Whether you are a brand new agent or you’ve been in the business for years, this comprehensive list of questions to ask new buyer clients is for you to pull up the next time you get a call from a new buyer client or you get a hot lead on the phone that is wanting to start looking at homes. Get out your pen and notepad to write down their answers to all of these questions as you work your way through the list.
They will come in handy and make not only your life and job easier but also make you stand out as a rock star agent to your clients for how thorough you are and how stress-free you make the process for them.
Now, buckle up, knock out these questions with your clients, and find them a home!
1. What are the full legal names of all buyers?
This is one of the most important questions to ask new buyer clients out of the gate.
All contracts and legal documents require the full legal names of each buyer. Knowing full legal names can also make communicating with them much easier. No nicknames or common law marriage last names. Get the full legal name that shows up on their driver’s license, passport, or government-issued ID.
2. Are you already working with a real estate agent?
Under no circumstances should you try to hijack another agent’s client from them. It is unethical and not allowed. Your broker, local Realtor association, and the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) will punish you for attempting to steal represented clients.
A Word of Warning
Before pulling out your list of questions to ask new buyer clients, make sure that they are not already represented by another real estate agent.
Do not have real estate conversations with anyone without confirming that they are not represented by another agent. Until you know without a doubt that they do not have a representation agreement signed with another real estate agent, do not provide them with anything that could be construed as professional consultation or opinion and get you in trouble.
Whenever I have questions about this subject, I refer to the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) for guidance. Article 16 of the Realtor Code of Ethics is a great place to start with questions on representation and agency.
3. Are you working with a lender? If so, who?
If they are comfortable sharing, be sure to find out who they are working with as their lender. Especially if it is a lender local to your area, be sure to ask for the contact at the bank that they are in communication with so that the process moving forward will be as smooth as possible.
Being able to deliver documents directly to lenders will expedite the process and prevent any unnecessary miscommunication that inevitably occurs when there are multiple middlemen in communications.
If the buyer does not have a lender that they’re working with, be sure to get a good idea of their situation and when they are likely to need to move so that you can provide them with a list of lenders, both local and national that can help them with their needs. For example, some local banks will have special programs that may be perfect for them. There are even lenders that specialize in VA loans for your Veteran and Active Duty military clients.
Ask questions and learn about them so that you can serve them better.
4. Have you been pre-approved by your lender?
If your clients are pre-qualified or pre-approved with a lender, this will make the home-buying process much easier. This gives you, as their agent, a very clear picture of what their budget is so that you aren’t showing them something they can’t afford and so they aren’t trying to schedule showings on properties that they cannot afford.
If they have a pre-qualification letter from their lender, they know how much home they can comfortably afford. I always like to have this letter in hand before touring any properties to make sure that nobody is wasting time or getting their hopes up unnecessarily.
Why pre-approval/pre-qualification matters
In hot markets, Sellers usually will not consider offers that are not submitted with pre-qualification or pre-approval letters. These confirm the buyer’s ability to afford the property. This plays a huge role in getting your client’s offer accepted or rejected.
In slower markets, this may not be as important. It is not uncommon to see homes going under contract with buyers who have not yet spoken to banks and using the option period to secure pre-qualification letters and rate estimates from different lenders that they can then provide if asked.
As a new agent in a hot real estate market, it is your responsibility to represent your client’s best interest to the best of your ability, and that includes advising them to secure a pre-qualification letter to strengthen their offer.
5. Will you be purchasing with cash or a loan?
Why does it matter whether they will be purchasing with cash or with a bank loan?
A cash offer brings a level of strength and confidence that sellers get excited about. Occasionally you can secure a property for below asking price with a cash offer. Although you can get lower than ask, it typically will not beat strong financed offers that are above the asking price. It also does not mean you can submit lowball offers and still win.
What Makes a Cash Offer Stronger?
Why is a cash offer stronger? The closing period is typically shorter (sometimes as little as 8-10 days as opposed to 30-45 days) and there are fewer “outs” for cash buyers. In Texas, buyers who are using bank funding have a plethora of means to back out of contracts with very few repercussions.
An offer financed by a bank is not weak by any means, and you should encourage your buyers to do what they are able to. If they are able to afford a home by using a lender, then that is what they should do. In other guides, we will discuss ways that you can help strengthen your buyers’ offers if they can’t do cash but still want to beat out other offers in a multiple-offer situation.
