Currently, my boyfriend and I are keeping our eyes and ears on the Austin real estate market. We are ready to purchase, but are also first time home buyers.
We have read those horror story headlines…”Young couple buys home with unescapable mold infestation”… “Newlyweds move into their new home and discover the real reason it was on the market”…”Couple discovers their dream home is haunted”
We don’t want to find ourselves in that kind of predicament; To buy a house with a mountain of BIG problems (or a ghostly one!)
We want a place that could use a bit of tender love and care and is reasonably priced, then turn it into our home.
So I’ve challenged myself to write a blog documenting my research into the real estate market and home improvement industry, to both track my efforts and share the knowledge I build.
I’ve already explored financing and mortgages, you can find those articles here:
The next step is choosing an Austin Real Estate Agent to help us find our home.
Finding an ATX Real Estate Agent for the First Time Home Buyer
Before we start rounding up real estate agent possibilities, do we know what we want in a real estate agent?
We do know this home will be our primary residence first, and eventually we will turn it to an investment property that we will rent out.
Our future real estate agent should know about investment properties and how to properly assess a house for potential improvements. We’ll definitely want to increase the home’s value as we live in it -with home improvement projects.
Additionally, we want to avoid the mistake of settling on a mediocre or inexperienced agent. We could easily find a top agent who has already helped hundreds of people close on their home smoothly and for the best deal.
Now let’s see what else we should do to pick our real estate agent.
Use Trusted Referrals to Find Real Estate Agents
The obvious first choice would be to ask our network. We probably- at a minimum- know one person who has had experience with an Austin real estate agent before. Who do they suggest? Why do they suggest them?
We need to keep in mind who we are asking too. Were they similar to us as a first time home buyer and/or did the cost of the house they purchased match our budget?
There are also referral programs we can use to find local agents. I stumbled on Dave Ramsey’s “Endorsed Local Providers (ELP) program.” You can find it here too.
For us, they listed out the following local ATX real estate agents:
Janette Friend-Harrington & Doug Harrington of eXp Realty, LLC
Marisol Giron of RE/MAX Ideal Realty
Kent Redding of Berkshire Hathaway Texas Realty
These specific agents were chosen after review by Dave Ramsey’s team. It is said they are high performers in the market and have high standards for customer service. We will see!
With these two methods alone, we have a good list of real estate agents to check out. If we wanted to add a few more to the list though, we could do additional research online for the best agents in ATX and find reputable sources.
Evaluate Their Real Estate Experience
The ball is really rolling now! We have been pre-approved for a mortgage and now have a few real estate agents to choose from. We are stoked!! And we hope you are too- in your personal search.
Now, who will be the best fit for us.
What is Their Real Estate Track Record?
Some Realtors have certifications to show that they’ve completed training in a certain area of real estate. These designations, as it relates to our situation, can include:
- Realtors (with a capital ‘R’): They are a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and have formally agreed to abide by the group’s code of ethics.
- CRS (Certified Residential Specialist): Completed additional training in handling residential real estate.
- ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative): Completed additional training in representing buyers in transactions.
However, we shouldn’t choose our agent solely on their certification. It is mainly beneficial to know where they have additional training, in relation to our needs, to give us some confidence in their ability to help us.
I mean this is one of the biggest transactions we may ever make and it’s worth hundreds of thousands of dollars! So we want an expert and will set the bar high.
A real estate agent has a tough job. It often involves difficult negotiations and understanding market fluctuations. Meaning, we’ll want to find an agent who has a good amount of experience.
Given we’re buying a home, we should require a minimum of two years of full-time real estate experience for our agent. I’m not trying to be a test subject for a first time agent too!
Do They Know Our Local Real Estate Market?
While their certifications and experience are definitely critical, we also want our real estate agent to have specific ATX experience.
Have they closed on at least a couple dozen of homes here?
We ideally want a seasoned real estate agent who closes more homes than 90% of the other agents in our market. That rate of success takes a different level of commitment to their profession and their clients! They probably eat, sleep, and breathe real estate.
They may even know about homes before they hit the market. Awesome.
How do we find all of this out?
We Do Our Research
We can start by looking at their online profiles. Let’s check their website, social media accounts, and online reviews.
Do they keep their website up to date with active listings?
Do they have a social media account they use to actively engage with their network and share new homes on the market?
Do they post when they close a home?
Do they have more positive reviews than negative ones?
Have they received any complaints on Austin’s Better Business Bureau’s website?
Make sure to document what you find so it can be an easy comparison later on.
Interview At Least Three Real Estate Agents
Once the research is done, we should probably pick up the phone and set a meeting with these prospective agents.
It’s our opportunity to get a sense of their working style and a better understanding of their experience.
We’ll need to take note of how they present their services to us. Katherine Hutt, a spokesperson with the Better Business Bureau said “The more effort they put into a presentation for you, the more effort they’ll put into presentations when they’re working for you.”
There is additionally a list of questions we should be prepared to ask, just like a real interview should go!
How will you help me buy a home in a competitive market?
Do I have to sign a contract with you? Can I cancel without penalty?
Who can I contact for a reference?
Are they able to communicate via text during the week?
Can they view houses on nights and weekends?
This may not encompass everything we want to know, but it’s a good starting point.
Learn About Their Customer Service
During the interview, we should learn about their customer service style too.
Not all agents will communicate with us equally. For some, this may not be their only job. Will they be available to answer our calls or at least get back to us on the same day?
Communication is so important in any real estate transaction. If our agent doesn’t respond in a reasonable amount of time, it may lead us to miss out on a great opportunity! I would be so upset, If we lost our dream home because communication was delayed by only an hour.
This means we need a real estate agent who will be highly responsive and transparent.
We’re looking for an agent who can be blunt, but in a nice way. 🙂
We don’t want to have false expectations about a home because our real estate agent was afraid to tell us the truth. That could lead to some sticky situations…
Hire a Real Estate Agent You Like
At the end of the day, working with a real estate agent can be a very personal and time consuming process. We’ll want to enjoy that process and the people we’re working with. This is a big purchase, we’re not rushing it.
So even though an agent might check every single box -if we don’t vibe with them or feel we can trust them, we won’t work with them. Simple as that.
All I’m saying is we should take notes on how we feel around each agent.
Do they make us feel more stressed about the process than before?
Does it feel like they are dodging some of our questions?
Do they seem disorganized?
Are they not interested in the same home improvement ideas we are?
All of this will really affect your home buying experience and the home you end up with in the end.
So take your time. Choose wisely. Enjoy the process.
Happy hunting 🙂