What to do before choosing an agent

brown and red house near trees

Improve your chances of finding a great real estate agent by doing these things before you hire one

Whether you’re in the process of buying or selling your home, you’ll want to find a real estate agent who’s experienced, ethical, and familiar with the market in your area. In order to do this, you need to ask the right questions and do your research on all prospective agents.

There are a few key actions you should take before contacting a real estate agent to make sure your real estate transaction goes according to plan. In this article, we’ll discuss how to successfully vet an agent—as well as what you can do to achieve your real estate goals as a homebuyer or seller. 

What You’ll Learn

  • What to do before choosing a selling agent 

Before you start searching for an agent to help sell your house, get ahead of the game by preparing your home for a successful sale. Identify how much equity your property has accumulated, boost your home’s curb appeal through repairs, and give it a good cleaning to speed up the sales process and attract the right buyer. 

  • What to do before choosing a buying agent 

In addition to doing your research on prospective agents, research the housing market in your area and visit some homes on your own, if possible. 

  • Get pre-approved or, if possible, pre-underwritten

When you have your finances in order early in the process, there will be fewer hiccups or hurdles if you find a home you love and are ready to make an offer. 

  • What questions to ask prospective agents 

Ask the right questions of your prospective agent to make sure you find one that is experienced and trustworthy. You want to understand how long they’ve been an agent, what kind of homes they specialize in, and what neighborhoods or areas they focus on. 

For sellers:

Know how much equity you have in your home

Find out exactly how much equity you have in your home before you talk to an agent, so you have an idea of your financial possibilities. Home equity is the value of the home that belongs to you (the homeowner), independent of the mortgage loan obligation you have with the bank. 

You can determine home equity by taking the current value of your home and subtracting the total cost of your home loan, plus any additional liens on the property. Ideally, you’ll have built up enough equity to use as a down payment on your next property. At the bare minimum, your home equity should be enough to cover the expenses that you’ll need to pay at closing such as agent commission and closing costs for the sale of the property. 

Repair, refine, and save the receipts

The National Association of Realtors reports that 9% of home contracts are either delayed or terminated due to home inspection issues. Avoid the possibility of your home sale falling through by making a checklist of necessary repairs and following through over a set period of time. 

You can also order a home inspection before bringing an agent into the mix. This will help you identify exactly what areas of the home need to be addressed and what repairs may not be necessary. Space out repairs over the course of a few months to make sure all repairs are completed before the house hits the market.

Don’t forget to save the receipts on all the updates you make to your home. Real estate agents often use tools such as automated valuation models (AVMs) to determine how much your home is truly worth, so being able to present them with receipts of recent repairs will help them set a fair price range for your home. 

Clean & declutter your home

You only realize the amount of belongings you have when it’s time to move. As soon as you decide that you’re going to sell your home, start clearing out anything you will not be taking with you in your upcoming move. Depending on how big your home is and how many items you’ve accumulated over the years, this could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months—so get started early!

After you’ve sold, donated, or thrown away excess belongings, give your home a good cleaning from top to bottom. Potential buyers are interested in seeing a clean home they can see themselves living in. A tidy home may even increase your chance of selling at a higher price. 

Many homeowners are unaware that deep cleaning and decluttering the interior of your home can add about $2000 to the home sale price. A professional pressure-washed exterior has the potential to add up to $15,000. When selling your home, presentation is everything. 

beige couch and armchair
A clean, minimal house is easier to list and sell than a cluttered one so get rid of extra things before talking to an agent

For buyers:

Get pre-approved for a mortgage

A good real estate agent will help you find your dream home at whatever stage you are in the process. However, it’s always a good idea to get pre-approved before you contact a real estate agent to better your chances of finding a home you can afford. 

Some lenders will even pre-underwrite you, provided you meet the pre-underwriting qualifications. Flyhomes, for example, can comb through your financial documents in as little as a few days to give you a more clear picture of your loan amount before you tour your first open house. 

In August, the National Association of Realtors reported that 22% of real estate contracts were delayed and 8% of contracts were terminated due to financing issues in that month. In other words, the buyer didn’t qualify for the home loan needed to secure the property. 

Buying a home while selling another can get particularly complicated. Avoid unnecessary headaches by getting pre-approved for a mortgage before you even start looking for a new home. 

Research the housing market 

After you’ve been pre-approved or pre-underwitten, you can start looking into the market on your own. You don’t have to be a real estate agent to research the housing market. The home loan amount for which you’ve been pre-approved will determine the price range of the homes you should be considering. 

By learning about the market prior to your conversation with an agent, you’ll put yourself in a strong position to negotiate and weed out agents who are not a good fit for your home purchase. 

Visit homes on your own

Looks can be deceiving—especially online. Strategic lighting and curated photography can transmit an image that is not actually true. Be proactive and drive around the homes you’re interested in. If there’s an open house, you should go even if you have no intention of making an offer. 

You can also drive through the neighborhood to get a feel of the area and identify any deal-breakers concerning safety, school districts, or aesthetic appeal. A real estate agent will be able to inform you about the highlights of each home, but only you can experience it for yourself. 

aerial view of city during daytime
Even if you haven’t talked to an agent yet, see houses in the area you’re interested in so you’re prepared expectations to provide your agent

Wrapping Up

The real estate market is competitive and it can be intimidating to step onto the scene if you’ve never bought or sold before. Real estate professionals are often eager to make a sale—some at the expense of their clients. Flyhomes agents aren’t paid on commission and will always work in your best interest. Don’t let that be you! Give us a call today

Follow the steps listed above in order to maximize your chances of getting a good deal on your home sale or home purchase. The best kind of homebuyer (or seller) is an informed one. Set yourself up for success by doing what your real estate agent may not know how or may not be able to do for you. 

FAQs

What do you say when you first contact a real estate agent?

Before contacting a real estate agent you want to identify your needs: Have you decided for sure you want to buy or sell, or are you just looking for advice? 

If your heart is set on selling your home, you’ll want to lead with something like, “We’ve decided to sell our home and are looking for an experienced real estate agent who is familiar with the area—what has been your experience selling homes similar to ours?”

If you are just starting to flirt with the idea of buying, you want to say, “We are wondering when would be a good time to buy—how much are homes going for in my area?” 

Letting the agent know where you are in the homebuying or selling process helps them understand how they can best serve you. Asking them specific questions allows you to get a feel for their level of experience and professionalism. 

What questions should you ask your agent?

What is your real estate experience? 

The current real estate market is competitive and moving quickly. Some agents have been working in real estate for a long time but that doesn’t mean they’re more experienced. The agents who have the most recent transactions and who have the most sales in the last year or so will have more up-to-date information that helps you compete as both a buyer and seller. 

How many homes have you sold in this area? 

An agent who has helped buyers and sellers in the neighborhood(s) you’re interested in is better positioned to help you reach your goals. The more familiar they are with the area, the less likely it is for them to miss important details regarding neighborhood, home build, or price.

Do you specialize in any type of real estate? 

Selling a single-family home in the suburbs is different than selling a condo in the city. Increase your chances of getting the best deal on your home sale or purchase by contracting a real estate agent who specializes in your type of property.

About the author: Vivian Tejada is a freelance writer and small business strategist based out of Providence, RI. She specializes in writing SEO blogs, property descriptions and website content for real estate companies. She’s also an avid traveler, location-independent and enjoys trying out new restaurants. 

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