Q: What questions should I expect my real estate agent to ask the seller and listing agent?
A: That’s a fantastic question and one all buyers should understand. First, if you’ve done your homework, interviewed and chosen the right realtor, and protected yourself with a Buyer’s Representation Agreement, then you should feel pretty secure in the fact that your realtor is going to ask all the right questions and dig up as much information as possible that will be relevant and helpful in negotiations. Beyond the information presented and accessible by realtors, here are five the questions that I’d be asking of a listing agent before preparing an offer:
1. Is there anything about the home or the seller(s) that needs to be disclosed?
This is one of the most important questions. Often, material facts have not been disclosed by a listing agent until much further in the process. Some I have run into in the past are that the home has previously flooded, there is a fundamental flaw in the home, it’s been used as a grow-up and a murder has occurred in the home in the past. It is their duty to disclose these issues up front, but many don’t in fear of scaring off prospective buyers. There could also be huge stigma issues associated with the home, not to mention the legal ramifications of not disclosing such information to potential buyers.
2. Is the information you’ve presented accurate and can you provide proof if necessary?
Verifying property taxes and measurements is often something listing agents try to pass onto a buyer’s agent, however the information should be accurate and they should be able to provide proof of the information they’re using in their marketing. For example, was the roof really redone in 2010? Is the AC actually 2 years old? What type of countertop was used in the kitchen? The answers to these questions can make a big difference in the offering price if they prove to be inaccurate.
3. Why is your client selling?
This can reveal issues that need to be disclosed but is a common question used to try and determine the urgency the seller has to sell. Clients always want to know if there is a reason why the seller is leaving, but often it is just for the same reason you are buying – life changes and people sometimes have to move.
4. What closing date does your client require?
This is a subtle way of trying to determine if the seller has already bought their next home. If a specific date has been given, they’ve more than likely already purchased a new home. This can be used as leverage if you as the buyer are flexible on when to take possession.
5. How did you arrive at the asking price? What specific comparables did you use?
This is a question generally asked to prepare the buyer’s agent for negotiations. Often times, when negotiating an offer, an agent will be asked to “justify” their offer if it’s come below (often well below for overpriced properties) asking. However, the listing agent should be prepared to discuss the details of all relevant comparables in order to justify their asking price. This can also lead to a follow-up question that determines the flexibility of the seller on the current price. Remember, there are many, many weak agents out there who do not know how to answer questions favourably for their clients.
Mohammed, keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list and will vary greatly for every property. However, this should give you an idea into the mindset of your agent who is attempting to negotiate the most favourable price and terms and conditions for you as the buyer.