3 Questions to Ask an Agent When Buying a Home for the First Time
Congratulations! You’ve successfully followed the steps to hire a rock star real estate agent. Now it’s time to start the home buying process.
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Chances are that you’ve compiled some preliminary research to guide your home search. Even with general parameters for your search defined, you probably have many unanswered questions about the process.
A great agent will be able to answer your questions in detail. At the very least, they should be able to point you toward resources that can help you find what you're looking for.
Then there are the questions you never thought to ask. It’s impossible to know how to ask all the right questions if you don’t have experience buying a home. Unfortunately, even the best agents can’t answer a question that never came up in conversation. As a result, you might end up in a less-than-ideal situation.
Luckily, there’s a solution to this quandary.
Although you may not know all the important questions to ask an agent, this post can help steer you in the right direction. At the very least, it will make you a more informed buyer. On the other end of the spectrum, these questions can save you time, money, and frustration.
When buying a home, remember to ask your real estate agent these questions.
From Start to Finish, What Does the Home Buying Process Look Like?
Imagine being blindfolded and told to walk in an unfamiliar area with only a stranger’s voice to follow.
One step after another, you have to blindly (quite literally) trust the voice that’s guiding you. In many ways, this is exactly what happens when people buy their first house.
Anxiety is caused by a degree of uncertainty about future events. That basically describes the entire home buying process for first-time buyers—if you’ve never purchased a house before, you have no idea what to anticipate at any juncture. It’s important to see each step before it comes.
That's where a great real estate agent comes in handy. Your agent should be able to paint a clear picture of the process from start to finish. At each major milestone, there are things that an agent can help you anticipate. It can be as simple as calming a person before they get an inspection report or as complex as crafting the perfect offer.
Knowing what the process looks like from start to finish will put you at ease.
Do You Have Recommendations?
Real estate is all about networking.
In many ways, the phrase "your network is your net worth" applies to real estate agents. If they want to give clients the ultimate buying experience, it goes without saying that they need to provide great service. Part of that comes from the quality of recommendations they can give.
As a real estate newbie, you might not have many connections in the industry. Therefore, you’re relying on your agent to offer solutions in the form of referrals. Just as a disclaimer, know that you should always compare options rather than blindly following advice. That being said, having an agent who can provide potential team members is invaluable.
Here are some recommendations you may need during the process.
Before Purchasing a Home
Unless you plan on buying a house in cash, you will need to find a mortgage broker. These people hold the keys to your future in the form of a pre-approval letter. They look at your finances, debt-to-income ratio, credit score, and other factors to determine where you stand. Ultimately, they will be responsible for deciding how much you can borrow and at what interest rate.
Agents with connections will be able to point you toward lenders who have experience working with buyers like you.
Most offer letters include an inspection contingency to protect the buyers. That means that you’ll need to hire a home inspector.
Without exception, an inspector will find issues (even new homes) with the prospective house. As a first time buyer, it can be horrifying to see an inspection report and may even act as a deterrent. Sometimes for good reason; other times, it can be due to a lack of knowledge on the topic.
Having a connection in the inspection space is crucial. You need an inspector who is more of a realist than an alarmist.
Real estate has tons of legalities and as such may require lawyer oversight. In some states, the closing process requires lawyers. Each state is different when it comes to this, so be sure to look this up ahead of time.
In the event that you do need a lawyer, you want someone who’s detail-oriented and responsive. Since deals may hinge upon a lawyer’s competency, a quality agent will know quality lawyers.
After Purchasing a Home
Believe it or not, owning a home means that things will inevitably go wrong. Instead of scrambling to find someone to fix problems after the fact, you should have names ready before you even buy a house.
The most common issues found in houses involve plumbing in one capacity or another. It’s important to have a plumber (preferably a team of plumbers) on stand-by so that you never have to wait more than a day to get something fixed.
Much like a plumber, electricians handle all that is unseen. Unlike plumbing, you can get electrocuted trying to fix it yourself.
For all other issues that might go wrong, you should be in touch with a handyman or woman. If you have a carpentry issue or a random door that won’t close, this is who you want to call.
How Old Are the Big-Ticket Items?
When buying a house, it’s important that you ask an agent about big-ticket items. Investors commonly refer to these as capital expenditures. During an open house or showing, you should be sure to figure out the age of these ticking time bombs.
A great agent will be cognizant of what to ask and know which items to look at. Here are a few examples that can cost a pretty penny.
As you probably know, a roof protects your house from all outside forces. What you may not know is that replacing a roof is very costly. That’s why it’s very important to know the age of a roof.
Knowing this information can do a few things. For one thing, it can help you anticipate when it needs to be replaced. In the event that it needs to be replaced in the near future, you may be able to use that as a bargaining chip during negotiations or steer clear altogether.
Furnace (Heating System)
Although less costly than a new roof, replacing a furnace can be expensive. Having an idea of how old the furnace is will enable you to predict its shelf life. In addition to this, knowing how recently it was serviced can make a big difference in its performance at present and in the future.
Do you like cold showers?
OK… maybe you do. But if you’re like most of the population, this is a worst-case scenario. Having the foresight to look into the age of the water heater can cost you from calling a plumber early into your homeownership experience.
Buying a home for the first time can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. Knowing the right questions to ask an agent will make you feel far more comfortable throughout the process. Good luck!
Anything you’d recommend adding to this list?