Timing is everything in real estate. Here’s how to know when you’re ready to talk to an agent.
There are a lot of things to do to get ready to buy a home. Talking to a real estate agent is one of them. But when is the right time to loop a professional in? .
The answer may depend a bit on your individual circumstances, but the short answer is that it’s never too early to talk to a real estate agent. We’ll spend the rest of this guide explaining why, so let’s get into it.
- It’s never too early to consult with a real estate agent
A skilled real estate agent will be happy to help you navigate the homebuying process, no matter what stage you’re at.
- Interview multiple real estate agents before choosing the right agent for you
Find an agent with a communication style that works for you and your homebuying needs.
- When in doubt, a realtor can help
An agent should answer your questions, recommend lenders and home inspectors, and more
- If you’ve bought a home before, you can hold off on consulting a realtor
First-time buyers should get in touch as soon as they start window shopping for homes.
Use free consultations and professional expertise
Any real estate agent worth your time will be more than happy to offer their services to prospective buyers. Whether you’re at the start of your house hunt or nearing the finish line, agents are there to make the process as smooth as possible. Many even offer free consultations that give you the chance to discuss your property wish list, review finances, ask questions, and receive professional advice. Although most live off of commission, an agent’s business is built on trust, which you should make them earn.
Unless you’re closely acquainted with the world of real estate, an agent also probably knows more about homebuying than you do. To learn more about a realtor’s experience, consider asking them questions like:
- How many years have you been working as a realtor?
- What’s your availability?
- Do you know any good lenders or inspectors?
- Can you compare these two neighborhoods?
- How active were you in the market last year?
These are just a few of the questions you should ask your real estate agent before you shop in a tough market.
The answers to these questions are important because once you start viewing homes, you’ll need to regularly consult your realtor on matters of home pricing, home inspections, property information, and eventually offer negotiations and closing processes. It’s imperative to choose a real estate agent you can trust from the get-go, to avoid snags down the line.
A good agent will commit to you
Some agents will spend years with their clients, guiding them as they set goals and make plans. Even if you don’t have enough money saved to make a down payment quite yet, a good agent will work with you as you near that goal. It’s how they build relationships with their clients and get return customers. As long as you’re serious about buying a home, and intend to use the agent who has been helping you, you aren’t wasting the agent’s time. You can talk to an agent as soon as you know you’re ready to buy.
Are you pre-approved?
When you’re ready to buy a home, one of the first things you’ll need to do is secure funding from a mortgage lender. But that process can take some time. While you’re waiting for your lender to review your documents and underwrite your mortgage, homes you like may be snapped up by other buyers. Talk to an agent before your loan is finalized so they can help you begin to search, tour, and even make offers while the bank underwrites you.
One way to make this process go faster is by getting pre-approved for a mortgage before you talk to an agent. Your mortgage won’t be officially underwritten, but a pre-approval means your lender has completed a basic review of your finances and decided you are likely to get the money based on what they’ve analyzed. A pre-approved client is a ready client, to a real estate agent.
It takes time to buy a home
In hot markets, homes sell in as little as seven days from the time they’re listed. But that only accounts for a small part of the process. It takes almost five months for the average buyer to search, tour, place an offer, and win a home bid. Then, it’ll take another 30-60 days to close on that house. In all, a buyer can spend half a year buying their house. That’s why it’s never too early to talk to an agent.
Even if your finances aren’t finalized or if you’re still narrowing down where you want to live or what you’re looking for, your agent should be there for that whole process, from the first initial conversations to getting your keys.
You need time to find the right agent
It gives you a leg-up to speak with knowledgeable agents early on in the homebuying process because you’ll have time to properly vet them. Start reaching out to agents early so you have time to interview a few people and select the one that best understands your needs.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to meet with at least three agents before settling. And the more you consult with, the more options you give yourself. Research from the National Association of Realtors shows that “73% of buyers interviewed only one real estate agent during their home search.” Choosing the first agent that comes your way isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does close you off to other possibilities that could be a better fit. Set aside time to do your due diligence and find the right agent for you.
Remember, you’ll be regularly consulting this person for weeks, if not months (and in some cases, years). It’s important to choose someone who puts you at ease and demonstrates their real estate knowledge. If you’re concerned about getting locked in with one agent from the start, don’t be—any reasonable agent will understand you’re shopping around for houses as much as you’re looking for the right agent.
During your initial interview with an agent, discuss your homebuying must-haves and listen to their input. Do they seem particularly knowledgeable about your desired neighborhood(s)? Can they give you a reality check about your wishlist and price range? A good agent will work with you to find the best options for your budget.
Your agent can help you find a lender
Many homebuyers put off talking to an agent until they’re pre-approved for a mortgage. While securing a loan is an important step in purchasing a property, it’s not necessarily a step you need to take before talking to a real estate agent.
For starters, established agents have plenty of contacts with lenders, while the reverse is rarely true. When you find an agent you trust, use their referrals to find a mortgage lender with a stellar track record. Legally, your agent cannot accept compensation of any kind from lenders, so you can rest assured your agent’s recommendation is a sound one.
Another perk of speaking with an agent early on in the financing process is that they’re more likely to refer you to a local lender. Why is having a local lender a bonus? If your home offer is competing with other buyers, the listing agent is more likely to favor a familiar, local lender they’ve worked with before. Logistically, working with out-of-town or out-of-state lenders is often more trouble than it’s worth when you could simply go local.
In today’s hyper-competitive real estate market, buyers need every advantage they can get. When you’re backed by a local agent and a local lender, that credibility could make your offer stand out in a sea of multiple offers.
A note for first-time homebuyers
How soon should you engage with a real estate agent when buying a home? For first-time homebuyers, contacting an agent early can help you to understand financial incentives and loans before you meet with a lender. Realtors can often help out with moving advice, cleaning companies, and home inspectors, in addition to answering questions you didn’t even know you had. Repeat buyers who understand the process have a bit more wiggle room in deciding when to contact a real estate agent.
The Bottom Line
Unless you have cash in hand ready to purchase a specific property, you have time to shop around for potential realtors. Things won’t start to get serious until you have your pre-approval letter in hand. However, that’s no reason to delay scoping out the market and potential real estate agents. An agent can help you secure lending and guide you by answering your questions. At the end of the day, the sooner you speak with a real estate agent, the sooner you can seriously begin your home buying journey.
What should I not tell my real estate agent?
You shouldn’t disclose your income or any personal information regarding pregnancies, divorce, etc. Keep the upper limit of your budget to yourself, especially at the beginning of the homebuying process.
What should you do before contacting a realtor?
Before contacting a realtor, it’s smart to assess your finances and make a wishlist for your new home. It’s also recommended you do your due diligence by researching neighborhoods, purchase prices, and browsing homes on the market.
Who to speak with before buying a house?
Before buying a house, you should speak with a real estate agent, a lender, a home inspector, and any other professionals that assist in the process.
How do you approach a real estate agent?
When you first meet with a real estate agent, establish clear channels of communication and ask questions. Above all, be sure to make your home buying needs and budget clear from the start.
About the author: By day, Celita Summa is a Florida-based freelance writer specializing in real estate, technology, sustainability, and a plethora of other topics. By night, Celita can be found developing her talents, which include her black belt in karate, her fluent Italian, and her knack for vegan cooking.