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Top 10 questions to ask your real estate agent

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Essential questions to ask a realtor when buying a house

Even after using mortgage calculators and other tools to help you secure the best home loan rate, chances are that buying a house is going to be the largest investments you'll ever make.

With so much at stake, you'll naturally want to acquire as much information about a prospective property before signing on the dotted line. In addition to the house or apartment itself, you’ll want to research the neighbourhood, other recent sales in the area and why it’s being sold.

Here is a helpful list to put to the real estate agent when you are looking to buy.

1. How long has the property been on the market?

This is a great question to kick things off with, as it's an effective barometer for identifying whether there's any underlying issues with the house.

The property market has gotten hot in recent years, so if a property hasn’t sold for months, you need to ask why.

2. Why do the owners want to sell?

When it comes to negotiating a property's price, information really is power, and understanding the reason behind the homeowner's decision to sell may help you score a better deal on your dream home.

If the homeowner has already purchased a new property, they'll probably be looking to quickly free up some cash and may be more flexible with their price.

3. Are there any developments in the area planned for the near future?

A property's attractiveness (and its value) is intrinsically linked to the infrastructure that surrounds it. In Brisbane, the Cross River Rail plans mean more suburbs will have public transport options to the CBD.

Infrastructure like this, quick access to motorways, or proximity to shopping and entertainment centres are likely to heavily factor into any home buyer's decision. Investigating future developments can help you forecast the house's growth rate, unlock greater return on your investment and minimise the risks involved with taking out a home loan.

4. What's the expected growth rate of the area?

Buyers with one eye on the future will want to have a good idea of the projected growth rate of their prospective home's location, as this is a key indicator of how the property's value will fluctuate in the years to come.

You can get important information like population growth of an area through a free property report online. This data is useful on a national level, but do your homework and ask your estate agent about growth on a local scale, too.

Get free property report

5. What's the potential rental yield?

While this is a particularly important question for investors, savvy owner occupiers will also want to know how the market perceives their property before applying for a home loan.

A good real estate agent will usually provide you with an expected yield, but it may not necessarily be a realistic figure. Corroborate their answer with your own research and look online to find out how much people are paying to rent a similar home in the area.

For a more definitive estimate, you may want to consider getting an independent rental appraisal.

6. How much are the rates?

Depending on the region and value of the property, rates can vary quite substantially. The applicable laws, thresholds and exceptions deviate state to state, so make sure you ask your estate agent how much you can expect to pay and factor this into your budget accordingly.

7. How much have other houses in the area sold for recently?

Another great way of establishing the true value of a property is to determine how much similar houses in the area are selling for. Your real estate agent should be able to provide you with these figures and help you identify any trends - both positive and negative - to be aware of and how they may influence your decision.

8. Are there any external factors that may impact the property?

External factors that may influence your decision to purchase a home can change depending on the time of day you visit the property. For example, polite neighbours by day may turn into rowdy party animals by night, while loud traffic and noisy construction works might only be prominent on certain days of the week.

Ask your real estate agent about noise levels, crime rates, employment statistics and other elements that may impact your property.

9. What fittings are sold with the home?

As any good interior decorator will tell you, quality fittings can often make or break a home. With this in mind, ensure that you, the seller and the estate agent have a very clear understanding of what is and isn't included in the purchase.

Anything that's physically attached to the property will typically come with the house. That means, for example, that most fixtures and integrated lighting will be yours, but the new widescreen TV in the living room probably won't.

There are no hard and fast rules here, however, so make sure you double check with your real estate agent.

10. Are there any easements on the title?

Essentially, an easement restricts how you can use your property.

Different states and territories will also have different rules for easements and boundary lines around properties. For example planting trees in front of the property or adding extensions to the dwelling itself, can be restricted based on government regulations.

This not only impacts you as the owner, but also one day in the future should you wish to sell.

Essential questions to ask a realtor when selling a house

When choosing a real estate agent or agency to assist with selling your home, you are entrusting they have your best interests in mind.

Here are some important questions to ask your agent.

1. How long have you been in real estate?

Experience is important in the housing market, however it’s ultimately up to you how much experience you think is important.
Not only should you ask about how long they have worked in real estate, but also how long they might have worked selling your property type, and in your suburb.

Don’t be fooled by years of experience, an agent with 20 years experience in commercial real estate selling office spaces, isn’t going to be a great match for someone selling their family home.

Likewise, an agent who has just moved to your suburb may not know the area as well as you would like. Make sure they know what buyers are looking for in your area, and what they predict for the market in your suburb.

2. Do you have previous customers I can contact for reference?

This is almost the most important question. An agent who is concerned about sharing their previous customers is a sign they may not have a proven track record.

When you do contact previous customers, ensure you find out how they honestly found the process, how long it took to sell their house and if they would recommend the services of the agent.

Furthermore, if you are looking at a real estate agent in particular, they may have worked with customers in your suburb before, meaning an even closer comparison to what you can expect from the agent.

3. What properties have you sold recently?

This goes hand in hand with questions one and two. You want to know what they have sold recently.

If you are selling an apartment or townhouse, you would want to see a proven track record of an agent who can sell those property types. Likewise for house and land. On top of that, you want to see comparable properties in comparable markets, in suburbs like yours.

4. What price do you think I can sell my property for?

Getting a property value estimate will give you evidence to trust your agent and compare with other agents. More important than the estimate, is evidence why. Ask them how they reached that figure and why they believe they can reach that price in the current market.

Agents trying to tell you what you want to hear may overvalue your property so be careful.

5. What could I do to my house to improve the chances of selling it?

Once the agent has given you an estimate, with good evidence as to why, you can then ask how you could improve the value of your property.

You might have the budget and the time to replace old carpet, renovate the kitchen or add a deck.

But for most sellers, small changes like a fresh coat of paint on the cabinets, adding a garden can be a small cost for extra value.

6. What do your real estate agent fees include?

Different agents may include different services for their fees.

Always ask about the advertising expenses, photography and floor plans, inspections, property reports, to name a few.

These costs can add up quickly so make sure you understand what you are paying for and what is going to cost extra.

7. What time of year should I sell my property?

A good agent will know the ideal time to sell. The time of year you should sell might be influenced by the weather, the position of the sun to maximise natural light, or when people are more likely to move. These are the insights you pay your agent for.

8. How should I sell my property?

There are different ways to sell. Your agent may encourage you to auction your home, or wait for expressions of interest through a strong advertising presence.

This will be influenced by the market and the property type.

They should know the best strategy to maximise your profit and get a deal done quickly.

9. How long will it take to sell my property?

A good agent will be realistic with you on how long the process may take. Don’t be disheartened if they warn it may not sell instantly. This may be a sign of an honest agent. On the flip side, you may not be in a position to wait months and months. This is what your agent should be discussing with you, so they understand your priorities.

This will be influenced by the market, the property type and the area of the property. A house and land in a safe suburb with close access to schools and shops shouldn’t be hard to sell. However a unit or townhouse in a small regional town might not be in high demand. A good agent will level your expectations whilst keeping you in the loop.

10. Are there other costs or hidden fees I should know about?

You need to ask your agent exactly how much you will have to invest to sell your property. This question will help you avoid any surprises. Always read the fine print of the contract and make sure you understand what you are paying for. Ultimately it’s up to you how you want to market your property, and how much you are willing to invest.

About the article

As Australia's leading online lender, loans.com.au has been helping people into their dream homes and cars for more than 10 years. Our content is written and reviewed by experienced financial experts. The information we provide is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives or needs. If you'd like to chat to one of our lending specialists about a home or car loan, contact us on Live Chat or by calling 13 10 90.

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