One of the first steps to home ownership is choosing a real estate agent.
I’d like to go over a few ways you can find an agent, and the types of questions you can ask.
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I love working with first time home buyers to help them become more educated in the process, and feel confident with their purchase. I love seeing people go from renting to owning a home and building equity. Some clients buy a starter home, others are buying their forever home. Each person is different and each purchase is unique. That’s also what I love about this, our industry is always changing and staying on top of those trends helps you be a better agent.
What does a real estate agent actually do for you:
A real estate agent is there to help you through the entire home buying process. That often includes helping you find a lender, helping you find a home, what to offer, negotiating, coordinating inspections, pointing out things during inspections, and ultimately ensuring the process goes smoothly.
What are some of the best ways to find a real estate agent?
You are more than likely connected already with someone who is a real estate agent, so I always suggest to first look in your own network. Maybe make a Facebook post that you are looking for an agent and if anyone knows someone. Personal referrals will always be the best. Don’t forget about coworkers!
You can also search online, Google is a great place, and you can look at reviews. Unlike a loan officer, it’s really important to find an agent that knows your area. It doesn’t need to be the exact neighborhood, but someone who knows the city or county you are looking in.
So you’ve found a few real estate agents, here are some questions you should you ask them, and I’ll let you explain what to look for.
Here’s some ideas:
- How long have you been working in the industry?
- Though a brand new agent or someone with less than a few years experience isn’t’ the end of the world, if you have a complicated purchase, this may be the opportunity to work with someone with more experience.
- What types of buyers do you primarily work on?
- It’s good to understand what types of homes they are very familiar with. If they mostly work with low cost housing, versus luxury homes, there’s a big different in how you operate.
- What do you like about being a real estate agent?
- This is a good question to get a better understanding of their goals with being in the industry.
- What is your communication style and method, how often will we be talking?
- Make sure this aligns with you. Do they prefer email, text, phone? You should be on the same page as your agent, and ensure right away you set the tone for how you will be communicating. Also, this is very important to set the tone for how often you’ll be talking, to ensure consistent communication, on your schedule.
- I’m really new to this process, do you work with a lot of first time home buyers?
- Check their ego at the door, if you don’t feel like they’re there to help you and educate you in the process, it’s probably good to move on. Some real estate agents don’t want to work with first time home buyers because they prefer working with investors or people buying vacation homes. That’s fine, make sure you are working with someone who will take the time to educate you throughout the process.
- What’s the market looking like right now? What should I know?
- You are testing their knowledge. You’ve already told them you are a first time home buyer, so listen carefully and ensure they are explaining things in an easy to understand way. They should be able to tell you about homes they’ve recently helped other buyers, and how those have gone, to give real world examples of the market.
- What is an appraisal gap, and is this something I need?
- In an ever changing market, homes may not appraise, or be valued at, what you offer. When this happens, either the seller comes down in price, you come up in price, you meet in the middle, or you walk away from the deal. An appraisal gap means you’ll put into your offer a certain amount of money over what it appraises for, so that you don’t have to negotiate the price again if it appraises below your offer. This is important to ask because if the agent can’t explain this to you, or they don’t understand it, you’re likely going to have a more difficult time. This is just one example of a type of scenario we’ve seen a lot in 2021 and 2022, but any agent who has been representing buyers during this time should be well versed in this strategy.
- What do you need from me to get started?
- Only ask this if you are ready to get started. They should be asking if you are working with a lender already. If not, they usually have a few to recommend. They’ll want your contact information and what you are looking for. Be realistic.
What else can I expect my real estate agent to help me with?
- Making sure you aren’t overpaying for a home. Yes, they’re paid on commission, but they have a fiduciary duty to you, that means they’re looking out for your well-being financially.
- Helping you with finding homes, and usually giving you access to the MLS that contains homes that aren’t necessarily publicly available.
- Looking into homes that you are interested in to see if it will qualify for your loan program, and what non public information is available that you may need to know. Things like a death on the property or the tax rates.