6. If buying with a loan: will it be cash, conventional, FHA, or another type of loan?
Remember what we discussed about the strengths of cash offers versus financing? Similarly, conventional, Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and Veterans Affairs (VA) loans bring different pros and cons to the table that you, as the real estate agent, need to be cognizant of on your clients’ behalf.
For example, FHA loans and VA loans have much stricter inspection requirements than conventional loans. Painted window frames can prevent an FHA loan from passing inspection and funding. In contrast, a conventional loan would not necessarily require those items to be fixed prior to closing in order for the loan to be funded.
Other things to consider
Other things to consider: some loan types can take longer to close, such as VA loans. The VA can get incredibly busy, so it is important to be aware of this and make sure that you are making your clients aware of it as well.
Scheduling closings further out than a conventional or FHA closing will provide adequate time for underwriting, appraisals, and necessary repairs to be completed in time for closing.
7. Is this going to be your primary residence, or are you looking for an investment property?
This is a fantastic way to find out if they will be living there, their relatives (it is not uncommon for parents to purchase homes for their kids to live in during college), or if it will solely be an investment property to be rented out either long term or short term.
If it is going to be theirs or a family member’s primary residence, proceed with business as usual. If it is going to be an investment property, refer to the questions below that are specific to working with new investor clients.
8. Where are you moving from?
In the age of the internet, you don’t know if your client is in Washington, Arizona, New York, or Bangladesh. Don’t assume anything — don’t be afraid to ask! It can be hard for clients across the country to meet you at a showing across town with only a few hours notice, so don’t wait until it’s awkward to ask where they’re moving from.
When a client is moving from out of town or out of state, be sure to inquire as to whether they will be driving/flying into town for touring properties? This is an opportunity for you to go above and beyond the call of duty and shine.
Video Tours are a great way to provide value
Offer to provide your clients with live and/or recorded video walkthroughs of properties that they’re interested in before they buy plane tickets to see it in person. This saves them time and money traveling to and from your city every time they want to see a property.
Learning where your client is moving from is also another great way to learn about them, and start thinking about ways that you can better relate to them and find them the perfect, thoughtful gifts for closing in the future.
9. Why are you moving?
Again, it is important to get to know as much as you can about your client and why they are moving. Finding their motivation and pain points that are causing them to move will help you better serve them and connect with them as you help them find the perfect home.
Are they starting a new job in your city and moving across the country? Are they moving across the country to start over after a failed engagement? Did they grow up in your town and decide to move their family back here once they had kids so they could raise them closer to grandparents and family?
Everybody is going to have different reasons for needing to move, and it is part of your job to find out what those are so you can serve them as best as possible.
10. When do you need to be moved into your new home?
Do they need to be moved in by a certain date to start a new job, start classes at a new school, or to move in since their house they are moving from will be sold by then?
Take the time to ask this quick question, as it will become more important the longer it takes to find a property for them. If they are not urgently looking for a home, send them homes once or twice each week and ask for feedback.
If they are in need of a house within the next 45 days, that could mean you need to tour homes, submit an offer, and go under contract on their next home in the next week or two to make it happen. This means it is time to put on your game face and put on another pot of coffee, because things are about to get real.
11. How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need?
Figure out how many bedrooms they need. Whether or not they need a master bedroom on the first or second floor. This is often a question that prompts buyers to begin elaborating on their situation.
You might not have asked them directly, but this is when they usually tell you about how they have 6 wonderful children and need a house with ALL the bathrooms to keep their sanity.
12. Describe your ideal house. The house that you would write an offer on without hesitation if we walked through the door tomorrow.
Rather than wasting everyone’s time looking for houses and sending them emails to sift through only to think that you don’t know what they want, ask this question right out of the gate.
Let them take the time to explain to you exactly what they want so that there is no confusion. If the buyers are a couple, make sure that they agree on what they want.
If they cannot or don’t agree, this is when your job description also includes the title ‘marriage counselor’ because you will have to help walk them through the process and find where everyone can compromise on “wants” and “needs” in their next home.
This makes you stand out among agents when you send them so many great properties that they are asking to write offers on every one you send them.
13. What do you need to be close to? Work, school, family?
You need to be careful not to ask steering questions, but if your buyer needs to be close to work or school for their kids, that is important for you to know.
Do they live far away and hate their commute? Help them find their dream home near their workplace. Do they love the schools that their children are in, or want to keep their kids in school with their friends they’ve grown up with?
Ask questions so you know — they may need to be in the same school district, or they may want to be in a different one!
14. Any areas in particular that you have in mind?
This is a great leading question. Many buyers that are familiar with the city already or have visited frequently will often already have an idea of areas and neighborhoods that they envision themselves living in.
