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First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide: Part 9

Finding the right real estate agent

At this point in your home-buying journey, you’ve established yourself as a responsible borrower, researched your finances to make sure it makes sense to own, shopped and compared rates and products, and located a loan officer (LO) who’ll help you find your perfect mortgage. Now it’s time to find the real estate agent who’ll help you find your perfect home. Like the LO, he or she needs to be knowledgeable, friendly and accessible. Below are some important questions to ask during your first conversation with a prospective agent.

What is your experience?

This question applies to time and place: How many years has your agent been in the industry, and in which area or market do they operate? Though a young or inexperienced agent can bring eagerness and tireless energy to the table, a seasoned veteran with lots of experience will probably know the neighborhoods better and have more knowledge and skill in handling challenging or unexpected situations.

Is this your full-time job?

Asking an agent whether they dedicate all of their professional time to real estate is a reasonable question, because the answer may determine how accessible they’ll be. When you need an update on your most recent bid to the seller, it’ll be frustrating to have to wait for your agent to finish a bartending shift at the steakhouse downtown before calling you back with information.

Do you charge up-front fees? 

If an agent really wants your business, you won’t be paying a fee up front. Investing time with no payoff is an accepted reality of the trade for many real estate agents. If an agent requires a fee to get started on your home search, he or she can take your business or leave it. Most likely, these agents have many years in the industry and at this point are not willing to invest time for no return. This also means they’re highly successful agents, however, so they might close the deal faster if you’re willing to part with some funds up front.

How will you keep me informed about progress?

Find out how frequently you can expect communications, and what times the agent is available for you to call with questions or for updates. Guaranteed Rate’s agent-coaching site, Gateless, features a Loan Status finder service that allows agents to track the progress of mortgage applications as they go through underwriting. If the agent you’re talking to is unaware of Gateless, your initial conversation is a great time to inform them, since it will benefit both of you in the days ahead.

In next week’s First-Time Homebuyer’s Guide…
Part 10: Researching your neighborhood


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