- During home tours pointing out things about the house that are important or could be an issue. Real estate agents tend to end up seeing a lot of things and they’re able to spot problems that a first time home buyer may not be aware of.
- Helping find trusted contractors for everything from inspections to repairs.
- Negotiating price, concessions, and even timelines.
- They keep everything on track, and everyone updated on the progress of arguably the largest purchase you’ve made so far in your life.
You need to be comfortable with your agent, you’ll be sharing personal information and it will be one of your most stressful times. Make sure you feel confident in communicating with them and they are committed to you. Ask a lot of questions. Listen and take their advice, they’ve done this a lot of times, they’re trained and licensed.
Welcome to the first Time Home Buyers podcast. One of the first steps to home ownership is choosing a real estate agent. I’d like to go over a few ways you can find an agent and the types of questions you can ask. I also have with me Monica, who is a real estate agent and can give you some additional insight into what to look for. Monica, welcome to the show.
Thanks. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Absolutely. So I’ve been helping people buy and sell homes for about four years now. I love working with first time home buyers to help them become more educated in the process and feel confident with their purchase. I love seeing people go from renting to owning a home and building that equity. Some clients start off with starter homes, others are buying their forever home. Each person is different and each purchase is unique. That’s definitely what I love about this job. Our industry is always changing and always staying on top of those trends helps me be a better agent for you.
That’s really amazing to hear. I wanted to begin by first just talking about what a real estate agent actually does for you.
First thing, A real estate agent is there to help you through the entire home buying process. So that often includes helping you find a lender, helping you find a home, what to offer for that home, negotiating any sort of negotiations in inspections, anything like that, repairs, pointing out things during inspections, and ultimately just ensuing that the process goes smoothly. Our job is to answer any and all questions that you guys as buyers have no question is too small for us. And that’s my job is to guide you through this process.
What are some of the best ways to find a real estate agent?
So more often than not, you’re more than likely connected already with somebody who is a real estate agent. Looking to family, friends, coworkers, anybody who’s purchased a home in the past that has had a good experience with their real estate agent, that’d be a good place to start. You can do Facebook posts, Google searches, anything like that. Just make sure that your choice is someone who you’re definitely comfortable with. You have to mesh well with the person that’s representing you.
Yeah, Google is a great place and I always make sure to let everyone know to look at people’s reviews. Unlike a loan officer, it’s really important to find an agent that knows your local area. It doesn’t need to be an exact neighborhood, but someone who knows the city or the county that you’re in. And more importantly, find someone who’s a good fit for your needs and will work for you.
As a side note, I’m always available to help as well. I love my job and I’m definitely happy to help you as buyers through this whole process. And also, I’m connected nationwide with realtors from one coast to another, and I’m happy to help you get in touch with somebody in a certain area that you’re looking for outside of California as well.
, Phil: 2:46
if you found a few real estate agents, what kinds of questions should we be asking them? So I’m gonna go ahead and give you a few example questions and then Monica, maybe you can elaborate on what you think, a good answer or what you should be looking for in those answers. Yeah. Okay. So here’s some ideas of some questions. The first one would be, how long have you been working in the industry.
You know, we all have to start from somewhere and I believe, you know, I did a lot of my transactions in my first two years you don’t wanna get somebody who’s not ready and willing to work for you. There’s no problem at all with somebody who’s been in the business for two years or somebody who’s been in the business for 45 years. It really just depends on their motivation and you wanna find somebody who’s going to work for you no matter, what, how long they’ve been in the business for. So personally, in my first couple of years of real estate, I did so many transactions ranging from first time home buyers, which I absolutely love to investors, to land. It just depends on how hard you’re willing to work. And I, as a first time agent, was willing to put all my energy out there, and just get the deal done for my clients and learn as much as I could. And in this industry, it’s an ever changing industry, and you just want somebody who’s always going to be learning and always gonna be keeping up with everything. And again, a seasoned agent is just as great as a non seasoned agent.