Maybe they have friends in a particular neighborhood or they have coworkers that live in a neighborhood that they love. Either way, this is a great opportunity for you to listen closely and get an idea of what they are looking for in terms of neighborhood amenities, community, and the like. Listen carefully.
15. What is your budget that you would like to stay within?
Knowing your buyers’ budget is crucial before sending them anything to look at. Staying within their range of acceptable prices will keep them happy.
By sending them houses that are far over their budget they tell you, that is rude and comes off as pushy — avoid doing this and if there is one that you think they’d like that happens to be above their budget, send a message along with it outlining why you think think property could be a good fit even though it is over budget.
Otherwise, use the budget they send as a ceiling and not a starting point for discussing homes. The same goes for the other direction. If someone’s budget is $1,000,000 it does not make sense to send them properties you find on the market that are listed for $150,000. The properties will not be comparable to what they need or are wanting, and will be a waste of their time.
16. Are you familiar with all of the other costs of purchasing a home other than the down payment?
This is one of the more important, but less fun questions that you should ask your buyers. It can be overwhelming for new buyers or first time buyers, so make sure they know all of the costs associated with purchasing a home.
I can’t tell you how many first time buyers I have met that thought the only expense for buyers was the down payment, and that is only the beginning. Although there are programs and negotiation techniques that you can implement to help soften the blow or eliminate the down payment and closing costs, it is difficult to completely reduce their costs of purchasing to zero.
Costs that your buyers need to be aware of:
I. Earnest Money:
negotiable, but usually ranges anywhere from 1% – 5% of the purchase price of the property. Earnest money is due within 3 days of execution of the contract. A contract is executed when signed by both buyers and sellers.
The earnest money is refundable if your buyer backs out during the option period or another “out” that they have. The earnest money goes towards the purchase price of the home at closing. However, if the buyer breaches the contract then this money is retained by the sellers as damages for the time and troubles of taking the property off market only for the deal to fall through.
II. Option Fee:
As of April 2021 in Texas, earnest money and option fee are both to be delivered directly to the escrow officer at the title company. Previously, option money was delivered directly to the seller or their agent.
The option fee amount for every property can be different, but in most markets it stays within a relatively similar range for the market. For example, the norm in one market may be a $100 non-refundable option fee for 10 days of option, whereas another market across the state may expect a $500 option fee for the same length option period.
III. Inspection Fees:
The inspection of a property is not included in the down payment, and is sometimes required to be paid upfront to the property inspector at the time of inspection.
The price of property inspections can vary widely by market, scope of inspection, and size of property. Things like large homes on land with a pool, sprinkler system, and private well system will all lead to higher inspection costs. If your buyer opts to have the property inspected for pests such as termites, this is another charge (anywhere from $50 to $150 depending on property size).
If there is not a survey on file for the property or the sellers negotiate that the buyers will pay for it, be mindful that this is not a fixed fee that can be predicted. The cost of these is different depending on size of the property and lot, as well as whether it is residential, commercial, rural, etc. These costs can add up quickly, especially on large country homes.
17. What is the best way to reach you with properties that you might like to look at?
This is a great way to gather contact info other than what you already have. Most likely you aren’t sitting in front of someone reading off of this list, and are either on the phone, using email, or text. If you have their phone number, get their email address!
Some people prefer to receive properties to look at via text, since so many people use their phones for everything. Some buyers prefer email so that they can enlarge the photos on their computer screen more easily and still access via their phone if needed.
Regardless of what they prefer, it’s your job to find out what they do prefer so you can contact them via that channel moving forward! Personally, I like to make sure I have the individual email addresses and phone numbers for every single buyer involved.
This is especially useful if you are utilizing virtual signing software such as DocuSign, HelloSign, or DotLoop so that you can send documents to each individual for signature without confusion as to who signs which document in which email.
18. What days and times work best for you to tour properties?
Do they work 12 hour shifts at the hospital as a nurse and need to schedule showings for after 7pm? Do they run a donut shop and need to look at properties when they finish up for the day around noon?
These are important things to know, especially as your client base builds up and you are showing properties for multiple clients and need to organize your schedule as well to fit in as many clients.
Something else to consider is your schedule. As a new agent it is easy to get excited and be willing to bend at the beck and call of any client that wants to see a property. To prevent yourself from burning out, don’t allow yourself to bend over backwards for each and every possible showing.
