12 Must Ask Questions Before You Hire a REALTOR® to Buy a Home
1. How do REALTOR® fees work? How much do you get paid?
Typically, the fees for both the listing and purchasing REALTORS® are paid for by the seller. The fees are determined at the time the home owners sign the listing agreement. The fees can vary depending on the type of service you’re receiving. What this means is there are different types of services that different REALTOR®and brokerages offer. Ask your REALTOR® what their fees are.
2. Is real estate your full time or part time job?
Your REALTOR® should be a full time agent. Like any professional you work with you want them to have the most experience possible and competently immersed in their profession. Full time REALTORS® see more properties, know the market and are going to be there when you need them most.
3. Are you a licensed REALTOR®?
This might seem like an odd question, but there have been a few instances over the years of people claiming to be REALTORS®, when they really weren’t. REALTORS® complete educational requirements, obtain criminal background checks and are required to complete ongoing mandatory education to maintain their license. REALTORS® are also overseen by a governing body that has specific rules, regulations and protocol to foster a standard of excellence which helps serve home buyers and home sellers better.
Although anyone can say they are a real estate professional, you want to see proof of a current license to ensure you’re working with a qualified agent. It’s recommended that you check the provincial real estate governing body website, where you can search for the Real Estate Agent’s name to make sure they are licensed. Please visit the links below for each province.
4. What additional professional designations do you have?
Outside of obtaining a real estate license there is continuous education that is available for Realtors to take. Increase education means increased skill, knowledge and proficiency. For example, if you are selling your condo, ask your REALTOR® if they have their Certified Condominium Specialist / CCS®, certificate. Other designations include Accredited Buyer's Representative® / ABR®, Seller Representative Specialist / SRS®. Not only does this show that the REALTOR® has taken more courses than required, it also shows that the REALTOR® takes their profession and clients’ needs seriously.
5. Do you work independently or as part of a real estate team?
Having a team with support staff such as an assistant, or additional REALTORS® can be a great asset. The benefit to having a team work for you in buying a home or selling property is that you have more than just one person talking care of your needs.
6. How much of your business is repeat or referral business?
This question will help you determine how many of the REALTOR’s® clients enjoyed their experience enough to recommend them to someone and use them again. According to a study completed by National Association of Realtors (NAR) in 2014, 42% of home buyers were referred by a friend, neighbour or relative. You can also ask for references from previous clients so that you can check how others felt about using that REALTOR®.
7. Do you do a Buyer Consultation to explain the home buying process?
If you are a first-time homebuyer, buying a home can be scary and overwhelming. Before jumping into the car and looking at homes, ask your REALTOR® if they do a Buyer Consultation. A Buyer Consultation is a great time to discuss with your REALTOR® what costs you need to know about, how you will find a home, what’s involved when writing a purchase contract, conditions like house inspection and much more. A survey by the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) says 32 per cent of first-time homebuyers reported that they did not feel prepared and knowledgeable about the process. Ask lots of questions. Your REALTOR® is there to educate and inform you so you make the right decisions when purchasing home.
8. Will I need to sign any paperwork when I meet you?
On July 1, 2014, the Real Estate Council of Alberta made a Written Service Agreement (often referred to as a “Buyer Representation Agreement”) between a REALTOR® and a client mandatory across Alberta. Much like signing a contract when you sell your home, a REALTOR® in Alberta will have you to sign a Buyer Representation Agreement. This agreement clearly outlines the obligations and responsibilities of a REALTOR® and the client. It increases the professionalism of the real estate industry and encourages a better working relationship between client and REALTOR®.
9. Do I need to be pre-approved or pre-qualified for a mortgage before looking at homes?
Being pre-qualified for a mortgage is the step before being pre-approved. Pre-qualified simply means that based on general information you provide a bank or mortgage broker, like annual income, credit and debt, they will suggest the amount of the mortgage you can afford.
You to be pre-approved before looking for a home. Pre-approved is a guarantee in writing by a lender to grant you a loan up to a specified amount (subject to receiving full documentation). A pre-approved mortgage is not a guarantee of being approved for the mortgage loan. With a pre-approval you will know exactly what you can afford when looking for a home, and when you find the right home you will be one step closer. Sellers will find any offer you make more attractive if you are pre-approved for a mortgage. In addition, having a pre-approved mortgage will allow you to take advantage of the best interest rates.
10. How will you help me find a home to purchase?
Your REALTOR® will know the right questions to ask you to help figure out what your wants and needs are in a home. How many bedrooms do you need? If you want four bedrooms, is that because you have three kids, or you have two kids so a three bedroom home with a den will do. What kind of parking facilities do you need? Do you need a home that can accommodate different stages of life or different generations? Do you need public transportation? Schools in the neighbourhood? Do you want a new home or previously-owned home?
The home buying process will be easier if you can narrow down the type of home you want to see. Remember you are not looking for the perfect home. If you are always looking for the perfect home, the process will be frustrating. The best rule of thumb is to satisfy 85% of what you are looking for. Which means what 15% can you live without?
11. How many homes do you sell each year?
Ask how many homes your REALTOR® sold last year? How many sold this year? Find out how much business your REALTOR® does.
12. What haven’t I asked that I need to know?
Sometimes there are questions that you don’t know to ask, because well… you just don’t know. This is a great question that allows your REALTOR® to cover any topics that they feel are important for you to know.
These are some great questions to help guide your REALTOR® interview, you might find other questions helpful as well. If you have a question that you think is valuable we’d love to add it to the list, just let us know!