Selecting a Buyer’s Agent

Here is a list of 10 interview questions to ask your buyer agent before you hire them to help you buy a house:

1. How long have you been working full time as a buyer’s agent in residential real estate? If you read the previous post, this question probably looks familiar, but it’s an important question, whether you’re buying or selling a house. As with a listing agent, a buyer agent’s answer to this question will vary depending on their experience.  While the amount of time they’ve been in the business isn’t a guarantee of their ability, helping people to buy a home is mostly learned while working on the job. Hiring a Realtor who has been making a full time living from helping home buyers for at least a few years will put your mind at ease.
2. How many homes have you helped people buy in my target neighborhoods? A buyer’s agent with experience in helping people buy homes in the areas you want to live will have a better chance of being able to assist you with finding what you’re looking for. You may have to use your own judgment as to whether or not you think the real estate agent knows the neighborhood. Having helped people buy homes nearby previously is a good sign for the Realtor knowing the area.
3. What form of buyer agency do you practice? The answer to this question may have a big impact on whether or not you want to hire a specific Realtor, as there are three types of Buyer Agents.

  • Non-exclusive buyer agents represent buyers, but work with brokerages and sellers of their choice. Because a non-exclusive buyer’s agent can be affiliated with an office that accepts listings or could also be a selling agent, there could be a potential for conflicts of interest.
  • Designated buyer agents are appointed, or designated, to represent a buyer when the buyer has an interest in purchasing an in-house or inter-office listing. With a seller’s agent and buyer’s agent in the mix, the brokerage is able to represent both parties independently, but since the firm still has an interest in the sale, a designated buyer’s agent may not be impartial.
  • Exclusive buyer agent is a Realtor who commits to representing buyers only and doesn’t take sales listings. With this exclusivity, the chance of a conflict of interest is basically nullified, however it may limit the agent’s experience as they are only familiar with buyers and the buyer market.

The larger the market area and number of active listings on the less likely you are to be concerned with these scenarios as you’ll probably be buying a property from one of many area real estate firm listings.  The small the market and the small the inventory, the greater the chance you’ll be purchasing a listing derived from your buyers agent’s firm.

4. Can you recommend service providers who can help me obtain a mortgage, provide inspections and help with other things I need done? Buyer agents should be a resource for you to learn about mortgages, find trustworthy mortgage providers, hire home inspection services and more while you are in pursuit of your home purchase. Realtors should generally be able to talk to you about mortgages, recommend more than one provider and they should be honest with you if they have a special relationship with them or receive compensation from someone they recommend to you.
5. Do you know of local, regional, state, federal or other home buying programs that can help me with my purchase or with making post-purchase improvements? If the buyer agent really knows the area, and the laws and public programs regarding residential real estate purchase assistance, they should be able to at least discuss alternative home purchase programs with you, even if you may not qualify. In addition to public programs, non-profits in the area may offer grants and loans, too. Public or private, these programs could include funds and loans to help with the purchase, or to help you make repairs and improvements once the sale is complete.
6. What type of incentives are being offered by home builders and home sellers right now? Not every real estate market has seen home prices hit the bottom yet. That means there are some motivated builders and sellers out there, just itching to sell off their properties. Even in places that are experiencing a rise in prices and buyer interest, there may be some other opportunities besides public and private programs that can help get buyers into a home.
7. What credentials/certifications as a Buyer Agent have you received? As I discussed in the post Why Choose a Realtor vs. a Real Estate Agent, Realtors have access to advanced education and certifications that can make them uniquely qualified to represent buyers. For example, the skills that Realtors gain through Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR) certification from the National Association of Realtors® can give them knowledge to negotiate better on the buyers behalf and increase the success of navigating the purchase process.

8. What are your fees and how do you get paid? Fees for buyer agents vary and shopping for the best fee for the most experienced Realtor could be in your best interest. Mostly, the real estate commission for both Realtors representing each party is paid by the seller. However, real estate transactions can be negotiated a number of ways, and that may include the possibility that the buyer could pay sales commission. It’s best to learn up front how your buyer agent will be paid for their services.
9. How will we keep in touch about potential homes, our bids and the next steps to follow? Communication is vital in a hot real estate market and this summer it really has been heating up. You will want a real estate agent that is easy to contact, but also has a communication style that you like. Some things that you may want to know could be whether any of the Realtor’s associates will be in communication with you or how he or whether you’ll primarily be communicating directly with the buyer agent. Do you prefer to communicate on the phone or via e-mail? Are you interested in an internet-savvy Realtor with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest profiles? Be honest about your expectations to see if your communication styles are compatible.
10. Could you please give me the names and phone numbers of your 5 most recent clients? Just as with listing agents, you will want to talk to the previous clients of your buyer agent. Talking to recent clients, listening to their experiences, and asking them if they would work with this buyer agent again can be a good indication of what to expect. If the previous buyers were pleased with the results of their transaction, liked the communication style, and approved of the work ethic of the Realtor, you probably have found a good buyer agent to hire. If the buyer agent doesn’t want to provide client references, you may not want to pursue the relationship.
This list of questions is a great start for interviewing potential buyer agents for your home purchase. There may be other questions that you may want to ask, like whether he or she has experience with the specific types of property you want to buy, like lakeshore property or a condominium. If you’re a first time home buyer, you may want a Realtor that specializes in helping first timers. The more you know about the buyer agent, the easier it will be to choose which Realtor would be the best to represent your interests.