Interview Questions for Buyers Agents (& My Answers) Santa Cruz, CA

Dated: January 20 2023

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Experience Questions

How many people are you currently assisting in finding a house?

On average, I usually have at least 3 or 4 buyers that I actively work with at a time. I have a team with a full-time admin and transaction coordinator as well as a showing assistant. We are a group of women that take care of business, our clients and each other to provide the highest level of service. We love our jobs!

How many buyers will you work with at one time? How many sellers?

The maximum number of buyers that I will work with at one time is 8 (keep in mind that I have an awesome license showing partner that helps me get you into the home in case I am not available. Speed counts in this market and has for the last 10+ years. This is why we use this strategy. I've had 10 listings at one time during the summer. Typically, agents can handle more listings than buyers. Buyers require 5-10 more hours of work on average.

Will you be representing other buyers who are looking for homes in the same area and price range as we are?

Possibly. This situation happens, yet it happens rarely. I will talk with both clients about the situation and do what the client desires. If one of the buyers is uncomfortable with the situation, then I can have another agent on my team step in to help them. This has worked smoothly in the past and we are happy to provide you with a past clients that experienced this scenario to help you get more comfortable with your decisions.

How many homes, on average, do you show your buyers?

This depends on the market. In a buyers’ market, there are more homes to see and buyers on average will see 5 to 15 homes. In a sellers’ market, it's usually closer to 5 homes. Our goal is always to find the home within 5 homes in either market.

What is your experience in the locations we are looking at?

We have sold homes in every neighborhood in Santa Cruz County and in many cities in Santa Clara County and Silicon Valley. I've been a Realtor since 2015 and have lived in and own homes in Soquel, Santa Cruz, Boulder Creek and went to college in San Jose!

What percentage of the homes you've sold or located are in our search area?

This will be specific to the buyer that is interviewing us. Happy to provide this information.

Do you specialize in a certain area of town?

No, we work all of Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and the surrounding areas. We can advise you to make a good investment and smart real estate decision in any area of town (that is if you have already picked the area of town you want to live, many times we are advising on this question first).

Do you have a price-range you specialize in?

No, we have experience in the $300K price range and the $10,000,000+ price range (and everything in between). I am in this business to help people, no matter the price range.

How many homes did you sell in the past year as an agent?

I was fortunate enough to help 27 people get into homes in the last year.  

How do you stay up on current trends? Do you take classes or frequently attend training?

We attend classes monthly. And we are in an office with 100+ agents and leaders in our market. If something is happening or about to happen in the market, we most likely know about it (thanks to my office and the amount of business that we do). Be weary of the lone agent that doesn't have a big office. Unless he is constantly researching and reading the news (which who has time for that when you are out showing homes and doing business?), I doubt he has the current trends knowledge base that I do being with the top producing broker in town that is eXp Realty of CA Inc.

Price/Financing Questions

How do we know if this is the right time to buy?

This is a question that we will help each individual buyer analyze. Considerations will include whether you have been renting or own a home (if renting, I've helped too many buyers choose the right area to make money on homes in a 3-5 year period, just on appreciation alone. Many times it's more money than clients have in their IRAs or 401Ks. Real estate can be such a great investment, especially in this market!).

Will you help us decide if our desired price range is appropriate? Can you help us choose a good price range?

This part of the process is where we lean on my favorite loan officer to help guide you. And we will help guide you on what areas are best for the price range in which you are pre-approved. We also advise to choose a price range with a monthly payment in which you are very comfortable paying and be as conservative as possible. We want homeownership to empower you, not stress you out when you make your monthly payment.

How will you help us determine if our down-payment is appropriate?

This will depend on the financial and real estate market. At the moment, it’s a strong sellers’ market that showing at least 20%

down on your offer will communicate to the seller that you are a strong buyer and will help us when we are competing against other offers.

How can you help us determine if an offer we make is good one?

When you want to make an offer on a home, we will discuss the sold prices of comparable properties and current market conditions. I also have the advantage that I'm with an office with more than 100 agents and involved in many transactions throughout the year, so we can help you write an offer according to the negotiation style you want and rate of success you desire.

How will you leverage the best deal for us?

We will discuss reasonable expectations for the definition what getting a "deal" in our current market means.

How will you handle multiple offers?

Thankfully, we are very successful at winning in multiple-offer situations for our clients. We have some strategies that we can discuss and implement if you like. Remember, you are the boss. We are going to present to you all of the options and tell you which one we think is best and then you are in charge of deciding how we handle the multiple offer based on our consultation.

Tell us about the inspection process. How do we renegotiate the offer if the inspection reveals a problem? Will you attend our inspection?

We have a list of inspectors that we work with regularly. We will get bids and availability from them and then let you choose whom you want to move forward with (unless you have an inspector you would like to use already). We may or may not attend the inspection. We do recommend buyers attend the inspection to learn more about the home. We will come by and review with the inspector at the end of the inspection if this is recommended by the inspector. If repairs are necessary, this is how I suggest we negotiate:

1. Our client’s safety is of the utmost importance to us. If anything on the report needs to be repaired that may affect your safety when you move in the home. Then these are items that must get fixed.

