Six questions you should ask your real estate agent before you shop in a tough market

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Real estate will be just as competitive as ever in 2021. In areas like Seattle, there are fewer available houses than in the last five years, but demand is as high as ever which means houses often get more than twenty offers and can even sell for $100,000 above asking price. With the housing market so fierce, you’ll need an expert team working to win your bid on your own terms. But how do you know your agent has what it takes? 

Ask your agent these six questions to see if you’ve found a winner. 

“How active were you in the market last year?” 

The best sign that an agent has a competitive advantage is that they’re active in the market. 

The more an agent worked in a previous year, the more they’ll know about market trends, pricing predictions and buying strategies to get you an advantage. They’ll have the newest and most powerful tools to help you win your bid and move in sooner. 

Your agent’s competitive advantage is about more than the number of houses they’ve bought or sold over time. It’s better to know if they bought a home recently than if they sold a lot of homes a few years ago. Active agents are in the know about immediate market trends. And since homebuying strategies change quickly, you want an agent with close connections to other agents and a high success rate. 

According to the National Association of Realtors, the average transaction volume for an individual agent in 2020 was 12. So just because an agent has over ten years of experience does not mean they have high yearly transactions. 

So double check. Ask for the addresses of your agent’s recent transactions then look them up on services like Redfin and Zillow or the Flyhomes app. All the sales information of a home will still be listed online. 

“Can you compare these two neighborhoods?” 

An agent’s ability to talk about the neighborhood is a clear sign that they understand local housing market trends, and can analyze a fair list price and build an offer strategy. 

An experienced agent should be able to compare two or more zip codes. Each location will have pros and cons that will affect the value of a home, and an agent should be able to explain clearly what those are. 

Ask them: what are the rules and regulations of this community? Are there any specific neighborhood policies? How are the schools? What are the crime levels? Are there any plans for major development in the future? 

A location’s specific characteristics will affect what the house is actually worth. If your agent doesn’t know what’s going on around the community, how will they know what a good price is? 

“What kind of home is best for me?” 

This one sounds obvious but the types of homes an agent wants you to see will say a lot about what their incentives and motivations might be. 

Agents generally work on commission, so expensive listings and fast sales are best for their bottom line. Some agents may steer you toward homes with a higher commission or toward less-desirable homes to avoid competing offers. But a good agent will respond to your desires and then work to find you the right home for the right price. 

Start with a clear vision for the kind of home you see yourself in. Your agent should respond accordingly and show you houses that meet those requirements within your budget. If you can’t find any houses, that’s OK.  You probably have big dreams that don’t always fit your budget. But an agent’s job is to be your guide. 

“Why should I make an offer on this home?” 

Remember: the list price is only what that seller thinks the home might be worth. But how do you know you’re getting the best deal? Your agent should. 

Even if you find a house in your budget and get a great loan, your new home will probably be the most expensive thing you’ll ever buy. So when it comes time to make an offer, you want to be confident you’ve found the one. 

To make a confident offer you should know: what contingencies should be addressed in the contract? If there was a price increase, is it worth the money? What about a recent price decrease in the listing? Is the home a good investment? Will I be able to cancel the transaction at any point? 

A great agent will do market research and follow housing trends to understand what makes the smartest offer on the right home. Your job is to think big. Your agent’s job is to win smart. 

“What’s your availability?” 

Every agent is different and so is every agency. Some agents work alone and others work with larger real estate firms. But no matter what, you should expect that your agent will be able to respond to you and take action on your behalf as soon as you’re ready. 

Homes in competitive markets can be on the market for as little as five days. Is your agent able to put in an offer and help you organize financing and legal considerations that quickly? Most open houses are on weekends—can your agent show you five homes in a day?

Generally, agents who work for larger agencies have more resources to be able to move quickly and decisively. But don’t let the larger firms push you into big decisions, either. 

Your agent should respond to you and your needs quickly but be available to talk you through any questions or concerns every step of the way. Don’t let someone else buy your home! 

“What unique resources do you have to help me?” 

There are pros and cons to every agent and every agency. But the real estate professional you work with should have something that sets them apart and gives them an edge in the marketplace. 

An agent working alone will usually have a very personal touch and great customer service. Homebuying is a tricky process so individual agents tend to take on one client at a time. If you want this kind of treatment then this agent is for you. 

But individual agents have their drawbacks too. They don’t have as big a footprint in the market or as much clout with sellers as larger companies. 

Larger real estate companies have more resources and bigger teams to provide research and support to agents and their clients—you! For example, Flyhomes is able to provide cash offers and fast pre-underwriting to ensure a more certain sale. 

Whichever type of agent or agency you go with, make sure they offer something that helps you stand out. Real estate can be stressful and uncertain. You’re going to want to balance a  personal touch with confidence and experience.


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