10 Things You Should Know About Working With Your Realtor

A family is shown a house for sale by a realtor.
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Your Realtor is there to help make buying or selling a home a positive experience, whether by providing support in negotiations, crunching numbers on local market trends or helping to stage your home.

But there are a few things most Realtors wish you knew that would make their job significantly easier.

These tips can help your Realtor provide even better service to you and make your buying or selling experience more enjoyable.

1. Your Realtor Is on Your Side

Buyers and sellers may be skeptical of their Realtor’s intentions and interests, but the truth is you can trust your Realtor.

Realtors are licensed professionals who have agreed to abide by a code of ethics as members of the National Association of Realtors. The code provides detailed guidelines regarding a Realtor’s obligation to act professionally and protect the interests of the public. If your Realtor violates the code, they could be fined or have their license suspended or revoked.

What does this mean for you? Your Realtor has committed to the following duties:

  • Promote your best interests and treat all parties honestly.
  • Accurately present facts without exaggeration or misrepresentation.
  • Disclose any personal or family interests in all real estate transactions.
  • Cooperate with other real estate professionals to advance your best interests.

2. Patience Is Key

Buying or selling real estate can be fun, but transactions rarely occur without a few hiccups along the way. Think of a transaction like a domino effect — every step of the process has an effect on later steps.

For example, prospective buyers may make an offer to buy your home that’s contingent upon the sale of their current home. This could lead to a delay, but it doesn’t have to be stressful, especially if you’re mentally prepared to expect surprises.

Trust your Realtor’s judgment when unexpected issues arise, and be patient while they work toward a solution.

3. Don’t Judge a Home by its Cover

A bungalow style home found in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Many buyers are understandably drawn in by decor, paint colors or a shimmering new kitchen. While these things do add value to your potential new home, it is important to look beyond these aesthetics.

What else should you look for? These things won’t jump out at you, but you’ll want to pay close to attention to yard size, room layouts, proximity to neighbors and local school statistics.

If you know your budget won’t allow you to immediately repair big-ticket items, your Realtor can save you hours of wasted time by steering you away from fixer-uppers.

4. Serious Buyers Seek Preapproval

Your Realtor wants to do everything they can to attractively present your offer to buy a home. And unless you are an all-cash buyer, most sellers will request proof of loan preapproval before seriously entertaining your offer.

Unlike prequalification — which means your bank has reviewed your income and other basic financials — loan preapproval means you’ve already applied for a loan and received a commitment from your lender to fund your loan at a specific amount and interest rate.

If you want to gain a competitive advantage over many other buyers, especially in a seller’s market, get preapproval before submitting your first offer to buy a home. As an added bonus, preapproval in hand will give you a clear picture of how homeownership will impact your mortgage payment and your family’s monthly budget.

5. Don’t Borrow Any More Money

A person pulls a credit card out of their wallet.
Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Following preapproval from your lender, do not borrow any more money! That means no new car purchases, new lines of credit or even using your credit cards. From the moment you receive preapproval until the day you close on your new home, even slight changes to your debt-to-income ratio could delay closing or cause your loan to fall through.

Even if you have to miss a great deal on that new washer and dryer, don’t borrow money until after you’ve closed on your home.

6. Check With Your Lender Before Big Cash Purchases

Similarly, it is very important to consult your lender before making any significant cash purchases prior to closing on your home. Your lender may require you to maintain a certain level of cash reserves as proof that your loan will not present financial hardship.

7. Protect Your Job Stability

People work together at a table.
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Any changes in employment (unless you’re receiving a raise) can have a potentially disastrous impact on your loan funding. Even if you are preapproved, your lender will confirm your employment status and income prior to funding your loan by contacting your employer.

If you suddenly lose your job or transfer to a lower-paying position, this could reduce the amount you are approved to borrow.

8. Take Advantage of First-Time Buyer Programs

Depending upon your state of residence and eligibility requirements, you may qualify for free down payment assistance or other state-sponsored first-time buyer loans. Not all lenders will be willing to work with you to explore your options with these programs, but your Realtor can help you get connected with lenders that can help.

Determining your eligibility for these programs in advance can have a big impact on your budget, so you should look into your options as soon as you begin seeking preapproval.

9. Get a Professional Home Inspection

A home inspector records his findings while looking over a house for sale.
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While there is no such thing as a perfect home, a professional home inspection by a qualified home inspector can help you find major and minor problems prior to closing on your new home.

It is important to choose a detail-oriented inspector who will provide a comprehensive report on the condition, function and estimated remaining life of all major components of the home, such as the roof and siding, furnace, central air conditioning and appliances like the washer and dryer.

Yes, a professional inspection can be expensive, but it can also save you thousands of dollars. Your Realtor will use the final inspection report to negotiate needed repairs or updates on your behalf. Without an inspection, necessary repairs may go unnoticed, leaving you to pay for them down the road.

10. Be Decisive

Again, the perfect home doesn’t exist. But when you find a home that meets your needs and wants, be prepared to pull the trigger and make a competitive offer.

The truth is that it also saddens your Realtor to see you miss out on a home you loved because you were too slow to make an offer. In a competitive market, a quick and decisive offer can grab a seller’s attention and help you avoid heartbreak.

11. When in Doubt, Ask!

A couple asks a realtor a question while looking for potential homes to buy.
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Your Realtor wants to make buying or selling a great experience for you, but she isn’t a mind-reader. If you have questions big or small, be honest and ask them.

However, keep in mind that your Realtor may not have all of the answers and cannot legally answer certain questions. For example, they cannot violate the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sex or family and economic status. Don’t be surprised if she steers you in another direction when you ask about neighborhood safety and demographics of local schools.

Overall, your Realtor has the answers to most questions you want to ask and has heard them dozens of times. And if they don’t have the answers, they know where to find them.

Buying or selling a home is one of the most significant financial decisions you’ll ever make. It can be stressful for both you and your Realtor. The right mindset and strategies will make you every Realtor’s dream client and make your next real estate transaction an enjoyable one.

David Cahill is a Chicago-area Realtor. He is the founder of FinanceSuperhero.com, a personal finance blog dedicated to helping readers take back control of life and money.