Yeah, and so I think what you end up finding is that someone who’s maybe a little bit newer to the industry often is paired with a mentor, so someone that does have a lot of experience, and so I don’t think that should automatically disqualify and then you may get someone who’s got 10, 20, 30 years of experience and they may be a perfect fit for you. Or maybe they’re just not as into technology, or they have a team and they have you work with maybe a junior member. They’re just not into educating you. Really, it depends on what you are looking for. So I think the experience thing maybe isn’t as big of a question that you need to worry about.
Just understand that if you have a more complicated purchase, this may be the opportunity to work with somebody who’s more experienced
So I think, that’s great. This next question, I think is, is one of the most important ones, and this is what types of buyers do you primarily work with?
That’s good to understand what types of homes they’re familiar with. If they mostly work with low-cost housing versus luxury homes. There’s a big difference in how you operate. So for me, my core group is first time home buyers. I absolutely love working with first time home buyers. I love educating them through the process. It’s not like buying a pair of shoes. You’re definitely. A huge investment and I want my clients to understand the process, whether they’re young, or if they’re older and they’re more established in life, you’re still gonna be a first time home buyer with many questions, and I love taking these first time home buyers through these journeys.
There’s one other group, which is VA buyers and VA buyers, I always like to think are a little bit in their own category because there’s a lot of nuance with even a first time VA home buyer. How’s that different than some of the other types of home buyers?
So VA is a little bit different. And I love working with va. I have much respect for , our military, and much respect for our military families as well. It’s definitely a process for them, VA buyers actually have more guidelines that they have to follow.
Yeah. And so they have their own loan type. There’s a VA loan specific to them. The appraisal itself also has different things that are called out. So you really need to understand the VA process in order to really take care of them. And a lot of VA buyers are first-time home buyers and so they’re all kind of grouped into that first time home buyer, but they’re also va so it’s even more education that they’ll typically need. Just to kind of, um, jump into a little bit more of a personal question that you should be asking your agent. What do you like about being a real estate agent? And again, what you’re trying to do is you really want to get a better understanding of their goals. Like, why are they doing this?
For me personally, I want somebody to guide me through the process, especially because this is a big investment. You know, you wanna make sure that it’s a good fit for you. Like we said before, if you want somebody who’s gonna educate you, then that’s important as well. That’s something that, has to be determined right away for you guys to have a good fit. And I feel like once you have a good fit with your agent, it’s gonna be more like a friendship, hopefully for you guys as first time buyers.
And I think one of the things you can probably do when you talk to your agent or your interviewing agents is ask em what kind of additional education are you taking
Education is a big part of real estate. This job is never, ever going to be the same. It’s gonna be ever changing. Every day something new comes up. And for me, it’s important to keep up with the education and keep up with everything that is coming forward to us as agents because it’s the best way that I can represent my buyers. Now, for me, I have been certified in first time home buying. I’ve been certified. New home construction. I’ve been certified in helping VA buyers. I take my job very seriously. I love to have fun and joke around and laugh around, but I also love to make sure that I’m giving my buyers as much experience as they deserve, and that includes education. And the more education you can learn about this industry, the better it is that you can represent those buyers.
And I think that’s a really great point. So you want to look for someone who’s looking at this as a long-term career
Yeah, I totally agree. Absolutely.
And now the next one here is also really important because this really depends on you as a person, your personal life, and how is that going to mesh with your agent. And the question is, what is your communication style and method, and how often will we be talking? So it’s really important that you make sure that this aligns with you. Do you prefer email, text, phone calls, FaceTime.
You should definitely be on the same page as your agent, and this is something that you should ensure right away so that you set the tone for how you’ll be communicating with them. This is very important because this is gonna set the tone for how often you’ll be talking. It’s gonna ensure the consistency of your communication and it’s all gonna be based off of your schedule. So as an example, I actually had a client who was in Japan and his wife was here and we were selling their house and Japan is about 12 hours ahead of us, so we actually had to work off of the Japan schedule. He was military. We had very limited time to talk. And for us that meant 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock at night here. , but it was his morning there. And so that’s how we got it done. That’s how we were able to communicate, and they definitely communicated that with me right from the start.
