Buying a home can be stressful — the experience involves many steps and a lot of money. It’s complex, but a real estate agent or Realtor who specializes in helping buyers is a licensed professional whose job is to help people just like you through the process. That makes your agent a great resource for information.

At every step along the way, having an agent on your side can make your home purchase easier. One thing to know in advance, though: Agents work on commission, which is typically a percentage of the home’s purchase price. Depending on the specifics of your transaction, that fee may be paid either by you or by the seller. Here are 12 essential questions to ask a Realtor when buying a house, from hiring them all the way through closing on your new home.

What to ask when you’re hiring a Realtor

Finding the right agent is essential to ensure a smooth homebuying process. Before you settle on one, interview several candidates to see who fits your needs best. Ask each one these three key questions:

1. Do you specialize in a specific type of home?

Some agents have lots of experience with transactions involving expensive luxury homes, while others might focus on more affordable starter homes. You don’t want to waste time with someone who doesn’t have a good grasp of the local market at your price point, or who will try to show you properties that don’t meet your needs. “Ask the Realtor if they specialize in [your] area and price point,” says Julie Upton, a Realtor with Compass in the San Francisco Bay Area.

2. Can you provide client references?

As with any professional you’re considering hiring, it’s always smart to ask an agent for a few recent references. The information that references provide will “show a Realtor’s working relationship with previous clients,” says Warner Quiroga, an agent with Keller Williams Realty Elite in Massapequa, New York. This can help you determine whether they’re a good fit for you. During these conversations, make sure to ask the references how they felt about the Realtor’s communication style, how long it took them to find a home, how helpful he or she was throughout the process and whether they’d hire him or her again.

3. Are you a full-time or part-time agent?

Many part-time agents do a great job, of course. But full-time agents tend to have more experience and more transactions under their belt. In addition, clients like you are a full-time agent’s sole focus: They have more time to dedicate to you and your needs. You don’t want to have to fight for a limited amount of attention.

What to ask once you’ve found a house

Found a home you like and are thinking about making an offer? Great! Your agent is there to serve as an advisor as you consider all the pros and cons. Let their experience guide you through the decision — start with these questions:

4. Is this home well-priced?

Not all homes on the market ask their exact fair market value. Some sellers will overprice or even underprice their homes. Your Realtor will have a good sense of your local market and be able to pull comps of similar homes to determine whether the one you like is properly priced. That can inform your decision of whether to make an offer — and if so, how much.

5. Do you see any potential issues?

It’s easy to miss red flags when you’re touring a home, especially if you get wowed by details like a beautiful view or a state-of-the-art kitchen. Your agent, however, looks at things through a more professional lens. It’s their job to notice things that you might not and make sure you understand what you might be getting into. No one wants to go into contract on a property only to discover major problems — like a damaged roof or broken furnace — in the home inspection.

6. How much are the monthly costs?

Utilities and property taxes can make up a significant portion of a home’s monthly costs. These costs vary quite a bit depending on the specific property and its location, so make sure to ask your Realtor about the estimated costs for things like water, electricity and local taxes. An agent can also help you untangle complicated HOA fees, if applicable.

There’s also homeowners insurance to consider, which can be especially tricky if you’re in an area that’s vulnerable to floods or severe weather. A Realtor will be able to help you determine these costs and how much they might impact the home’s affordability.

What to ask when you’re ready to make an offer

Once you’ve decided a home is the right fit, it’s time to make an offer. Asking your agent the right questions first can help make sure your offer is as strong as possible — especially if you’re in a competitive market.

7. How long has this home been for sale?

If a home has languished on the market for a relatively long time, based on the typical days on market for your area, the sellers could be more willing to negotiate on price. That means you might be able to get a good deal — but it could also potentially be an indicator that something’s wrong with the house. Consult your agent to weigh your options.

8. What is the seller’s timeline?

Your agent will be able to talk with the listing agent to get more information about the anticipated timeline for selling the home. For example, some sellers might be looking to buy another home while selling their current one, meaning they won’t want to move out until they have somewhere new to live. If you need to move urgently, that might be an issue.

9. What offering strategy do you recommend?

Realtors know their local markets and can provide specific advice based on market conditions. For example, they’ll know if buyers in your area are choosing to waive contingencies or add escalation clauses to make their offers more competitive. Expert advice from a seasoned pro can help your offer rise to the top of the list.

What to ask after your offer is accepted

If you’ve made an offer and the seller has accepted, you’re in the home stretch. Still, there are a few last things you’ll need answers about before you can close.

10. What should the purchase and sale agreement contain?

A buyer’s agent can advise on what types of contingencies your contract with the seller should (or should not) include. For example, you might want to reserve the right to back out of the deal if you are not able to secure financing or sell your current home. And now is the time to make sure the deal’s commission fee and payment structure is spelled out in writing as well.

11. What happens during the final walk-through?

Shortly before closing, your agent will accompany you on a final walk-through of the property you’re purchasing. This is your last chance to make sure all is as it should be, and that all the agreed-upon conditions of the sale are in place. However, buyers can sometimes encounter a bump in the road at the last minute. Your agent will know what to expect, and what to do if you do run into problems.

12. What should I expect at the closing?

The closing is the big event: It’s where you’ll sign all the legal paperwork, funds will be distributed, and when it’s over, you walk away with the keys to your new home. Your agent will help get it scheduled and can brief you in advance on who will be there, what will happen and what you need to bring.

Questions to ask a Realtor when buying: Bottom line

Your Realtor’s job is to be your guide through the homebuying process. They will help you navigate the various steps involved. A good Realtor will also have a deep understanding of the market, as well as your goals and expectations for the homebuying process. Asking the right questions along the way will help make your purchase as smooth as possible.


  • Before interviewing any real estate agents, it’s smart to get preapproved for a mortgage and understand how much house you can afford. That way, when you find someone you like, you can start looking at homes within your budget right away. Preapproval can also help your offer stand out in a competitive market.
  • When interviewing a Realtor, your goal is to learn about the agent’s experience, working style and industry knowledge. At a minimum, ask about their commission fee, how long they’ve been in business, how often they communicate with clients and how they negotiate with sellers. You might also ask about their availability for showings and how they would approach a bidding war.
  • Technically, no. There’s no law that requires homebuyers to be represented by a real estate agent. However, agents are housing-market experts and licensed professionals — they are highly trained to help you navigate the market and close a deal successfully. They also have access to listings and information that you might not have without one.

Additional reporting by Taylor Freitas