2. Any repairs that are lender required.

3. We will get you estimates on the repairs, so we can either ask the seller to make the repairs or discount the sales price or give you money towards closings costs so that you may monitor the repairs when you own the home. However, In a strong sellers market sometimes we have to understand that you are buying the property as-is.

What are the average closing costs your buyers have had recently? Are there possible hidden/ costs we might encounter?

Average costs to buy a home to expect will be 2-3% of the home value that you will need to bring to closing on top of your down payment. The lender will give you an estimate showing you all of the fees involved. Some of those costs may involve setting up the escrow account so that the mortgage  bank can pay your tax bill at the end of the year. Other costs to expect, depending on the size and age of the home $400-$700 for home inspection, $500 if home is on septic (pumping and inspection),$500-$600 for appraisal once under contract (possibly more if a rush fee is needed or it is a luxury property of $1 Million plus). 3% of sales price will be needed for an earnest money check (this will be credited back to you at closing and more may be needed if competing in multiple offers)

 Miscelleneous Questions

How are you compensated?

The Sellers Agent/Broker pays me a commission when the home closes.

Will you always be the one showing us houses and contacting the seller's agent?

Correct. My licensed showing partner may show you some homes if I am not available.

How accessible are you since we may have to act within hours on a property? How often will we talk to you?

You can text/email/call us anytime. 

How much notice do you need if we want to look at a home?

Most homes require a few hours. Some require up to 24 hours. As much notice as we can give, the better.

What are your negotiation techniques?

Our first priority is to present you with the different options and strategies I can use to negotiate on your behalf and then you will choose which strategy you want to implement (we will tell you which one I think is best, of course). Point is that we will not negotiate a certain way without your permission. We hold your interest above our own and we have a fiduciary duty to you.

How will you search for properties that may not be listed in MLS (those sold by the owner)?

We are always on the hunt for "coming soon" properties. We will also call other dominant and active agents in the area to find these properties. It also helps we are with a big office and company that does more business than any company in town. We have a few other “tricks” up our sleeves.

How do you represent us in a for sale by owner situation?

Many FSBO sellers are still offering to pay a commission to buyer's agents in our market. Let us call on your behalf to get more information and set up a showing. If the FSBO seller does not want to work with agents, we can step back and still help keep you protected through the process. We’ve been very successful working with FSBO sellers and our clients to make a deal work.

What about foreclosure situations? How do those work?

In my opinion, the least risky foreclosures to buy are the ones listed in the MLS by an REO specialist. We will set up a private website for you to view homes and this will also include foreclosure homes on the market and we will email you as new properties are listed or prices are adjusted.  If you want to pursue bidding on foreclosures posted on the county courthouse steps, we suggest buyers have a lot of cash on hand for this type of purchase and are comfortable purchasing a home without viewing it first and without title insurance. And another thought to add to this question, many of the foreclosures in our market are homes that were rejected by the market when the owners tried to sell before foreclosure. We often see history repeat itself in this business and this should be seen as a warning that if you bought that foreclosure property, you may face the same fate you if you needed to sell (depending on the market, of course).

Do I need a Realtor when I buy a new home?

Anytime you a buy a home, new or resale, hiring a Realtor with experience to look after your best interests through the process is a must! New homes especially come with unique challenges throughout the process. You can make so many mistakes while building a home or buying a spec home (from picking the wrong lot, over-improving the home, risking earnest money before you know the final cost of your home...that one is my favorite that many builders like to do to buyers in our market.)

Final Questions

What expectations do you have of us as the buyer?

We always turn this around and ask what expectations you have of me as your agent. Most people say honesty and we are always above and beyond in that department. And we expect the same thing from our clients. We are not the type of agent that will pressure you into buying a home. We want to give you all of the information you need to make the best decision for yourself and your family. Buying a home is a journey and we want to make it as pleasant and smooth as we can for you.

What questions did we not ask?

A smart question to ask is whether it is a buyer's or seller's market. And if you are interviewing more than one agent for the job, this is a great question to ask every agent. I'm surprised how many agents listen to the national news to answer this question. During the Great Recession, many agents in Santa Cruz would tell you it was a buyer's market. Yet, my answer would be it would depend on the neighborhood or part of the city and then explain how to calculate absorption rate and determine whether it is a buyers/sellers market. I won't go into it with this answer, yet I've seen even certain streets within neighborhood be a buyer's market and the rest of the neighborhood be a seller's market. This is knowledge you need whether you are buying or selling that will help you during negotiations and with your expectations for the sale. So important and not many agents know how to calculate this correctly.

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Aurora Lowe

Born and raised in Santa Cruz, Aurora Lowe wouldn’t dream of living or working anywhere else. In all her travels, she considers Santa Cruz a one-of-a-kind jewel.Even more valuable to her are the....

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