I think that’s the big key there is right from the beginning that expectation was set and they made sure that they would be able to talk to you at 10, 11, midnight, because that’s the timeframe that they needed. And I can guarantee you some agents just flat out refused. And that’s okay, because some people are nine to five, other people are more flexible in their hours
That’s just really what’s most important is just finding an agent. Like I said before, who works with you? Not everybody works, 12 hours a day. Not everybody works, evening hours. Not everybody works morning hours. So it’s just depends on what you communicate to your agent and how they communicate that back to you. But communication is the biggest thing in this industry.
if you are really comfortable with texting, you wanna make sure that your agent is comfortable with texting. And so make sure you set that tone at the very beginning and really ask what their preferred communication method, what times they’re gonna be available. And that way you can make sure that that’s gonna work with you because they can be a great agent, but if you guys never can connect and talk, they’re not gonna be able to be a great agent for you. And so communication is super important, but this next one here is all about our first time home buyers. And this is the question, I’m really new to this process. Do you work with a lot of first time home buyers? And this is where you could check their ego at the door. If you don’t feel like they’re there to help you and educate you in the process, it’s probably good to move.
Some real estate agents don’t wanna work with first time home buyers because they prefer working with investors or people buying vacation homes, and that’s totally fine. Just make sure you’re working with somebody who’s gonna take the time to educate you through the process, how you need to be educated if you know that you need, to be handheld through the whole process, that’s completely fine. , but you have to set those expectations right up from the beginning.
I think if you hear them using lots of acronyms and not explaining to you as they’re talking to you, they may be just less experienced working with first time home buyers, and it may be a tougher transaction because they’ll expect you to know some of these things that they just kind of have been working with for years
so true that that actually happens more often than you’d think because we as real estate agents, you know, on the daily, are talking real estate lingo all the time. So if we let something slip and you don’t know what it is, please, please absolutely ask us what it means, because you should know what you’re being told or taught or how we’re speaking to you. Sometimes our lingo just gets mixed up into our, daily conversations with our clients. We forget that you guys are first time home buyers and we wanna make sure that you guys understand what we are talking about fully.
And if that agent gets frustrated with having to explain that to you, it may not be the best fit. The next question is, what’s the market looking like right now? What should I know? Now, here’s where you’re testing their knowledge. You’ve already told them you’re a first time home buyer. So listen and pay attention very carefully. This is where you want to ensure they’re explaining things in a really easy way to understand?
Yeah, real estate agents should be able to tell you about homes that they’ve recently helped other buyers with and how those have gone. They need to give you real world examples of the market.
For example, recently we had a transaction where we were able to get $25,000 in seller credits a year ago. That wouldn’t have been possible, and that’s because we know the market and we’re very intimate with all the nuances and changes that are going on, and we’re able to get the best deal for our buyers.
So you wanna make sure that, once you’re writing up offers, , you are not writing something that’s crazy above asking price, or you wanna also make sure that you’re not low balling them as well because they may have done their own research, and hopefully they’ve established where the fair market value is for everybody. And that’s something that is important to know is the market and the town and the neighboring areas that you are looking into.
Nobody’s got a crystal ball. No one knows what’s gonna happen in the next month or two or three, but they should be able to say, based off of trends, this is where I see things based off of my colleagues and other things I’ve been doing, this is what I’m seeing.
The next one is, and this is one of those questions that I think is really good to ask because it gives you an idea of what the person’s expertise is, especially over the last year or so with some of the trends in real estate. And the questions. This, what is an appraisal gap, and is this something that I need? All right, so in like an ever-changing market, homes may not appraised or be valued at what you actually offered. So let’s say you put in an offer for $400,000 and the home appraised for $380,000, meaning it’s less than you are willing to buy.
Now, an appraisal gap means that you’re willing to put in an offer for a certain amount of money over what it appraises for so that you don’t have to negotiate the price again if it appraises below your offer.
This is really important to ask because if the agent can’t explain this to you, or they don’t understand it, you’re likely gonna have more difficult time this is just one example of a type of scenario that we’ve seen a lot in 2021 and in 2022, but any agent who’s been representing buyers during this time should be well versed in this strategy. And now into 2023, we’re also seeing seller credits. So that would also be a good question to ask is what are seller credits and how can that work for me?
