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Questions To Ask A REALTOR® Before And During The Home Buying Process

8-Minute Read
Published on January 6, 2022

Shopping for a home can be a daunting process. But if you’ve chosen to work with a REALTOR® to find your dream home, you’ll have someone in your corner every step of the way. Not sure what questions you should ask a REALTOR®? Let’s explore what you need to know before and during the home buying process.

What To Ask A REALTOR®

The right REALTOR® or real estate agent can make all the difference when searching for your dream home. Before you decide to hire a specific agent, you should ask a series of questions to ensure that the match is a good fit.

It can help to think of hiring a REALTOR® as hiring an employee. After all, you are hiring a professional to complete a job for you. Most agents will expect you to ask some questions, so don’t be shy.

Here’s a look at what questions to ask a REALTOR® before working with them.

Are You A Full-Time Agent?

A full-time agent can dedicate their time entirely to their clients. But not all agents are full-time. In fact, you’ll find that many agents work this gig as a part-time side hustle.

Although there is nothing wrong with a part-time agent, you likely won’t receive the same level of service as you would with a full-time agent. It simply boils down to the number of hours in a day that a particular agent is able to devote to the task.

In most cases, working with a full-time agent will accelerate the process.

Do You Have Referrals I Can See?

Successful agents often have many satisfied clients. When you ask the question, a REALTOR® should be able to provide a list of several clients who can attest to a positive experience.

With that short list, you should feel free to contact at least one previous client to ask about their experience. If an agent cannot provide any referrals, they may not be able to provide a pleasant experience.

How Much Do You Charge? How Do We Pay You?

As with any transaction, you’ll want to find out exactly how the agent expects to be paid.

In most cases, buyers won’t pay their agents anything. Instead, the buyer’s agent fee is rolled into the closing costs. But it is important to ask a potential agent what their fees are to avoid any surprise costs down the line.

Do You Work With Home Buyers And Sellers?

Some agents specialize in working with buyers and sellers. As a buyer, you’ll want someone who has a track record of successful transactions for the buyer.

However, it can be beneficial to work with an agent who has experience with both buyers and sellers. Versatile real estate agents can provide helpful insights with knowledge from both sides of the negotiation table.

How Long Have You Been A REALTOR®?

As with all professions, experience as a REALTOR® can be a big plus. Real estate agents with several years on the job know the ins and outs of the business. They can use that experience to guide you through a smooth process.

On the flip side, some new REALTORs® are hungry to prove themselves in the market. You may find a deal working with someone who’s relatively new. But weigh the savings against the lack of experience.

Do You Have A Team?

Some agents work with an established team to maximize their time. Typically, agents with a team will have buyers interact with other agents and assistants throughout the process. If you prefer to work with one person throughout the process, you’ll likely want to choose a REALTOR® without a team.

Having a team behind your chosen REALTOR® can be a positive or a negative, depending on the type of experience you are searching for. On one hand, a team can make the process more efficient. On the other hand, you may want the personal touch that comes with working one-on-one with a REALTOR®.

What Is Your Usual Availability? What Is The Best Way To Reach You?

It would be unreasonable to expect your real estate agent to be available at all hours. After all, they have their own personal lives! But it is smart to ask about their usual availability.

You’ll want someone who is available when you are. For example, if you work 9 – 5 during the week and plan to shop for houses on the weekend, you’ll want a REALTOR® who’s available for that.

Beyond a compatible schedule, you’ll want an agent who is easy to get ahold of. In the best-case scenario, a REALTOR® will be available for phone calls. If they’re only available through text and email, it could be challenging to get in contact when you need them. Make sure that the communication style is a good fit before moving forward.

How Many Homes Did You Help Close On In The Past Year?

Ultimately, a successful home shopping experience ends with a closing. You’ll want to work with a REALTOR® that has proven they can consistently help clients close on their dream home. If they haven’t closed on any homes in the last year, that is not a good sign.

What Is Your Average List-Price-To-Sales-Price Ratio?

The listed price of a home is often significantly different from the final sale price. If the sale price is consistently lower than the listed price, then you’ll know your real estate agent is a sharp negotiator. Since no one wants to pay more for their home purchase, looking for a REALTOR® with a great track record of negotiating for a better deal makes sense.

How Many Clients Do You Work With At A Time?

Most successful agents will have more than one client at a time. However, you might not want to work with a REALTOR® who has too many clients on their books. After all, you want someone that can dedicate enough time to your home search.

If a REALTOR® juggles more than 10 clients, you might not find the one-on-one service you are looking for.

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Questions To Ask Your REALTOR® When Buying A Home

After you’ve selected a REALTOR®, it’s time for the fun part – house shopping! Here are the questions to ask a REALTOR® when buying a house. 

