Yes, you need a realtor!
A professional realtor is so much more than someone who shows you houses – they are acting as your representation in what will likely be the largest financial investment of your life.
As a mortgage lender, I cringe when one of my clients says they don’t need a realtor (or when they have an inexperienced one!). Without a realtor representing my clients, I know balls are going to get dropped and there will be last-minute surprises and delays because things didn’t get done correctly, or the buyer and seller didn’t communicate fully. That being said, it’s important to hire the RIGHT realtor.
Just like in mortgage lending, real estate attracts a lot of “get rich quick” types who have no idea how much work goes into overseeing a smooth transaction. You would likely be shocked to learn that the licensing education required to become a realtor does almost nothing to prepare an individual for their fiduciary role of representing you in a homebuying transaction. The same is true of mortgage loan officers! We spend most of our class time memorizing laws that tell us what fines and jail time we’ll get if we do something fraudulent. That tells you a lot about this industry, and really drives home my point that you need to choose your representation wisely.
It can be difficult to know what to ask when talking to perspective realtors, so I created a list of questions to get you started. I wouldn’t treat this like a job interview, rattling off each questions one by one, but rather pick a few questions as conversation starters:
What was your occupation before real estate?
How long have you been in the real estate industry?
Have you sold real estate in any other markets?
What do you enjoy most / least about working as a realtor?
How many transactions have you closed in the past year? Of those, how many were buyer-side versus seller-side?
Do you have training in negotiations? Can you provide an example of a time when your negotiation skills saved a transaction?
How do you resolve conflict in a transaction? With the cooperating broker?
What is your action plan for helping me find the right home?
How and when can I reach you when I have questions?
How often should I expect to hear from you?
Will I be dealing directly with you, or should I expect to hear from your assistants?
What would you recommend I do to help create a smooth, low stress buying experience?
Additionally, check for Google reviews and social media content. You can often learn a lot about someone by the content they post. It’s important to get a sense of whether a realtor is transaction-based or relationship-based. Are they asking YOU the right questions to best serve your needs and develop a long-term professional rapport, or are they just looking for the key points to “close the sale” and make that commission? It’s not always easy to tell, but these steps will get you started.
I have a handout on this topic that I provide to every prospective client who comes to me without having already chosen a realtor, which includes a list of duties expected to be performed. If you’d like a copy, reach out to me. The stronger the realtor/lender team you choose, the smoother your homebuying experience will be.