What do you wish you had asked or known when meeting your realtor?
February 26, 2015 4:13 PM   Subscribe

Buying our first home, I'm would like to go with a buyer agent and have our first meeting set with one Saturday. I'm turning to the hive mind for your tip, tricks, questions, and other things you wish you would have done or found helpful during meeting with your realtor.

Buying our first home, I'm would like to go with a buyer agent and have our first meeting set with one Saturday. I'm turning to the hive mind for your tip, tricks, questions, and other things you wish you would have done or found helpful during meeting with your realtor.

We are already pre-qualified for a mortgage, have a wide area that we are looking for, and some basic criteria.
posted by lpcxa0 to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
One good basic rule is that there are no dumb questions. You go with a buyers' agent because you don't know the process, and the agent's job is to guide you through it and teach you for next time.

It's useful at the outset to make clear which of your basic criteria are hard, and which ones have more wiggle room. That helps with the initial MLS filter. This is probably moot, but if you're in the US and considering any kind of government-backed financing (FHA, USDA, VHA) you will want to mention that up-front, as that'll also influence the selection.

From personal experience, the relationship only kicks in once you start looking at houses: the agent's not going to serve as an appraiser, but will be in a position to spot where a listing may depart from the facts, or where particular features might cause problems.
posted by holgate at 4:34 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

One of the best things I did when meeting with my realtor for the first time was not only having a list of my must-haves, but also a list of my must-not-haves. What you DON"T want in a home is just as important as what you DO want.
posted by bookmammal at 4:37 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

Feel free to say "no" as soon as you get out of your car and see the house if you know it won't be for you (road noise, cemetery next door, whatever). Don't feel like you have to tour the house "since you're there" or that you'll make the realtor feel bad if you don't. They don't want to waste any more time than you do. Just move on to the next one.
posted by sevenless at 4:51 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Good suggestions so far. One more: if you're sort of 'interviewing' the agent, I would recommend giving them your price range then asking them to show you a quick preview of a few property listings you might like. I've had one agent who consistently tried to show us stuff above the upper limit or pushing the upper limit of our price range and it was irritating.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:09 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

Anecdote for you: Our buyers' agent was a bit out of shape (I promise I am NOT advocating for some kind of fitness screening - please bear with me). We looked at a lot of places that had a lot of stairs (leading up to the front door, up from the parking lot to the entrance, etc.), and I felt awful for him (he was definitely suffering: knee/hip pain, out of breath -- I worried he was going to have a heart attack).

After a lot of looking, I really didn't like the last place we looked at, but my fiancé really wanted to own something, and that combined with the fact that I felt awful about the idea of the agent doing all that work (and risking his health) led to us living where we still are.

It wasn't necessarily the best decision we ever made (hard to know; maybe we'd be in worse financial shape if we hadn't bought this place), and I still feel regret over letting that be a factor in the decision.

So, if this might happen to you, beware.

I guess, rather than not hiring the guy, maybe we could have had him wait at the car or something... I don't know.
posted by amtho at 5:51 PM on February 26, 2015

Remember who is paying the agent. The seller of the house you buy, not you. The banker or broker who is doing your mortgage is being paid by the bank. Your lawyer is being paid by you. Incentives matter.

The agent gets paid only if you buy a place, and only if the agent is in on the deal. Some agents may ask you to sign an agreement that says that if you buy a house, the agent gets paid, no matter what. Don't sign. In Canada, most reputable agents don't ask for this. I don't know what the convention is in the US.

Some agents are looking for the quick buck. They will absolutely love every house you go see. Others understand that once you've selected them as an agent, their job is to put the time in so that you'll recommend the agent to your friends, call them to buy the next place, etc.

You can ask lots of questions, but it's also important to really listen to your agent to understand whether they're looking for the quick sale, or if they're in it with you for the long haul.
posted by thenormshow at 6:17 PM on February 26, 2015 [8 favorites]

The last two agents I worked with talked incessantly - during the closing I had to politely wait for them to finish their tangential conversations or interrupt them to get my questions about the transaction answered. One was buddies with the seller's agent and one just babbled. It was very frustrating in both cases.
posted by bendy at 7:30 PM on February 26, 2015

Please reread thenormshow's comment multiple times and keep it in mind every time the realtor speaks.

I have been looking at houses recently as a first-time homebuyer and the realtor I was talking with started out charming and ended up being a nightmare. I was encouraged to offer more on a home than the comps supported, badgered to use the realtor's preferred lender, and pressured (to the point of tears!) by this realtor to proceed when I said I had reached my stopping point in negotiations. Never again.
posted by mochapickle at 7:42 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

We have (or had, as closing is nearly here) an amazing realtor. What made him amazing? We sent him a Must Have list/Do Not Want At All list and our price range. It took us months to purchase a house because he would only send along listings that hit a lot of our Must Haves. From there, we could choose what we wanted to see. He never pressured us, was widely known as one of the few agents in our area familiar with downtown neighbourhoods and houses, and wanted us to wait as long as possible before we found something that made us happy. There were a couple of properties we liked that he felt were too high for what the sellers were asking so we negotiated on those (with little success). The house we eventually bought (so excite!!) was calmly and kindly done with minimal fuss.

