Once you’ve decided to start shopping for a home, one of the first steps is to find a real estate agent to help you. You can try going it alone by using online searches but nothing beats the knowledge from a well-connected real estate agent. Your agent can help you find the perfect home at the right price and walk you through the home buying process. Just having someone decipher all of the real estate lingo and acronyms like “For Sale by Owner” (FSBO), “Multiple Listing Service” (MLS), “Residential Purchase Agreement” (RPA) and “1-car garage attached” (1C-A), is reason enough to work with a real estate agent. We consulted with Noah Herrera, a real estate broker/salesperson with Platinum Real Estate Professionals and past vice president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS®, to compile this list of questions to ask prospective real estate agents and help you get started:
- Are they well established in the community? How long has the real estate agent worked in the area? If you were to visit the neighborhood you’re looking at on any given weekend, would you find that agent hosting an open house or in the neighborhood showing a home? Or do they just mail or drop off flyers in the neighborhood and leave? A well-connected real estate agent has a cadre of support from home inspectors, lenders, interior designers, recent homebuyers and even landscapers in the area. You can conduct an agent and home search on www.lasvegasrealtor.com. Some agents subscribe to automated valuation model websites like Zillow or Trulia offering agent reviews and listings, but keep in mind these websites don’t always have the most up-to-date information. That’s where a REALTOR®’s knowledge and expertise comes into play. Talk with and ask questions of friends or neighbors who just bought or sold a house about their personal experience with their real estate agent … hearing information first hand is the best source.
- What’s the real estate agent’s success record? Ask the agent you are interviewing how many homes he or she has sold in their career, this year and in the last three months. “A solid agent should do about 20 to 30 deals per year, and a minimum of 12 deals annually,” says Herrera. He adds, “If the real estate agent does less than one deal per month, it is possible that they do not practice real estate full time.” Conversely, Herrera said, “a mega-agent may do upwards of 75 deals per year. With a smaller agent, you get personalized attention. With a very busy real estate agent you may not get as much personal attention as you’d like; however, the mega-agent may have a number of industry people who can ensure all the “T’s” are crossed and the “I’s” are dotted thus helping your purchase process move along as smooth as possible.
- Does the agent specialize in the type of home you’re interested in buying? Some real estate agents specialize in single-family, condo, townhome, high-rise, new construction or investment homes. Be sure to select a real estate agent who is familiar with the type of property you’re most interested in purchasing. If you are planning to purchase new construction from a builder, you can opt to use the on-site salesperson or bring your own representation. If you choose to work with your own real estate agent, be sure your first visit to the model home community is with your agent. Most builders require the real estate agent to register you as a buyer on your first visit – otherwise, you may lose the opportunity to have your own representation. You’re probably wondering why bringing your real estate agent along is important. They can help you navigate through various forms you’ll be required to sign. They can help you find a mortgage lender or title company. Some homebuilders require you to use their lender or title company. Often new builders will provide incentives to use their partners, but you don’t have to; you can choose your own. Basically, a real estate agent will be there every step of the way, whether you buy new or resale.
- Are they licensed and what are his or her credentials? Confirm that the real estate agent you are considering is licensed and in good standing with the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS® (GLVAR). Every GLVAR agent is also a member of NAR and the Nevada Real Estate Division (NRED). At NRED, you can check to see if a real estate agent has any complaints filed against him or her. Make sure you ask if they are a real estate licensee, a sales agent, a REALTOR®, real estate broker or real estate salesperson. These titles are often used interchangeably, but there are differences in their licenses. They can all sell real estate. A REALTOR® is an expert who continually educates themselves on the industry, and they subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics when relative to representing buyers and sellers. A real estate broker is an agent who has passed his or her broker’s license, typically supervises REALTORS® and has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the transactions comply with the laws of Nevada. A real estate broker can work alone or hire agents to work for him or her.
- Have they worked with buyers in your financial situation? Be candid about whether you are pre-qualified or need the REALTOR® to help you connect with a lender to get qualified for a home loan. Ask if the agent has worked with other buyers in your situation. For instance, are you planning to make an all-cash deal or do you want a 30-year fixed loan? Do you have a 20 percent down payment, or will you need an FHA or VA loan? Ask the real estate agent about the strength of their negotiating skills, and their familiarity with bidding wars or the art of counter-offering.
- What does their buyer-broker agreement entail? Once you select an agent they may ask you to sign an agreement that outlines the obligations of the agent, the broker and the buyer’s responsibilities (that’s you). Key contract elements include agent exclusivity, real estate broker exclusivity, contract duration, compensation and details about the type of property the buyer is looking for. Be sure that you understand the contract and all of your responsibilities as a buyer, such as whether you still have to pay a commission if you end up finding the house on your own. Herrera says to steer clear of any real estate broker that asks you to pay anything upfront. He also suggests that you ask the real estate agent to include an escape clause in the contract, which allows you to get out of the contract if the agent is not living up to their obligations.
Ready to begin? One of the best ways to find a good real estate agent is through word of mouth. Talk with someone who has recently purchased a home in the area you’re looking at. It should go without saying that you should steer clear of working with family members, close friends or an agent who has never bought or sold in the area before. Herrera recommends interviewing at least three real estate agents before making your selection. You’re potentially going to spend a lot of time touring homes with this person, so you want to be sure it’s someone you’re comfortable working with, someone you trust and someone who you believe will be looking out for your best interests.