House hunting- what can I ask the realtor?

We’re house hunting, and I’ve set up a few showings for some houses we’re interested in. I found these houses via Realtor.com and another MLS site, and aside from the info provided, what else can I ask the Realtor? We don’t have an agent. Well, not yet, I figure when we get a little closer that would be a good idea. Right now we’re trying to figure out what can work for us.
I’d like to know as much as possible about the status of the house as I can, like why they are selling, how long has the house been on the market,(zillow has nearly nothing for houses in my area.) and just anything I can get.
I live not too far from the lake, and Chicago-ins have bought up property in the area the last three years having to branch out from the New Buffalo area, so lately a lot of houses that were second homes are on the market. The prices are a little higher than we’d like, but at this point we’re still trying to get a feel for all of it.
I know that the agent we’ll be seeing the house with will be working for the seller, so would they be very helpful to me the buyer?

Sure – they will tell you whatever you want to hear to get you to sign the purchase agreement. Then take their commission and disappear.

You should consider their ‘help’ just like you would that of a used-car salesman.

Ask whether the house is built on an old Indian grave site, or over the entrance to hell - omitting this simple but important check has been known to end badly for some people.

(//sorry - got nothing)

not to hijack the thread… but as long as we are asking about realtors, can someone please tell me why they still exist in the internet era?

Travel agents are disappearing, because of the web. But real estate agents seem to be doing fine.
What services do they provide that you can’t find for yourself?

:smiley: Thats great. I’ll have to remember to ask that-right before signing the final papers.

chappachula no worries about the hijack. But I’ll wager the answer is because of all the paperwork involved. I’m leery of buying a home that is FSBO because of a lot of the technicalities. An agent has the know for all that IMHO.
I just thought of another question, can I ask the sellers agent for comps of the area?

On a $300,000 house, you want to pay someone $18,000 because of all the “paperwork”?

Especially someone who got their “license” to do that by taking a two week course at a community college?

You can ask a sellers agent for comps. But, again, they’ll just give it the rosiest scenario possible. And, they can give you numbers without you knowing which way the market is trending.

The best advice I can give you is GET A BUYERS AGENT.

It should cost you nothing. The three times I’ve used them the Buyer’s Agent and the Seller’s Agent have split the 6% commission so it’s cash neutral to both you and the seller. But it gives you an advocate who will know more about the house, the market, and so forth than you ever could.

Repeat after me: The selling agent is after your cold, hard cash and doesn’t give much of a damn, if any, about whether you get the house you want/need. They are NOT working for you. They’re working for themselves and the other side. Accepting their information straightaway is like GM sitting down with the UAW and saying “So, what do you think you’re worth? We trust you.”

When I bought my house, I told my realtor what I was looking for (very specifically). She then took me to see 4 houses, any of which I would have been happy in. I might have looked at 4 dozen on my own, but she screened out the ones that didn’t meet my needs. She had connections, setting me up with reliable inspectors, etc.

When the home I bought had radon issues, she gave me great advice on remediation.

She was worth every penny, and I have referred a few people her way.

Isn’t the appropriate term FIPs?

I agree with Jonathan Chance and vetbridge. Unless you buy something that is FSBO, you will end up paying commission. You can pay that commission to just the people working for the seller, or pay the same commission and have it split between the seller’s agent and the person who is working FOR YOU.

Well…yes. [grumble/]But I was trying to be polite about the people driving up the house prices in the area. But thats a whole other thread.[/grumble]
:wink:

The first time we house shopped, we had a useless buyer’s agent. Like all professionals, there are good ones and bad ones. We had a bad one - the opposite of vetbridge’s. She didn’t watch the listings for us (we lost out on several houses because they were already under contract by the time she found them.) She never listened to what sort of house we were looking for, instead pointing out all sorts of “move in ready” ranches and split levels after we told her we were looking for a fixer upper that wasn’t a ranch or a split. She started looking at the upper end of our price range going up. She wasn’t familiar with the area we wanted to buy in. When we wanted to look at a house she acted like she was doing us a favor.

We dumped her and were assigned a new agent by a sister office from that agency.
He never returned our phone calls.

We bought for sale by owner with no agent. We had a lawyer look over the paperwork for us. The lawyer was assigned through the local referral service, I think it cost $40 to have him look over the contract. The whole process was smooth as silk.