How Old Is The Roof?

Replacing a roof can cost anywhere from $2,000 – $12,000 or more. It’s important to know the exact condition of a roof before buying a house. Get as many details as you can, including:

  • Type of roof: Roofs are made in several different styles and from a variety of materials. Make sure you know what kind of roof maintenance demands you’re getting and what the maintenance costs might be.
  • General condition: This should be examined closely at the time of your inspection by a certified professional, but take a look at the exterior of the roof and ask the listing agent about any noticeable damage.
  • Age: How old is the roof?
  • Recent repairs: Has the roof undergone any maintenance recently? Are there receipts detailing exactly what was done and how much it cost?
  • Chimney: A chimney that has not been properly maintained can cause a lot of costly safety issues. Ask to see any documentation of regular maintenance, and be sure to have your inspector look for signs of a chimney fire. If a fire has occurred, it could threaten the chimney's structural stability and may need to be replaced.

What Do We Need To Know About The Utility Systems?

Repairing or installing a new heater, cooling unit, pipes, water or insulation can take a lot of work. That’s why it’s important to ask about:

  • Electrical: What is the rate of the electricity flow in the house? This is also called amperage or how many amps a house has. A modern house should have anywhere from 100A – 200A. Older homes may have as little as 60A. The more systems you’re planning to run concurrently (central air, TVs, computers, microwaves, etc.), the more amps you’ll need to power those devices.
  • Plumbing: Do the faucets work properly? Have the listing agent show you the water flow from each faucet in the house. Drips or leaks can be expensive. How old is the hot water heater, and what is the size? What material are the pipes made of? Has anything been repaired recently? Is everything up to the current code?
  • Water service: Make sure the home’s water and sewer service is in working order. Inquire about whether the home has a sump pump and if there has ever been flooding in the home.
  • Heating: What type of heat is available? Oil, electric, steam, baseboard combination, forced natural gas and a heat pump are all possible options. Find out the age of the systems and if any recent repairs have been done.

Is The Home Energy-Efficient?

An energy-efficient home can help you save on energy costs without sacrificing comfort. It’s important to ask about:

  • Energy-efficient features: What energy-efficient features does the home have? These may include solar panels, specialty appliances, smart home systems and more.
  • Feature upkeep: Efficiency is great. But will there be expensive maintenance costs coming your way?
  • Location-dependent tax credits: Can you capitalize on location-dependent energy tax credits?

What Can We Expect To Pay For Monthly Utilities?

The changing seasons often bring extreme temperatures. These highs and lows can often result in expensive heating and cooling bills. It’s important to know exactly what the current homeowners pay each month in utilities. Sellers who aren’t trying to hide something should be more than willing to share their utility bills with you.

What Is This Neighborhood Like?

The area surrounding your home can be just as important as the home itself. To make sure your dream home isn’t located in a not-so-dreamy neighborhood, be sure to ask about:

  • Schools: Even if you aren’t planning on starting a family of your own, the school district that your house is in is very important. Your future buyers may have children, and a bad school district can be a deal-breaker.
  • Crime: No one wants to live in a scary neighborhood. Are streetlights working properly? Are the streets crowded and noisy? Do your research about recent crime rates and try to talk to the neighbors if possible to get the true account of any bad things happening in or around the neighborhood.
  • Lifestyle: How close is your home to restaurants, public transportation, parks and playgrounds, shopping – all the things that will make your life easier and more enjoyable. Most people don’t want to have to travel long distances to get to the things that they like to do.

What Is The History Of The Home?

Illuminating the history of a home can shed light on any potential red flags. You can uncover some of the history through your local tax office. A few red flags to look for include any indications that the property was distressed or abandoned in the past.

What Are The HOA Fees?

HOA fees, or homeowners association fees, can significantly impact your budget. It is critical to understand if any of these fees are attached to the purchase.

If there are HOA fees, ask for explanations of what is covered by the expense. In some cases, the HOA fee will cover lawn care or outdoor maintenance. But sometimes, you won’t gain too much from the HOA fee. It is also smart to ask about the solvency of the HOA. If the HOA has a tight financial situation, then you might experience a fee increase in the future.

The Bottom Line

Buying a home is a major financial commitment. Before you jump in, make sure to ask questions. Remember that it never hurts to ask your REALTOR® about anything! You can make the best decision in your dream home buying process with more information.

Need more answers? Explore our Learning Center for more home buying tips and advice.

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Sarah Sharkey

Sarah Sharkey is a personal finance writer that enjoys helping readers learn more about their finances. She has an MS in Business Management from the University of Florida. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or Instagram @adventurousadulting.