Our goal here at Credible Operations, Inc., NMLS Number 1681276, referred to as "Credible" below, is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your finances. Although we do promote products from our partner lenders who compensate us for our services, all opinions are our own.
Buying your first home? Here are questions to ask your Realtor so you know exactly what you’re getting into. (iStock)
As a first-time homebuyer, you probably have many questions about the homebuying process. Sure, you can answer some of your questions — like how much home you can afford or what PMI is — with online research.
But online searches can only take you so far. Some questions are best addressed by someone with an intimate knowledge of the real estate market in the area where you want to buy a home.
Working with a reputable real estate agent can help you navigate the complexities of homebuying. Let’s look at some questions to ask a Realtor® when buying your first home.
Finding a real estate agent
When it comes to finding the best real estate agent for your needs, it’s important to seek out someone who you can trust to guide you through the homebuying process.
To start, you can ask for referrals from trusted friends and family members. The people who know you best can be helpful in recommending a real estate agent you’ll feel comfortable with. Buying a home can be an emotional process too, so you want to work with someone you like.
You can even drive around neighborhoods you’re interested in living in to see if there are any homes for sale and see which agent is on the sign. You can also search online for Realtors and real estate agents in your area. To narrow down your choices, filter your search results to the traits you want, such as top sellers or those who have favorable online reviews.
You can start your online search for a buyer’s agent with Credible. With networks of more than 90,000 agents nationwide, Credible makes it easy to find a real estate agent in your market.
That being said, don’t hire the first real estate agent you talk to. It’s a good idea to speak with a few to determine who’s the best fit for you. A good rule of thumb is to interview at least three agents.
Once you’ve found an agent that’s a good fit, here are some questions to ask at each stage of the homebuying process.
As you’re looking for a house
Shopping for a home can be the most fun part of the homebuying process. But it’s still important to gather good information from your real estate agent during this phase. A real estate agent can advise you on everything from how much down payment you might need or whether a neighborhood has a homeowner's association, to finding a lender you can work with.
What should I look for when touring a house?
If you’ve given your real estate agent a good idea of your needs and wants, they’ll be able to guide you as to the home features that will fulfill your requirements. For example, if you told your Realtor that you want to grow your family, he or she may advise you to look for homes with a bathtub in each bathroom. Your agent can also advise you on what to look for to get an idea of a home’s structural integrity and clue you in to possible red flags that indicate a home might need major renovations.
What neighborhoods should I look in?
Your Realtor will be able to help you hone in on neighborhoods that will suit your lifestyle. For example, if you’re interested in having your children receive a top-notch education, your real estate agent could suggest areas that have great schools. Or if you’re a young professional interested in the nightlife scene, your real estate agent could suggest areas with plenty of nearby amenities.
How much are homes selling for in this neighborhood?
Knowing how much homes have sold for gives you a realistic idea of what you might need to pay if you were to live in a certain neighborhood. You can use this information and compare it to your housing budget (or how much you’ve been pre-approved for) to see whether you can afford to live in a certain area. If an area doesn’t fit your budget, your real estate agent can suggest similar neighborhoods that might be a better fit.
What are resale values like in this area?
The resale value of a home is a fairly good indicator of whether you’ll be able to recoup your investment. In other words, will you be able to sell your home fairly quickly and at a price close to what you paid? Real estate agents can research this information for you.
Why is this house for sale?
Getting insight as to why the current homeowner is selling their home helps you to know what their potential motivations are. For instance, if the sellers are moving to another state for a job that starts soon, they may be motivated to have a quick sale. Your Realtor can use this information to help you determine whether you can negotiate if you want to put an offer on the home.
How long has this house been on the market?
Generally speaking, the longer the home has been on the market, the harder it is to sell. That’s because potential buyers might be wondering what’s wrong with the home, even if there’s nothing wrong at all. Asking your real estate agent this question could also give you insight into how much to offer, or if there’s a sense of urgency when it comes to making your decision on a home.