The thing about comission is that frequently if the seller has an agent and you have no buyer’s agent, the selling agent will accept the 3% s/he would get if splitting the 6% with a buyer’s agent. This is a bargaining point for the seller, who is paying the comission. For instance, I’ve got a house on the market right now. I’d be more willing to lower the price if I was only paying one agent instead of two. (and I’m thinking of dropping my selling agent, but that’s another story)

You’re right - the selling agent for the house only wants to sell you the house. He is likely not looking out for your interest in particular. But you can also get a buyer’s agent who only wants you to buy a house a.s.a.p. and doesn’t care if it’s right for you. They’re not all like that, but they’re out there. If you really want a buyer’s agent, get a recommendation from someone you know so that you get one like the one **vetbridge ** had and not like the one we had.

You can ask the agent anything you damn well please. They are only obligated to give you the information that is on the seller’s disclosure statement (in New Jersey at least).

Get a home inspection done.

Don’t ever let a seller’s agent represent you in a dual agent role. Their fiduciary responsibility is always with the seller, regardless of what they tell you. I learned this lesson the hard way when I was a first time home buyer. As other’s have said, get your own buyer’s agent since they’ll get paid by splitting the selling agent’s commission (paid by the seller), unless you buy a FSBO - then you’re on the hook for paying your agent. In that case, hire a real estate lawyer to look over any contract you may be interested in signing.

As you can see, there’s a lot of criticism of RE agents and the industry. I tend to agree with a lot of it. There’s potential for manipulation and abuse by all parties involved (even by those who are allegedly working on your behalf), so be cautious and aware, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. Question everything. Remember one thing -everyone in RE transactions gets paid. If their pay doesn’t come out of the seller’s end, it’ll come out of yours.

Ask how long the property has been on the market, cumulatively. You want the whole history, not just the most recent listing, which might make it look like it’s only been on the market for three weeks when it could’ve been sitting there for months, listed with another broker. If you ask, they have to tell you.

Zillow and Cyberhomes are good tools to check on recent sales in the neighborhood, tax information and the sales history of the house, but the “Zestimates” are notoriously unreliable and, everywhere I’ve looked, ridiculously inflated.

Good luck.

IMHO the term “buyer’s agent” is very misleading. Real estate agents get paid as a percentage and condition of sale. Your “buyer’s agent” doesn’t get paid unless they sell you a property, so it’s in their best interest to find you a property that fits you, but don’t think for a New York minute that they’re going to tell you anything they aren’t required to by law. In the end all agents work for themselves, the agency and the seller, in that order. Don’t delude yourself into believing that, as a buyer, you are represented by any real estate agent involved. I’m a firm believer in hiring a real estate savvy attorney to approve anything I sign in a real estate transaction, the atty. is paid by me, represents me and has contractual responsibilities to me. I know that many disagree w/ this, but I don’t see a downside. In a deal where I’m spending several hundred thousand dollars and where everyone else involved is either looking out for themselves, or the seller, I think a few hundred for an atty. is cheap insurance.

Let me just say that I sold my house myself in about a month and both the buyer and I made out because of the lack of a ridiculously disproportionate commission. I paid an attorney who specialized in real estate law $250 to handle the entire thing. Prices I am sure are higher than when I did it but the principle remains the same.

You can of course hire your own realtor, buyers’ agents do exist. I have no opinion on whether that is a good way to go. I don’t think they necessarily get paid only out of the proceeds from a sale. I think it is possible to hire an agent and pay a flat fee. Everything in real estate IMHO depends on the ethical behaviour of the parties and their agents, so comfort is everything.

As others have said, particularly A.R. Cane, unless you (the buyer) are paying the so-called buyer’s agrent a fee, out of your own pocket, he or she is actually working for the seller. Certainly this is true on a practical level (in that the agent is being paid a percentage of the the sale price, and therefore has a vested interest in making the sale happen, at the highest possible price), but almost always legally, as well. Some states have dual agency laws that try to change this, but even these (the ones I’m familiar with, anyway) still leave the agent with duties to the seller.)

Any prospective buyer who relies on advice from a broker, or who gives that broker information that the buyer doesn’t want the seller to know, is naive or misled.

Just had another thought. By all means, ask any and all questions that come to mind. Could even submit a list of questions in writing. Might make it easier later on if problems develop and you feel the seller failed to disclose a material defect of which they were/should have been aware.
Speaking very generally here: in my area, it used to be “buyer beware.” Seller had no obligation to disclose anything if the buyer did not ask. Now, sellers are required to disclose certain defects. If you had a dispute with the sellers after the sale, your position would likely be strengthened if you had evidence that they either failed to disclose or misrepresented when asked.
Note, in order to avoid being the PITA buyer from hell, this approach should probably be limited to large items - foundation or roof leaks, etc.

I’m with **A.R. Cane ** and Random. And any agent who recommends an inspector – run away! I’d like to see agents disappear entirely. The two agents involved in my house buying experience did nothing but try to nudge the deal forward so they could get their loot.

As to the OP, ask away, but don’t believe too much of what they say.