First Time Buyer Chronicles, Part 2: One First-time Buyers Quest to Buy a Home this Spring

Part 2: Finding an Agent/Expert/Friend/Support System

Anna ErwertMy experience as a first-time buyer taught me this: Deciding which house to buy… overwhelming.  But almost as overwhelming? Selecting an agent to represent me. As first-time buyers, my husband and I had no interest trying to navigate the home buying process alone. Why ever would we, when we were about to make an investment consisting of six figures (a surreal experience, I assure you-- particularly when it actually becomes real). We wanted expertise, guidance, advice—and okay, a little hand holding—but without any hard sell/high pressure tactics.  

But in any successful brokerage—and ZipRealty is no exception--a plethora of candidates fill those qualifications.  Using the Web, we read through the bios, reviews, and statements of so many expert agents that their smiling faces began to blur together. “Why is this making me as crazy as looking at houses?” I asked my man.  “I think we need to go old school,” was his suggestion. He meant that we had to fall back on something a little more elemental to make our selection. And what could be more elemental than personality? We really wanted to like the person we were trusting with our home purchase adventure. We wanted to have at least the things that matter to us in common with our agent.

Agent as Friend and Expert

So who would be both for us? As a couple, Scott and I are both very athletic. We have a dog we treat like an actual child. We like to take part in Portland’s culture by being close enough to walk to it. So when we met a Realtor® who was a dog owning bicyclist, living in the neighborhood we most wanted to buy, we’d met our Realtor®. And, we’d made a friend.

Still, choosing an agent isn’t just about finding someone you’d enjoy having a beer, or taking a bike ride, with. There are several good questions to have ready when you interview potential agents that can help you find a true professional.  And it’s worth the effort, because if all things go well, you end up with a house you love. And, you’ve added an important person to your community: someone you can trust later to help you sell that house, should you come to that stage in your life; someone you can refer to friends and family; someone you know will have your back.

  • Here are 10 questions we found most useful finding that kind of real estate agent.

1.    How long have you been an agent and what did you do before this?

2.    Are you able to generally negotiate lower than asking bids for your buyer clients? Can you prove this by showing us your average list-price-to-sales-price ratio?

3.    We know how to search for homes ourselves, but what will you do in addition to help us find the newest and best listings?

4.    How many homes do typical first-time buyers have to see before they settle on one?

5.    What generally happens when you deal with multiple offers for a home?

6.    Is the market a buyer’s or a seller’s one in the price range and neighborhood we want?

7.    Will you have time to walk us through all disclosures, title documents, and offer and counter-offer contracts?

8.    Have you had many escrows that fell apart? Why? What advice or guidance do you offer to buyers whose deals fall through?

9.    What are the advantages and disadvantages of the kinds of homes we are interested in the neighborhood we want? (Here, we meant that we liked both new construction and old vintage Portland homes. Was either a better choice, long term in our favorite neighborhood?)

10. Do you have references we can contact?

With these questions, we were ready to find your agent. You can add some more, as we did—Do you love dogs? I mean, really love them? Do you like rock and roll? Where do you go for a car-free bike ride? (Your questions will likely vary!) Ask was much as you need to feel you found the right person to get you that much closer (supported every step of the way) to finding your perfect home.

Read part 1 of the First-time Buyer Chronicles here.