Let the home hunt begin!

However, before you can find the right home, you must find just the right partner for the search.  That’s where you take Step Two: Hire Your Agent!

"Qualifications are important, but you must reach beyond the limits of an ordinary résumé to evaluate each potential agent."

Word of Advice: Do not be afraid to ask questions.  Get a feel the real estate agent you speak with.  You need to mesh well: your personalities and—let’s not forget—schedules!  You’re building a relationship.  He or she needs to understand your needs and wants in order to have your best interests in mind when finding homes for you to see, and later on during negotiation period.  You must feel that you can place your trust in your agent.  After all, selecting your first home can seem like a stressful, overwhelming decision-making process.  The right agent will provide guidance and support to make the road to your home—especially your first home—a little less bumpy.

Basic Qualities and Interview Questions to Consider when Meeting a Potential Agent:

  1. INSPIRATION: Why did you choose real estate?  You want someone who enjoys doing their job; it may indicate that they are more productive.
  2. EXPERIENCE: How long have you been in the real estate business?
  3. ACCREDITATION: Are you a member of the National Association of Realtors?
  4. MLS EFFICIENT: Are you a member of MLS (the Multiple Listing Service)?  This program lists houses represented by all agencies to provide for a broader home search.
  5. SCHEDULE: Do you work on weekends?  Most open houses occur on Saturday and Sunday.  You want to be sure your agent can accompany you to prospective homes to help you make an educated survey and post-visit analysis.
  6. REPRESENTATION: Can you outline how you would represent us?  You want an agent who will be PRESENT for important events, including house inspections, the mortgage approval process, and closing.
  7. BIAS: Will you show me houses listed by other companies?  You want to be open to ALL options.
  8. FAMILIARITY: Are you familiar with the area we currently live in and where we would like to relocate to?  The agent should know the ins and outs of the area he or she is targeting.
  9. CLIENTELLE: How expansive is your client base?  Can you provide me with any references or testimonials from past clients?
  10. UNIQUENESS: What makes your company, as well as your approach different from your competitors?  Why should I work with you?
  11. GUIDANCE: What are some mistakes individuals make when buying their first home?
  12. HONESTY: What is a common thing that goes wrong in a transaction and how have you or would you handle it?  His or her answer may show how open they are about their real estate experience and how they handle any stressful, problematic situations that may or may not have helped them improve their work ethic and business approach.
  13. APPROACH: Hands on or hand off?  What’s your business style?  Consider what’s better: an agent who takes the back seat, sending a few simple e-mails or phone calls a week, or a co-pilot who helps steer you in the right direction, providing you with consistent updates and housing references.  You want to see them doing their job and feel confident in your decision that you WILL find a home that is just right for you.

Word of Advice: Be open and detailed about your mutual expectations: yours from your agent, as well as what your agent expects or needs from you, such as how you will communicate.Choosing a real estate agent is a MUTUAL COMMITMENT, finalized by the signing of a formal Buyer Representation Agreement.

This particular interview process is all about leaving with a sense of CONFIDENCE in the agent you choose to hire.  You NEED someone who is a good listener, who wants to get to know what you want and hears any concerns you may have.  You DESERVE to be confident in his or her ability to educate, advise, coordinate, and communicate with other necessary professionals.  They must be able to negotiate with your best interests in mind, solve problems, and, most importantly, check and triple-check all paperwork and meet all deadlines.

The right agent will possess a level of professionalism—a cut above the rest, placing your interests in priority right off the bat—not because it is simply his or her professional duty, but because it is the right thing to do!

STORY TIME: Jane & Robert

Be Practical, Trust Your Agent

When you begin looking for your first home, be practical!  Think simple, and about what setting and home features are going to be most beneficial for your lifestyles.  Jane and Robert are both students who had been dating since junior high school.  Originally from Upstate New York, they are both enrolled in Saint John’s University on Staten Island.  Although they are planning on tying the knot, no date has been set and they vowed that they are going to have a long engagement until both of them have settled into their careers.  First, they want to decide based on what job offers they receive whether or not they are going to live in Staten Island or back upstate in Buffalo, where the majority of their family members reside.

Unfortunately, timing wasn’t particularly on their side, because Jane became pregnant during the end of their junior year.  Now, preparing for senior year, they were also forced to begin a house hunt on Staten Island.  They needed a place to live outside of a college dormitory setting that was large enough, but private enough for childcare.  If they moved back upstate, they had to derail their educations.  With that said, they decided to stay on Staten Island and rearrange their school schedules so they could switch off.  One parent would care for the child, while the other parent went to school.  During conflicting days, friends would babysit.  However, in order for this plan to be well-executed, where they decided to move had to be far enough away from the dorms, to avoid overwhelming noise and rowdiness, but close enough so that it was conducive for the parents, as well as their friends, when commuting to and from school.

Sometimes, trying situations such as these arise unexpectedly.  Therefore, Jane and Robert for instance had to be willing to compromise some of their wants for their immediate needs.  Finding something quickly that is affordable can be a challenge, so the couple had to keep an open mind.  For these two students, it came down to making a cost effective decision.  Following the advice of their helpful agent, they purchased a small, semi-detached home in need of some updates, but spacious and close enough to school for them to manage childcare.  Focus on making a purchase that will help you grow out of debt, not put you in a hole.  Buying their first homestead of an apartment was a rather smart move, because now they can build up their assets and use the money they save up to buy a nicer home—similar to one they had always imagined—in the future, as well as prepare for wedding expenses.  Be honest with your agent and they will do their best to match you up with homes that correlate with your lifestyle.  Trust your agent’s professional opinion first and foremost because he or she will do his or her very best to help you make the most beneficial move for YOU!