Buying your home is likely the biggest decision you’ve ever made, and it makes sense that you would want to partner with a trusted, intelligent realtor who has your back and your best interests at heart.

But how can you find the right real estate agent to represent you as you buy your first-ever home? Here are insights first-time buyers can use as they prepare to hire a realtor.

Key insights

  • Make sure your realtor knows specifics about you market area. Even a personal referral or family friend should dig deep into your preferred neighborhood’s stats before expecting your business.
  • Ask if the realtor works with a trusted lender who will get you pre-approved for a loan.
  • Go with your gut; even if a realtor has all the right answers, half the battle of this working relationship is hiring someone you truly like and trust. If you’re not feeling it, then keep interviewing until you find the right fit.

Work style and communication preferences

1. How long have you been a real estate agent and do you typically work with first-time homebuyers?
Unlike some of the other questions we’ll share, there’s no wrong answer to this question. Most realtors start by working with buyers, including first-time buyers, and as they begin to know more local homeowners, they transition their business to representing both buyers and sellers. Still others work only with buyers decades after they have been in the business.

In this question, you should just be looking for cues about how the agent communicates, what they are willing to share with you and how open they are to working with you in general.

2. I prefer to communicate via [phone calls, emails, texts]. Can you work this way?
In our low-inventory market for starter homes, fast-paced communication will be necessary to getting an offer accepted on your dream house. For this reason, it’s important to discuss how you prefer to be contacted – and to share any communications restrictions you have.

In this conversation, you’ll want to mention if you cannot accept emails or phone calls at work, or if you simply prefer to be texted rather than called or emailed. Similarly, you’ll want to confirm your agent is comfortable communicating in your preferred manner.

Questions about the market and the buying process

3. How long do you expect the home buying process to take?
Whether you have a tight timeline or need to move when your current lease expires, you likely have an idea of when you want to buy a home. Don’t be afraid to express that desire with your potential agent so you can all get on the same page from day one.

If your agent balks at your timeline, listen to their reasons. If they’re concerned about available inventory in your price range, or their recent first-time buyers have had loan setbacks, they may be offering valuable insights to consider. Together, a great agent will help you determine a buying timeline that works for your needs and in everyone’s best interests.

4. What do you know about the area I want to live in?
If you’re like most first-time buyers, you’ve probably been searching for available homes online to determine the city or even neighborhood where you’d most like to live.

If the agent is very familiar with the area already, you can continue to ask questions about the market, including if homes are selling quickly or for more than asking. If the agent doesn’t know about your preferred area, request that they get up to speed and get back to you within a few days with their initial thoughts. Part of being a great advocate is doing the research, so it’s okay to request that your realtor put in some work before getting hired.

5. What kind of loan options are best for me, and which preferred lender do you use for first-time buyers?
First-time buyers have myriad loan options available to them, from government-backed FHA loans to VA loans (for military veterans) to more traditional private loans. The best way to determine your buying power, and which loan is right for you, is to get pre-approved on a loan as soon as possible.

When meeting to interview a realtor, ask if they have a preferred lender they work with for first-time buyers and ask if they typically get their buyers pre-approved. If they don’t, be sure to learn why. Pre-approval is a smart step that helps you understand the loan package that would work best for you, gives you a great starting place for a budget and can give you an advantage over other buyers who aren’t pre-approved.