By: Wendy Gould
While you certainly don’t need to know all the answers to everything, one aspect of being an excellent real estate agent is being primed for common questions asked by buyers and sellers. Anticipating the question, and having a great answer with solid reasoning behind it, instantly sets you apart from others. We’re highlighting six common questions you’re bound to encounter and how to handle each with professional poise.
Q1: When is the best time to buy/sell a house?
Whether on the buying or selling end, trying to “time the market” to make or save as much money as possible is common. That said, be prepared to hear this question often throughout your career as a real estate agent.
When you inevitably get this question, Matthew Blanchette, a licensed real estate professional with Keller Williams Realty Evolution in Massachusetts, says that the best default answer is, “The best time to buy or sell is always when you are ready.”
As a real estate agent, you can provide expert insights into the ebb and flow of the market, but giving a concrete answer isn’t possible. It’d be equivalent to telling a stock investor that “x” stock will rise and “z” stock will fall at a specific time.
Blanchette adds that you can reassure your client by explaining that, historically and currently, real estate remains a very sound investment. There are also tools they can use to make payments lower and capitalize on future lower interest rates should they come up. He adds, “Clients seldom, if ever, regret buying a house, but they always regret not buying a house when they should have,” he says.
Q2: What is my house worth?
Whether a seller is apt to sell soon or is just gauging the market’s temperature and their potential return on investment, at some point, they’re apt to feel curious about their home value.
“This is a great opportunity to show your prospective client the tools you have at your disposal to calculate a strategic sale price and to demonstrate your thorough understanding of the local market,” notes Steve High, real estate agent and co-founder of Villa Real Estate in Orange County, Calif.
In other words, take your time and use the tools at your disposal to provide the homeowner with a high-quality, researched answer. Get specific, offer insider insights, and explain your process to get to your figure. This ensures your client that you’ve got your finger on the market pulse. Home valuations are also a great way to keep in touch with past clients, so you might think about providing this service to your database when the time is right. You never know when a previous client might be ready to sell.
Q3: Is a 20% down payment necessary?
This is a common question you’ll likely receive from young and first-time buyers who don’t have the equity or substantial cash available to put 20% down on a home. While you’re not their financial advisor, you can provide them with insights, options and real-life context.
“As a real estate agent whose primary demographic is working with millennial and Gen-Z buyers, I want them to know that the majority—about 50% to 75%—of my clients are taking advantage of low down payment programs unless they’re getting financial assistance from a parent or grandparent,” notes Dana Bull, a real estate advisor with Compass in Marblehead, Mass.</p?
She also suggests discussing the pros and cons of utilizing a lower down payment and the overarching picture of their financial standing and goals.
“[It’s important to] advise clients to think about their homeownership goals in alignment with any of the other big initiatives they have going on in their lives, whether that’s planning a big wedding or paying off student loan debt,” she says. This can help them determine how and when to purchase a home.
If you’re working with this demographic, you also want to know what programs offer a lower down payment option, like FHA loans, VA loans, and USA loans. Having a working knowledge of the various down payment assistance programs available is also a valuable tool in your arsenal. Many states, counties and even individual cities offer down payment assistance programs.
Q4: How long will it take to sell my home?
Most sellers want their homes to sell in a timely fashion. The sooner they sell, the quicker they can collect their equity and move on to the next chapter of their life.
Though you don’t have a crystal ball and can’t predict an exact timeframe, you can give your seller an informed estimate. Look at comps in the surrounding area, consider the local market and consider any national factors that might affect a sale timeline. To reassure your client that you’ll make it your priority to position their home in the best light to attract buyers. There are tried and true components to helping a home sell quickly: great online marketing, proper staging, stellar photos and informed showings.
“In a hot real estate market with high demand and low inventory, a well-priced home in good condition can sell within a matter of days,” says John Grauman, a real estate agent with The Agency in Beverly Hills, Calif. “However, this can vary widely based on the market, location and the house itself.”
Prepare your client by giving them a rundown of the current market in your area. Help your client properly price the home based on the information you gather.
Q5: Can I negotiate a better deal on this home?
Naturally, every buyer wants to make a sound purchase. Jon Flagg, co-founder of Villa Real Estate in Newport Beach, Calif., says this question provides you an opportunity to really flex your muscles as a trusted agent acting on behalf of your client.“Remind them that as part of your services, you will do everything in your power to negotiate the best purchase price,” he says. “Also remind your client that you are not just here to help them find the right property, but to help them make it theirs.”
To further drive trust, outline any prior work experience or skills you have that are relevant to negotiation, and ensure that you will be leveraging that experience to help your client meet their goals.
Q6: Do I really need to pay for a home inspection?
Buying a home is a nerve-racking and expensive process that can have buyers wondering where to cut costs. Sometimes, they’ll ask whether a home inspection is really necessary or not, especially if the home looks good and has decent updates.
“First and foremost, as your client’s fiduciary, the first true and essential response—at least for us at Blanchette Homes—is always one of caution,” notes Blanchette. “Yes, home inspections can offer peace of mind, and yes, they are a good idea in theory. We will never ever pressure a buyer to waive a home inspection or otherwise put themselves in jeopardy.”
That said, it’s important to understand your current market’s climate and approach this question with nuance and care versus rigidity. For example, Blanchette notes that it’s currently a seller’s market and that clients eager to create competitive offers may forgo the inspection. Make sure your client has all of the information they need to weigh the risks and benefits. Ultimately, every situation is different, and it depends on your client’s priorities, goals and desired peace of mind.
Wendy Rose Gould is a veteran freelance lifestyle reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona. She covers home, travel, and wellness for outlets such as Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple, Insider, TODAY, and others. Wendy received her journalism degree from Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and has a second bachelor’s degree in philosophy. You can learn more about her at wendygould.com and follow her on Instagram @wendyrgould.