Prevent Agent Burnout
Find your cutoff hours for mornings and evenings — for example, make it known that the earliest showings you can accommodate are 10am and that last showings you are comfortable scheduling are 7pm.
Set your boundaries and schedule and stick to them. The more you respect yourself and your time, the more your clients will respect and appreciate you as well. Not only that, but by knowing that you are busy enough that you are not desperate for business and willing to break rules and give up precious time with loved ones, they gain more confidence in you as an agent and person.
19. (For out-of-state/area clients) Do you prefer recorded video tours, FaceTime tours, or driving/flying to town for in-person tours?
One way to provide extraordinary value to your clients is by offering to go above and beyond what the majority of other agents are willing to do for their clients.
With thousands of people moving to Texas from out-of-state, many buyers are disappointed when the property they bought does not live up to their expectations from the Zillow photos they saw online.
Be Flexible. Make the Experience Enjoyable.
Provide them with options to tour the property virtually via FaceTime or an equivalent video chat, and even film another video walkthrough and share it with them via email or the Cloud so that they can go back and watch it any time they want.
Not only is this exceptionally valuable for buyers moving from out-of-state but also for investors who want to build a portfolio in your city but do not have the time to physically drive or fly to town every time they want to purchase a property.
20. Do you have any outstanding divorces, judgments, or legal cases that could affect the closing process/funding of your loan?
Although this can be an uncomfortable question to ask, especially if you are just now meeting them for the first time, it is important to ask. Find out the answer to this before they are under contract on a property to save them lots of money and heartache.
Why is this important? Clients who file for divorce or lose a lawsuit while under contract to purchase or sell a home could be in for a world of hurt. There is the potential for buyers to lose their loan qualification if their financial situation changes due to these reasons.
This could be remedied through a lawsuit demanding specific performance of the contract terms or damages. So either way, they will owe money to who they lost to in court, in addition to the seller of the home that they weren’t able to move into because they did not disclose this to you and their lender upfront.
21. How long do you plan to live in or own this home?
If this is their forever home, you want to be sure that they are 100% happy knowing that they will live here forever. If they know that they only plan on living here for the next 3 to 5 years, then sit down with them and determine what it is that they are okay compromising on in order to get a better deal now since they won’t be here forever.
This is a great conversation to have with first time home buyers, people who are new to town, newlyweds, and the like who may want to buy a house that has all of the bells and whistles and just haven’t taken the time to talk to one another about how long they actually plan on being there.
A great opportunity for buyers agents
This is an opportunity for you to help save your clients tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, and show off how smart of an agent you are!
That being said, this will also give you an idea of how long they will be in the house. When they are finished and ready to move, hopefully you will be the one selling it for them. Clients are for life, not just for one deal. So be sure that you are staying in touch with them over the years and that they know you are there for them when the time comes that they have real estate needs again in the future.
22. Do you need to sell another property before you can buy this one?
Before they can buy this house, do they need to sell the home they’re in now or another home they own in order to have the funds they need to close? This is a great one to ask, and many times leads to listing appointments in addition to helping them find their next home.
If they don’t need to sell their current home or they don’t currently own a home, continue moving through the questions and get to helping them find their next home. If they do need to sell their home, begin working through the seller client questions. Help your clients get their home sold as quickly as possible in order to purchase their next one.
A great option for anybody needing to sell their home that is already listed before buying the next one is utilizing contingent offers that are contingent upon the sale of their current home in order to be effective for the next one. If the home they’re selling is going to move fast and for a good price, many sellers are willing to consider these.
23. Is your home in the area or out of state?
This is mostly building off of that last question, because if it is local then you can list the property. If it is out of state or out of area, this is an opportunity for you to refer it out to another agent and get a referral for the listing.
24. Is your home currently listed for sale?
It is unethical to try to steal listings from other real estate agents, and can lead to punishments against your license in Texas. Before trying to get someone to list with you, make sure their home is not already listed with another real estate agent.
25. Do you need to keep your monthly payment under a certain amount?
Lots of buyers don’t like to bust out mortgage calculators to figure out how much they can afford or want to pay for. Many buyers only look at the down payment and total price of the home and wait to find out what their monthly payment is until right before closing.
By asking this question out of the gate, you can stay in touch with their lender to get a good idea based on what they want to spend each month for how much they can afford based on current interest rates and loan terms.
FOR INVESTOR CLIENTS
26. What investment strategy are you focusing on?
Will this property be a BRRRR, a fix and flip, a wholesale deal, long term rental, short term rental/AirBnB, or what? By knowing what their plan is for the property and what strategy they are focusing on, this allows you to better serve them.