So, my advice: have that list and that price range ready, don't budge on it. This is a major purchase so stick to your guns. Take your time; if you're not in a rush, don't let yourself be rushed. And find a realtor who really is worth their salt and who will work for your best interests. This may be a trial and error thing, but your comfort and your needs come first.

Good luck!
posted by Kitteh at 7:57 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

When you see a must-not-have or doesn't-have in a house, tell the agent and tell them why. Even in a house you don't like, if there is a feature that you DO like, tell the agent. That helps them have a better idea of what you want.

Also, be flexible in what you look at whether it's by size or location or ??? Take the time to look at things rather than just say, "No."

My example is that I wanted a house within a mile of downtown so that I could walk downtown for fun or drinks. I looked at a lot of dumps. I widened my geographic area and found a great house, but 2 miles from downtown and not so easily walkable. A friend who lived in neighborhood lent me her bike and I discovered that the house was an easy 10 minute bike ride on a bike trail from downtown, an OK walk and had a grocery store, a convencence store, a bar, a trailhead and a brewery all within a mile - all the things I wanted to have near. Instead of an old, small dumpy house I got a six-year-old house with four bedrooms, 14 foot ceilings in the living room and a two car garage on a quiet street for the price of a dump closer to where I wanted to be . I'm happier than if I had bought the dump based just on location.
posted by ITravelMontana at 8:21 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've had better experiences with brokers who lived in the towns where they showed me properties because they knew the ins and outs of certain neighborhoods.

I wanted to live in a certain elementary school district and I once worked with a broker who was consistently wrong about this. She also didn't know local zoning laws and would show me fixer uppers and make suggestions that the town would never approve. I got rid of her and ended up going with a broker who who knew the town, the zoning laws, and which neighborhoods fed into which elementary schools. She knew about the recreation departments and hidden town tennis courts and other town amenities. She didn't grow up in the town but she made it her business to know everything about it.
posted by kinetic at 2:51 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've had better experiences with brokers who lived in the towns where they showed me properties because they knew the ins and outs of certain neighborhoods.

Very true. Also they tend to know about houses going on the market before they are actually listed due to connections, and if they have been around long enough they are usually familiar with the last sale of a given house.

In contrast, someone who is from another town is basically no better than looking things up on Zillow.
posted by smackfu at 6:32 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Interview at least three people before choosing one. We got strong recommendations for a specific broker. He seemed nice and knowledgeable, so we went with him. He was generally competent, but there were a few things he could have done better, and - more importantly - there was a bit of a personality difference: He was a chatty extrovert who I'm sure was a great fit for people who needed a lot of reassurance and hand-holding. But I would have preferred someone who focussed more on details and facts.

Meeting with multiple candidates will allow you to better choose someone who's both a good broker and one who's good for you.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:36 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also they tend to know about houses going on the market before they are actually listed due to connections, and if they have been around long enough they are usually familiar with the last sale of a given house.

Seconding finding someone like this. We found out about a lot of houses in our price range coming onto the market a few days before they were listed, which meant we got first chance at showings. And a broker/agent who really knows their town will tell you what houses you're interested in sold for previously and if the new price is higher, what work was done to justify that price (of course, it's up to you and a really good agent to agree as to whether or not that new price is worth it, obv).
posted by Kitteh at 6:39 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

My advice is to talk through some scenarios with your potential realtor to find out how they operate. Some examples:
- will the realtor honestly tell you NOT to buy something if it's a bad fit (this is key -- good realtors protect their clients from bad decisions)
- what is the realtor's general strategy in a bidding war scenario?
- what about renegotiating offers following home inspections? what does the realtor tend to recommend (price reduction or repairs?)
- what is the realtor's availability? if you need to move quickly, will they be there to support you?
- what is the realtor's relationship with other realtors? if they're just starting out, they might not have a network of allies (or enemies!) -- find out what their standing among their peers is
- what happens if you want to buy a house the agent's brokerage has listed? who will protect you in that process?

Really, we found that our buyer's agents (we had a team of two, which was awesome) weren't so much useful in finding leads -- I can do that just as easily on the internet. It was their guidance after we found potential homes that was valuable.
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 7:02 AM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's worth doing walkthroughs on successive weekends with different realtors. We did this on two successive weekends and found that one realtor quickly keyed in on what we were looking for based on the suggestions we sent her, and one just couldn't figure it out. The realtor we went with was able to pull up to a place and say "this is in your wheelhouse" or "this is close except for X" and she was almost always right -- the places that were "nos" were juuuust a little off, not "hell no you're way off." On walkthrough weekends she was also able to take us to places we were interested in, as well as similar places that had just come onto the market.

The only other thing I wish I would have asked her is whether she would be willing to shave her fee by 1%.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:06 AM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Not realtor-specific advice, but some things I wish I knew before I bought my first house:

Got kids? Want kids? Think you maybe might have kids? Make sure you vet the local school system and know what you're buying into. You can't fix crappy schools, and it affects home value.

Identify things that are easy to change vs. hard to change. New paint, new flooring, new light fixtures, new landscaping - easy changes. But if the kitchen is too small or the master bedroom is in a weird part of the house, that's not changing.
posted by gnutron at 4:09 PM on February 27, 2015

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