Take charge and set the rest of the home buying process off on the right foot by following these tips to prepare for your first meeting with a new real estate agent.
In an ideal world, your agent will be like your personal home-buying wizard, guiding you to that perfect property – that is, if you have the right person on your team and make sure to cover what’s most important up front!
To set the relationship off on the right foot, think about this meeting as a first date. You want to both put your best foot forward and evaluate compatibility. In order to do that, there are three main points to think about and prepare ahead of the meeting:
- Budget and lending options
- Questions for your agent
- Must haves and deal breakers.
In this article, we’ll give you a simple guide to getting all three prepped.
- Determine budget and lending options
Before your initial meeting, you should have a solid idea of what budget you’re looking at and what lending options might be on the table. See our previous article, 4 Steps to Financially Prepare for Buying a Home, for tips on how to figure out a realistic budget. You need to know how much home you can afford and get approved for before you begin looking at properties.
There are two main ways to approach financing: come to your agent with pre-approval from a lender already in place, or, ask your agent to help you evaluate your lending options.
If you’ve been reading this article series so far, you may be inclined to do your own research and get pre-approved with a lender you know you want to work with, whether your personal bank, credit union, or elsewhere. Coming to your realtor with a mortgage pre-approval ready will speed along the process, since they’ll already know your exact buying power from the start.
If you want more guidance on how much your budget should be given the area you’re in and your must-haves and deal breakers, consider speaking with your agent before getting pre-approved for a certain amount. This can help ensure your numbers are realistic. You can ask your agent what kind of loan options are best for you, and if there’s a preferred lender they typically use for first-time buyers.
- Prepare questions for your agent
It can really help to show up to that initial meeting with a list of questions already in hand. Take a few minutes to write down what questions you have for your agent ahead to make the best use of your time together. Consider questions about the buying process, their experience and qualifications, their strategy, or about the area you’re looking in.
It is always a good idea to ask about their preferred method of communication up front and make sure that the communication expectations are clearly agreed on from the start. Do you prefer to communicate via email, or on the phone? Is it okay to text? What kind of response time should you expect? Talking about these questions on Day 1 sets realistic expectations and prevents miscommunications or frustrations from occurring down the road.
You may also want to bring up your buying timeline, and find out what kind of timeline is average for other clients they work with. If your desired timeline is unrealistic for the market, your agent will be able to address that right away.
Asking about their experience and qualifications can help establish trust and give you a chance to evaluate whether or not you want to continue working with them. You can ask about how long they’ve been an agent for, how many clients they’ve worked with, how well they know your area, and if they have any additional credentials, awards, or experience. You can also ask about what their typical style or strategy is like to get a feel for whether it’s a good match.
Finally, you may want to ask their advice on any specific questions or problems you have. Take the advice to heart – they’re the experts!
- Know your must-haves and deal breakers
This is the fun part! If you haven’t already done so, create two lists: must-haves, and deal breakers. Must-haves are specific details about the home you’re looking for that you absolutely can’t go without. For example, having a large backyard might be non-negotiable, because you need enough space for the dog to run around. Or maybe you are unwilling to compromise on having a bathtub. Whatever it is for you, write it down.
You can also make a list of nice-to-haves. These are the details that you really want, but a home not having it wouldn’t necessarily be out of the running. (A nice-to-have becomes a must-have if you would not consider buying a property that didn’t have this detail.)
Deal breakers are details that, if discovered, take a property out of consideration. Deal breakers can be highly personal, so think about what matters most to you. Maybe stairs are a deal breaker, or the size of the kitchen. A deal breaker could also be any property outside of a certain radius close to school, work, family, or another important location.
- Bonus: Do you like them?
During and after the meeting, ask yourself whether or not you like and trust this agent. If your personalities aren’t a match, they don’t seem knowledgeable or trustworthy, or you simply can’t stand to be around them, don’t feel bad looking for someone else. You will be spending a lot of time communicating with this person, so you may as well enjoy their presence! The last thing you want is to create more stress in the buying process by working with an agent you don’t actually like.