Choosing the Right Real Estate Agent: A Guide for Military Home Buyers
In this post:
- Access Your Military Family Network for Agent Referrals
- Interview Your Top Agent Picks
- Questions to Ask Your Agent
- 3 Questions Your Real Estate Agent Can't Answer
Real estate agents are like family to some military home buyers. This is why so many buyers and sellers can’t wait to share their agent’s info. The agent/buyer relationship hinges on clear communication, honesty, and trust, so emotional bonds form quickly.
This is a pretty intense relationship with someone you don’t know well, right? So how do you find the real estate agent destined to be your expert guide through the buying process? And, after you find “The One,” how can they help you find the answers to questions they’re not allowed to answer?
Oh yes, you might not have known, but agents are legally and ethically bound to keep some pertinent info to themselves. Let’s start the agent selection process by crowdsourcing.
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Access Your Military Family Network for Agent Referrals
If there is ever a time to tap into your military network, it's when you need an awesome real estate agent. Just watch; the referrals will flood in once you put the call out to your circle. There’s a good chance the recommendations are either a veteran or a military spouse.
They’re ideal because they know exactly what you’re going through and what you need, maybe before you do! There are, however, plenty of non-military-related agents with a passion for helping servicemembers. You just need to make sure they have tons of experience with the military lifestyle.
If you can’t find an agent in your network, you can find referrals from:
- Online military groups with focus on: PCS, duty station, new city
- Website or Google reviews
- MilitaryByOwner’s real estate professional directory (search by base!)
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Interview Your Top Agent Picks
If you’ve gathered glowing reviews, you’re off to a good start, but you also need some one-on-one time to make sure your agent is the perfect fit, so schedule a 15 to 20-minute call to get to know each other. Don’t worry; agents expect and encourage interviews because they want to work with the best clients, too!
Before interviewing agents, read 7 Common Mistakes that First-Time Home Buyers Make to help you decide which question to ask.
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Questions to Ask During the Interview
Preplan your questions to make the most of your limited minutes. Of course, you’ll ask pertinent questions about their experience and business practices, but you’ll also want a feel for their style. Are they hand-holdy without time constraints, perfect for first-time buyers? Or are they a hard charger who can knock out a deal in days?
Don’t be afraid to define your priorities. You want your agent to know what is most important to you. Are you unwavering on your budget? Do you have a specific timeline or a non-negotiable feature in the house?
Here are questions you might ask to get to know the agent.
- How many years have you worked as an agent?
- Are you a local expert in the areas I want to buy?
- What percentage of your clients is military?
- When was the last time you helped a military buyer secure a home?
- How many clients do you work with?
- Will I always work with you, or do you have a partner or a team?
- Are you intimately familiar with the VA loan and VA loan assumption?
- What are some creative ways you’ve helped military buyers beat the competition?
- Do you have a broad network of real estate professionals (mortgage lenders, attorneys) familiar with military buyers?
- Do you offer any guarantees or special programs for military buyers?
- Would you share a couple of references?
- What haven’t I asked that I should know?
You’ve chatted, but you’re on the fence. What to do? Sometimes you just gotta go with your gut to decide. If there isn’t a spark during your conversation, or you pick up bad vibes, move on to the next name and see if you have a better connection.
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3 Questions Your Real Estate Agent Can’t Answer
It's natural for military buyers to ask their real estate agent dozens of questions, but did you know that agents are legally restricted from answering some questions? Yes, federal, state, and city governments enact fair housing laws to prevent discrimination in real estate.
Karen Hall, Realtor and owner/cofounder of @home real estate in Alexandria, Virginia, has helped military home buyers nationwide find new homes in Virginia; Washington, DC; and Maryland. Here, she shares examples of questions clients ask and how she directs her clients how to uncover the information they need.
The most comprehensive federal law, the Fair Housing Act, forbids housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, and familial status. Your state and local laws may add language, but understanding the Fair Housing Act is a good start for learning what questions your agent can’t answer.
1) What kind of people live here? Do military families live here?
Your agent can’t tell you what kind of people live in a neighborhood or city. They’re trying to avoid discrimination and stereotyping; what’s known as “steering.” Instead, they’ll probably suggest researching the area yourself. You can drive through the neighborhood and talk to current homeowners or visit local establishments like restaurants to see what day-to-day living looks like.
2) Is this neighborhood safe?
This a popular question, but your agent cannot weigh in. They’ll likely refer you to the local police department or other crime statistic websites. If you’ve talked to one of your agent’s references that bought a home in the same area, they might be willing to share their experiences.
3) Is the school good?
Agents cannot steer buyers toward or away from schools. Researching schools for a PCS falls squarely on you. Your agent can suggest, however, resources to help you make a decision. They may share the state’s education department, local school, and school system websites. For more information, you can also review popular school ranking websites like Niche.com and School Digger.
Choosing a real estate agent is the most important decision you’ll make during the home buying process. The time you spend researching and interviewing agents will pay off during the hours of home searches, question and answer sessions, and paperwork. Even though they can’t tell you some of the information you’re looking for, good agents will point you to trusted resources so you can make a wise decision yourself.