about what your needs are and don't just want to throw you in any house that may pay them higher commission or is one of their or their friends' listings.

As for bringing them to the same house, you can do that. But you are playing with fire - if you ratify and offer on that house, the other two agents could argue that they had procuring cause and could go after you for the commission. I don't necessarily agree with that argument, but everyone feels differently and there are plenty of lawyers in the area.

Good luck!
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2 votes
Nadia, Home Buyer, Maine
Thu Dec 27, 2007
Hi, Chuck.

The way I found my buyer's agent is that I looked at homes without one. In doing so, I met the agents who were showing the homes. When I met one that I felt a great click with, I called him and asked him to be my buyer's agent going forward.

One caveat, though - if I had seen a house without a buyer's agent and wanted to make an offer on it, it might have gotten complicated to bring a buyer's agent in after the initial viewing.

I also went to several open houses and chatted with the showing agents there.
2 votes
William, Home Seller, 18951
Thu Dec 27, 2007
Hi Chuck - get referrals from people you know - and ask questions like "what types of things did they do that indicated they had your best interests at heart". There are some great realtors out there, but remember plenty look only at their bottom line: 1. The faster I get them to buy, the faster I get a paycheck and 2. If they buy a home I have listed for sale, I get 2 paychecks. Neither are good for you. So many realtors out there and tough to find one who will look after your best interests - be very careful!

My advice - don't sign a buyers agent contract (this is a great way to get locked into a nightmare if your agent stinks!) and make sure your agent is not selecting homes for you to see based on commission percentages or other criteria that only benefits them. If you find a home on and say "hmmm, I wonder why they didn't show me this listing?" it's probably a bad sign.

On the other side - in this market, sellers are desperate and even builders are negotiating prices (unheard of!) so if you get an agent with a pulse on the market and good negotiation skills they can probably help you get a fantastic price on a home...

Good luck!
1 vote
Durenda Fach…, , Coastal Tampa Bay area. Pinellas and Pasco Counties.
Thu Dec 27, 2007

As a home buyer you need an agent who will Listen to you and your needs, understands your wants and needs and is knowledgeable of the market .

Most areas do not require a buyer to sign an exclusive buyer's agreement. Most of the time it is agent or their office that prefers a written commitment by the buyer.

Before you sign anything. Test to see if the agent actually listened to you and is knowledgeable of the market where you want to buy, by either sending you available properties or showing you properties within your parameters.

A good agent Listens (and hears and understands) more than talks, and addresses questions to you to help you define realistic expectations relative to the market.

If you have phone conversation with several agents regarding your wants and needs in a home, then let them interpret the conversation by sending you emails fitting your needs, you should be able to readily determine the best one for you. The better agents will, even on that 1st phone conversation, help you fine tune your parameters (good sign).

It is not always (and often not) necessary to sign brokerage agreement with your agent. But when you find a good one, it is great to Keep them on your financial team for now and for the future.

Best of luck
1 vote
Richard Rose…, , Alexandria, Arlington, & Fairfax
Thu Dec 27, 2007
Chuck, Jeff's article is certainly very good. I don't think you need to call the managing broker to get referrals as "Elvis" has said when you already have a couple of folks who you can read about and know a little about. Although my blog is new I have 13 yeras experience and would be happy to have an "interview"
You can check out my blog below. Thanks and Good Luck, Richard
1 vote
Mark Formsma, Agent, Corpus Christi, TX
Thu May 8, 2008
Attend open houses in your price range/area of interest and determine how well prepared those agents are. The agents who prepare well on the listing side [open houses] will likely also prepare well for their clients on the buying side. Very busy agents sometime do not have enough time or enough help to prepare well...beware these agents or the agent who prematurely asks you to sign a Buyer Agent contract.
0 votes
Darin Southam, Agent, Sandy, UT
Thu May 8, 2008
Reputation, Responsiveness, Knowledge of Contracts, & Current market conditions. Talk to their past clients and get it from the horse's mouth - :-).
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0 votes
Perry Hender…, Agent, Austin, TX
Thu Dec 27, 2007
Ask them how many ionvestors they represent right now looking for a home that is 10-20% off list price. A good one will have 30-40 of them. This way you'll always have a plan b if something goes wrong and usually they are the ones that sell a lot of homes anyway.
0 votes
Paul Eakin, Agent, Fredericksburg, VA
Thu Dec 27, 2007
Hi, Chuck... that's a great question. You're smart to be using a Buyer's agent, as there is no cost to you and you then have someone looking out for your interests during a very important transaction. What I would recommend are several things:
1. Ask the agent for references of past clients. Then follow up and call these folks to see if they were happy with the agent. Did the agent listen to what the clients were looking for? Did they communicate well and frequently? Did they follow up after the sale to make sure everything was right?
2. Ask the agent what their game plan is. How do they go about helping you find your home? Have they got a network of other agents, both inside and outside of their brokerage that they deal with? Are they proactive in bringing you properties that fit your criteria or do they just react to what you tell them you want to see?
3. I would ask how long they've been in Real Estate. I would keep an open mind for the individual and how you feel about them. By that I mean I wouldn't assume that just because someone has been in the business a long time or is brand new that you judge them on that alone. It may be an important component, but you have to click with them.

Hope this helped a little. Let me know if you have more questions and I'd be happy to talk with you. I hope you and yours are having a safe and happy holiday season. Regards, Paul
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0 votes
Jim Duncan, Agent, Charlottesville, VA
Thu Dec 27, 2007
Chuck -

Ask how they handle Dual Agency. How long they've been in business. Ask for a couple of references. Go out with them once to see if your personalities match.

As far as bringing them all to the same house - I wouldn't think that would be as effective as it might seem on paper.
0 votes
Jeff Royce, Agent, Fairfax, VA
Thu Dec 27, 2007
Chuck...I won't repeat it here, but I wrote about this on my blog. You can read it at:…
0 votes
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