If you are not a real estate investment specialist, there is no shame in asking lots of questions or for an explanation. Further, do your own independent research afterwards as well.
27. Is cash flow or long term value growth more important to you?
Lots of investors focus on accumulating cash flow producing properties, while others are focused on breaking even or building a portfolio of properties that will see continued appreciation in value over their holding period.
Each investor is different, so do not assume that they have the same goals as all of your other clients that are also investors.
28. Do you have prior experience investing in real estate?
This is a great way to get to know your clients’ experience level, and know on what level you can discuss real estate investing with them. Don’t waste anyone’s time explaining terms like cash on cash return if they are seasoned investors. If your clients are brand new investors, take the time to answer all of their questions.
If they are a first time real estate investor, this is an opportunity for you to help them make a great investment and learn a ton while doing it. You are here to be their eyes and ears on the ground, and give them an opportunity to exponentially shorten their learning curve. Do that, and your business will flourish.
29. What price range do you need to stay within?
Most investors know how much they want to, or can afford to spend. Typically flippers and BRRRR clients are going to be on that lower end of the price range while long term rental buyers will typically be in the mid-high range, while short term rental buyers often are on the high side of the price range and purchasing newer and more updated properties.
30. What criteria do you use to determine whether or not a property makes sense as an investment?
Every investor has a different set of criteria that they are using to determine the feasibility of an investment property. It never hurts to ask what their criteria is that makes or breaks a property so that you don’t waste their time by sending them batches of emails every day with properties that they will immediately ignore.
The fastest way to lose an investor client is by wasting their time with bad deals. Weed them out and send them only the best deals based on their own criteria and they will sing your praises from the hilltops.
31. What are your short term and long term investment goals?
Become familiar with what your investor clients’ goals are both in the next year or two as well as over the next 5, 10, and 20 years.
Most investors will have already thought through this, and if they haven’t, this is a great way to prompt them to do so. By knowing their long and short-term goals, you are able to better provide them with investment opportunities that align with their overall investing vision that they have for themselves.
32. How soon are you hoping to purchase your first/next investment property?
Get an idea of how soon they want to and need to purchase this investment property so that you know which properties, if any, to begin sending them.
33. How many investors will be involved in the transaction?
Just like a regular purchase of a home, be sure you know the names and have contact info for all buyers that will be involved!
It is very important to have a relationship and direct line of communication with all buyers involved that you will be working with. This helps to prevent miscommunication, so be sure to get everyone’s full names and contact info. Reach out to introduce yourself as soon as possible.
If they’re active in the online real estate investor community, check to see if they have a profile on BiggerPockets and send them a colleague request! If you are looking for other great free websites for real estate agents, check out our comprehensive list of the best free websites for real estate agents!
34. Will you be using traditional bank funding, cash, or creative financing such as seller financing, hard money, or private money?
Find out upfront what type of financing will be used to purchase the property. You need to make certain that your buyers are being transparent with you as well to avoid using the incorrect contract documents.
As an example, private and hard money are considered a type of financing. Therefore, a third party financing addendum is going to be required as part of the contract for those transactions. Buyers that are not also licensed real estate sales agents or attorneys in the state of Texas see hard and private money as cash, and tell their agents they will be buying the property in cash.
While this is not completely untrue, it is also not completely accurate and will require additional paperwork that an *actual* cash deal would not.
35. Are you (the investor) familiar with the risks associated with investing in real estate?
Most investors understand the risk associated with investing in real estate, but you will inevitably come across buyers who went to a paid convention where a speaker told them that they cannot lose money and that the returns will be astronomical.
Be sure that they are aware of the risks associated with real estate including:
- Market Turns (ups and downs)
- Bad Tenants.
36. Are you familiar with the local market?
One of my personal preferences is to make sure that all of my investor clients that I’m working with are familiar with the market they are investing in rather than blindly trusting me. As their agent, we have a fiduciary duty to them and want to make sure they are making sound investment decisions.
That being said, if a client does not know about the market and seems to be too anxious to purchase a property, I always suggest taking some time to thoroughly walk through the basics of the local market with them.
Ask These Questions and Get The Client.
Work your way through this comprehensive list of questions when you begin working with new buyer clients, and knock their socks off with the attention to detail that you pay on their behalf. Feel free to print this out this free attached list of questions, and be sure to share this with other agents in your office who could benefit from this!
Have more great questions that you like to ask when working with new buyer clients? Let us know in the comments below and check back to see if they make the list in the near future!