With a nationwide network of real estate agents to choose from, Credible makes it easy to find a real estate agent who knows the market in the area where you want to buy.
What’s the history of this house?
Understanding a home's sales history and other aspects of its personal history can help you make an informed decision about whether you want to buy it. For example, the last selling price of the home can give you an idea of whether the current asking price is fair. If the home has a history of insurance claims because of natural disasters, it may mean you'll need to buy costly flood insurance.
Your monthly mortgage payment won't just include the principal and interest on your home, it will also include property taxes. Looking at the home's tax history can help you know how much property tax you're likely to pay if you buy the home.
When you’re ready to make an offer
Making a good offer is a delicate balancing act. Your real estate agent will help you decide how much to offer and any contingencies you may want to include with your offer. Then, your agent will deliver your offer to the seller’s agent.
Do you see any problems with this house?
As a first-time homebuyer, you may not be as experienced as your real estate agent at spotting potential problems, like a water heater that’s near the end of its usable life or an unfinished basement that could have a radon problem. Knowing any problems will help you determine whether you really want to move forward with an offer and how to address any potential problems in the offer.
What concessions and contingencies do you recommend I include?
Seller concessions are closing costs that the seller will pay on behalf of the buyer. Have a seller cover some closing costs can be especially helpful for first-time buyers.
Contingencies, on the other hand, are the conditions you have attached to your offer that need to be met before closing. If the seller agrees to your contingencies, and the contingencies aren’t met, you get your earnest money back. Earnest money is the amount you deliver with the offer to show you’re serious about buying the home.
Your real estate agent can advise you on whether to ask for concessions or what — if any — contingencies to include. For example, an agent may recommend you make your offer contingent on the home passing inspection, especially if it’s an older home.
How much should I offer?
Your real estate agent has likely helped many clients place offers on homes before, so they may have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. They can use various factors such as sales history, what other homes have sold for and the overall condition of the home to help you come up with a competitive offer that has the best chance of being accepted.
What have other homes sold for in this neighborhood?
Your Realtor or real estate agent can run a comparative market analysis (also called a comp) to help you determine what a reasonable offer is based on what other homes have sold for in the area. An offer in line with comps could improve the chances the seller will take your offer. You also don’t want to bid too high and pay more than you need to.
Would you buy this house, and why or why not?
Even if you and your Realtor have different tastes in homes, having them walk through the reasons whether a certain home is or isn’t a good purchase can be very enlightening. They may point out benefits or flaws you haven’t thought of, which could help inform your final decision.
After a seller accepts your offer
Once your offer’s been accepted, the real work begins. Your real estate agent will help you arrange things like a home inspection and a title attorney, if your state requires one for real estate transactions.
Can you recommend an inspector and appraiser?
Your Realtor should know plenty of reputable home inspectors and appraisers. You can talk to a few and find the best fit. Both an inspector and an appraiser will help you progress in the closing process. A good inspector will help point out potential flaws in the home and even make suggestions on what you might need to upgrade in the future.
Should I negotiate for repairs if the inspection turns up a problem?
Your real estate agent can help you understand the severity of any problems the home inspection turns up. They should be able to "read the room" to guess how the seller might respond to a request for repairs. Your agent can help you identify issues that might be a deal-breaker, and help you understand what to do if a seller refuses to make requested repairs.
When you use Credible to find a real estate agent, you can get a personalized recommendation based on data from real estate sales in your area.
What should I expect at closing?
Closing has a lot of moving parts, so it’s a smart idea to be on top of what you need to be responsible for. Asking your Realtor for reminders is helpful so you can schedule tasks to be done on time.
What are some possible obstacles to closing?
Even with the best of intentions, challenges happen. It could be that you need additional documentation to finalize your mortgage, or negotiations after the home inspection take longer than expected. Asking your real estate agent about obstacles that could arise may help you feel more prepared — and give you time to come up with contingency plans just in case.