7 Questions Real Estate Agents Should Ask Their Clients
As a real estate agent myself, I know that sometimes the easiest path to selling a home is to put a client in the car, show them dozens of homes, and then figure out — by trial and error — exactly what kind of house they are looking for.
But Ashley Bedard, broker at RE/MAX Regal in San Marcos, CA, says she requires her agents to meet with potential buyers for a one-hour interview before setting out to see homes. Although some potential clients balk at the idea of an in-depth information exchange, Bedard says this meeting is crucial to a successful house hunt and can save lots of headaches in the long run.
“The high-producing (agents) don’t waste time…this interview helps in avoiding that,” she says.
Bedard notes that 85 percent of her office’s offers are inked by the second time an agent takes a client out to look at homes, and she believes this stems from not being afraid to ask the right questions.
Below are seven questions I think all good agents should ask.
1. What is your motivation for buying a house?
This question often prompts buyers to disclose pertinent information such as a pregnancy, a child leaving for college, or a job change — information that might not otherwise come to light but is extremely important to know to help guide clients toward a home purchase.
2. What monthly mortgage payment amount are you comfortable with?
Just because a buyer can qualify for a $500,000 mortgage doesn’t mean they are willing to buy a $500,000 house. And many people don’t understand how much their monthly payments will be on that size house, only that they have been told by a mortgage lender that they can afford that much, notes Matey H. Veissi, president of Florida Realtors® (formerly the Florida Association of Realtors®) and head of Miami-based realty firm Veissi & Associates.
“It’s important to know if the monthly payment is something they think they can handle,” she says.
3. What are your needs vs. your desires in a home?
Agents should ask buyers to make a list of “must-haves” and “wants” — and gently inform buyers that they may need to be willing to compromise on both, says Bedard.
4. Do you have an understanding of the costs that come along with purchasing a home?
Veissi says that most buyers are aware that they will need to come up with a down payment, but some are taken by surprise with additional costs such as option fees, earnest money, a home inspection, an appraisal, and, in some cases, a survey. Although some of these fees are credited back at closing, the agent should prepare the buyer about out-of-pocket costs.
5. Are you aware that membership in a homeowners association may be required in certain neighborhoods and that there are fees that come along with mandatory membership?
“A lot of people have strong opinions on HOAs, so asking them if they are willing to buy a home where an HOA is mandatory is important,” Bedard says. “Sometimes it can make or break a sale.”
6. Are you planning to live in this home long-term, or are you looking at it as an investment?
Veissi, who has been in the real estate industry for 35 years, says buyers are increasingly asking her about socioeconomic and valuation data to inform their purchase, hoping to analyze the long-term potential of their investment. Since agents are limited in what they can say or not say about many subjects, such as if the neighborhood has families with kids or good schools, she refers such buyers to resources that provide that type of information.
“People used to say they were buying a home to be happy,” she says. “Not anymore. Now they are looking at it as an investment and want to project what it will be worth in five years.”
7. Are you also working with a CPA or another financial professional?
Bedard says buyers working with financial advisors can often be talked into putting their money in the stock market rather than buying a home, sometimes at the last minute. So it’s important for agents to understand who else is advising their buyer during the process.
“There are lots of different factors that come into play in the homebuying process, so having as much information as possible is crucial,” she says. “The key is not being afraid to ask.”