Not all sellers are willing to give credits, but some of them are willing to actually help and give credits for you as buyers for closing costs or repairs, stuff like that.
The reason why I like this question so much is that it’s gonna give you an idea. Anyone who’s been in the business for at least two or three years, they should be able to explain this and maybe explain why right now, you don’t need one. Now, the last question that I would ask, that’s another scenario is, how can I get a lower interest rate with seller credits?
This is something that you want your agent to be able to explain to you in the sense of this is something that the lender has to be able to approve. This is a very lender oriented question and the realtor should know how to handle this question and how to direct you towards this question too, to get that answer that you’re looking for.
And so a lender’s going to be able to tell you how much it will cost to what they call is buy down the rate so that you can pay money to get a lower interest rate that can be out of your pocket, but it could also be from the sellers. And your agent should be able to explain how that process works, of asking the seller to help pay that down. But the lenders ultimately going to be the one that’s gonna tell you how much that is and what kind of interest rate you might be able to get.
With an agent, it’s important that. They also aren’t afraid to ask for certain things as well because you never know what could happen if you ask for seller credits. It’s important that you have a realtor that is gonna work with you and the listing agent and your lender to make sure that you get into the home that you deserve. And it’s within your budget. Absolutely.
The last question here, and this is really, if you’ve started really feeling confident in what they’ve said, is simply, what do you need from me to get started? And again, only ask this if you’re ready to get started. So what kinds of things should the real estate agent let you know they’re gonna need?
They should definitely be asking you right away if you’re working with a lender already, because working with a lender is like the first step, absolute first step that you need to get in order to buy a house. So your realtor should be asking you right away if you’re working with a lender already, because this is the most important part of the process. Now, if you’re not working with a lender, they should usually have a few lenders to recommend. I personally love recommending lenders to some of my first time home buyers. I work with a variety of different lenders who specialize in many different things. VA, first time home buyers, and there’s so many different first time home buyer programs out there. It’s so important for you to communicate that with your realtor as well, that you’re looking for somebody who can help you with maybe down payment assistance or, any sort of financial help that you might need. It’s super important to stress that.
I think that’s a great point. Those first time home buyer programs are very much tied to the lending side, and so you wanna make sure that you have a lender who’s comfortable and has experience in working with first time home buyers. What other information are they going to want from you? After you’ve had this call and you’re like, let’s get started. What are they gonna need in order to start helping you find a home?
So as an agent, we want your contact information and what you’re looking for, and be realistic. We wanna make sure that we’re getting you into something that fits your needs and your wants. If you know that you guys are smaller family and you don’t need five bedrooms, then tell them two to three bedrooms. We wanna know what size home you’re looking for, what areas you’re looking for. And that actually is best if you can narrow down areas. , I actually had somebody who told me that they wanted to live in California. Well, California is a very big state, so if you can narrow it down to certain area, and don’t be afraid to change your areas or your needs and your wants, because once you go out there and you start seeing houses, it’s definitely important to tell your agent what works for you and what didn’t work for you about certain houses.
It’s important also to rely on your agent as the local expert to maybe say, these are the things I’m looking for. What neighborhoods or areas do you think would most align with what I’m looking
Absolutely. And keep in mind, you know, you wanna pass information on to your real estate agent that’s gonna help them create these lists of homes for you. Like your commute to work. If you wanna be close to the freeway, if you want, a community pool versus not a community pool, but also be realistic in your requests. I’ve been down that road where I definitely wanted more things than I needed, but then I realized going into the process, you definitely have to know what you need more than what you want. So that’s a very big thing to make sure you express to your agent as well.
And there’s definitely things that you may want, but you could hold off for a year. So if you want that renovated kitchen, but there’s a lot of homes that are in your budget that don’t have that, you can wait six, 12 months after purchasing and do your own renovation. And that’s the beauty of some of those options. And your real estate agent’s gonna be able to help you with really understanding. , what makes the most sense? Do you buy that house that’s a turnkey house or do you make it your own over the course of a few years, but it’s within your budget? Now we talked a lot about questions. I wanted to also let everyone know and, and this is a great time that I’ve got Monica here to talk about what a real estate agent actually helps you with, and maybe you can just give us some bullet points of some of the things that you do help people with that maybe aren’t as obvious.
Oh, absolutely. So a few bullet points. , definitely wanna make sure that you’re not overpaying for a home. That’s our main point, to keep you well within your budget. Agents are paid on commission, but they have a fiduciary duty to you as buyers. It just means that they’re looking out for your wellbeing. Financially. It’s your money, your home. It has to be right for you, not for us. Another thing that agents do, they help you find homes by giving you access to the lists from the MLS that contains homes that aren’t necessarily publicly available?
Yeah, and some of those are because there’s different regulations. Not everything is publicly available, so you need to have that access. And there’s also additional notes that sometimes only agents can see and they can help narrow or filter out homes that maybe you wouldn’t be able to get because of your loan type.
Yeah. So another thing agents do are they look into homes that you are interested in to see if it will qualify for your loan program specifically, and what non-public information is available that you may need to know? Things like a death on the property or tax rates, et cetera.
Another one is during the home tours actually pointing out things about the house that are important or could be an issue.
Absolutely. Real estate agents tend to end up seeing a lot of things and they’re able to spot problems that a first time home buyer may or may not be aware of
Exactly. From walking through just hundreds and hundreds of homes and doing so many inspections that they tend to have a good eye for things. And so it’s always great to have a good agent with you when they’re looking at houses to get sort of that, almost like pre-inspection
Agents help find trusted contractors for everything from inspections to repairs. We negotiate pricing, concessions, even timelines we try to keep on schedule, but it’s our job as agents. And there’s a lot of behind the scenes that happen once you get into an escrow. Agents are always communicating back and forth with each other, and that’s something that we don’t necessarily talk to about the buyers right offhand, but there’s always stuff going on behind the scenes.
I think those are all great points, and a lot of times as a first time home buyer, you may not realize just how much is going on, what kinds of negotiations are taking place, and really part of what the agent does is they’re making sure that the transaction’s constantly moving forward. So is there anything else that you’d like to add?
Just the most important thing is you just need to be comfortable with your agent that you choose. You’re gonna be sharing personal information with them, and it’s just gonna be , one of the most stressful times of your life. But we’re here to make it the happiest times of your life as well. Make sure you feel confident in communicating with these agents and that they’re committed to you. If you’re there and you’re looking at a house, make sure they’re not on the phone constantly. You know, I try to make sure that I give my undivided attention to my clients. Always make sure you feel important. Ask a lot of questions and don’t be embarrassed to ask anything. There’s so many questions that is going on through first-time home buyers. it’s not like buying a pair of shoes or even a car. This is a huge transaction and you should feel comfortable with the agent you have chosen. Listen and take their advice. They’ve done this a ton of times and they’re trained and licensed Personally for me as an agent, I’m always there to answer any and all questions you guys as buyers have. So feel free to reach out to me anytime. My goal as an agent is to get you guys as buyers into a home. You love to answer all your questions and to make sure that you have thoroughly understood each step of this home buying process. And no matter what agent you choose, that should be their ultimate goal too.
I think that’s great advice. If you have any other questions or want to know, anything else, feel free to visit us on our Facebook group, on our website, we love to hear feedback. Or call or text and Monica’s available, what’s the best contact information for you?
Sure. , call, text, email. My phone number is (951) 395-1848 And I always have my phone on me.
I’m also a lender and a real estate agent. You guys can go ahead and ask me any kinds of questions that you’d like. You can reach me at (949) 357-5029. That’s my direct cell number. Or go onto our website, fthbpros.com and all of our contact info is there. So thank you for your support and happy home buying. Phillip Mastroianni’s NMLS number is 2141541. His DRE number is 02141890. And is with Pacific Patriot. Monica Mastroianni DRE number is 02099257, and is with Legacy Homes Realty.