You just landed a new buyer client. Congratulations! Now, you want to manage their expectations to get them started on the right foot.
We’ve put together a house hunting checklist that you can download and share with your new client to help answer most of their questions, set their expectations, and help them to take action on their new home purchase.
As real estate professionals, we tend to take for granted what our clients know about the real estate transaction, especially first-time buyers. But the truth is, they probably have a lot more questions than you think. Even if they’ve purchased a home before, they don’t do it every day. You are the real estate agent— it’s your job to calm their fears and answer their questions, even the ones they don’t know they have yet.
At your initial buyer meeting, you can hand your new clients this house hunting checklist that will address a lot of the questions they have. And you’ll look like a rock star agent who knows what you’re doing. That alone will give your buyers confidence and trust in you as their real estate pro.
When you’re sitting across the table from them, share these answers to let them know you’ve got them covered.
House Hunting Checklist That Explains Everything to Your Clients
1. Do Your Research First
Let your buyers know that they should do some research ahead of time. Sit down and decide on what things in the home are most important, what things would be nice to have, and what things are negotiable. Make a list of neighborhoods they’re interested in and what things are most important in the area they’re interested in. Make a priority list.
This will help you, as their agent, narrow down their search parameters and not waste time looking at homes that are not the right fit.
2. Be Realistic
Encourage your clients to decide early on what’s most important as they’re filling out that priority list. It’s important to manage their expectations. They can certainly be picky about the home they want, but it’s important to point out that they will not find the “perfect” home because that doesn’t exist. Explain the three-sided triangle concept to them—the triangle has three sides: price, features, and location. You can find a home that meets two sides, but you cannot expect to find a home that meets all three criteria of the triangle. That’s called a unicorn.
3. Get Your Finances in Order
Your clients may not realize that the first thing they need to do is shore up their financial situation. Have they saved enough money for a down payment? Have they checked their credit score? Do they have outstanding debts they need to clear up? These are all questions that need answers before they start thinking about a huge purchase like a new home.
Make sure your buyers don’t do anything that would cost them their new home during the transaction. In addition to the house hunting checklist, we also have a 17-point homebuyer checklist that tells them exactly what not to do.
4. Get Prequalified First
Once your clients have figured out their personal finances, the first thing any new homebuyer will need to do is talk to a lender and get prequalified. Your clients need to know how much they can afford before they ever start looking for a new home. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time looking at homes out of your client’s price range. And they certainly don’t want to fall in love with a house they can’t afford.
5. Work With an Experienced Realtor®
This should be a given, especially for first-time buyers, but it’s important for buyers to work with a professional who understands the ins and outs of a real estate transaction. Let buyers know that the process can be complicated, full of legal contracts and deadlines, and that you are there to guide them through it.
As a professional, you should also advise them to interview at least three agents before they make a decision on who would be the best fit for them. It may sound counterintuitive, but trust us when we say it will actually go a long way in establishing trust with your future clients.
6. Choose Your Moving Timeline
Your buyer clients need to establish a realistic timeline for moving. If they’re expecting to move in the next 30 days, they’re going to have a difficult time making that happen. You can help them by giving them some parameters along how long it takes to find and put in an offer on a home, have it accepted, and go through the process to get to the closing table. Don’t assume your clients will know it takes months to close on a new home.
7. There’s No Right Time to Buy
Your buyers may have some concerns about the economy and the housing market. They may even have some fatalist ideas about another housing crash. The truth is there is no perfect time to buy and no perfect time to sell.
For your clients, let them know that the best time is the time that’s best for them. Soothe their fears and let them know that real estate, traditionally, has always been a great investment, no matter what the economy is doing.
8. Choose a Neighborhood You Love
Your clients should make sure they don’t only shop for a house. The worst thing that could happen is they find a home they love but end up in a neighborhood that doesn’t fit their needs.
Encourage your clients to check out the neighborhood they’re considering buying in. Does it have the conveniences and attractions they are looking for (e.g., schools, restaurants, parks, shopping, entertainment)? True, they may have to make some concessions on the things they want, but it’s definitely something to consider when shopping for their home.
9. Don’t Seek Too Much Advice
Your first-time homebuyers (and maybe even some second- or third-timers) will have family, friends, co-workers, and random strangers offer them advice on homebuying. You, as their real estate agent, should prepare them for the barrage of suggestions they will receive.
Just so you know, there might be some good advice offered to your clients, but much of it will be fear-mongering, outdated information, or even flat-out wrong. That’s why we included this crucial reminder in our house hunting checklist.
It’s natural to seek advice from those you trust. But advise your clients to keep those trusted advisers to a minimum. Advise them to ask for help from those they trust most, but then be prepared to make their own decisions. After all, they’re the ones who will be living in the house.
10. Think Long-term
Real estate is more than just buying a house. It’s an investment that can provide leverage against financial hardship. But it’s your job as the real estate professional to help your clients understand how investing in real estate works.
Are your clients just starting out and looking for a starter home that they can upgrade after a few years? Or are they looking for a forever home? The type of home your clients are looking for will determine how they should think about their investment. Explain to them the difference between the types of investments.
No matter what type of home your clients are looking for, real estate is a long game. Make sure to explain that real estate isn’t a quick get-in-get-out investment for most people. It takes time to earn your money back. So prepare them to stay in their home for at least three years.
Don’t lose those clients you’ve worked so hard to land. The relationship shouldn’t end with the transaction. After all, 80% of referrals come from your past clients. Stay top of mind for the long term with an exceptional closing gift that will remind them of you from Home Manager.
11. Make Sure to Get a Home Inspection
No matter what type of home your clients decide to buy, insist they pay for a home inspection. The home inspector’s job is to give the buyer a full spectrum analysis of the home, checking for things they can’t necessarily see on the surface. They will check for foundation, roof, plumbing, and electrical issues to make sure your home is worth the money your clients are offering to pay for it. In essence, it’s a $500 investment in peace of mind.
12. Don’t Negotiate Yourself Out of a House
It’s the saddest thing to watch your clients entrench themselves in the negotiation phase of the transaction and end up losing a home they love. Many homebuyers, especially first-time homebuyers, have been taught to believe you shouldn’t offer the asking price on a home. They have learned from somewhere that you should haggle to get the best price possible.
That’s obviously from an old real estate playbook, but your clients don’t know that. Make sure you keep things in perspective for them. True market value = what someone will pay. That’s it.
So, if your clients love the home, but they’re hesitant to offer the full asking price, you should guide them to keep what’s most important in mind—the fact that they love the house. And they should understand that if they’re not willing to pay the full asking price on the home, there’s most likely another buyer out there who is.
13. Factor in Some Repair Costs After Closing
We’ve all had those clients who simply insist that every little thing is completely finished when they move into a house. But honestly, even a brand-new construction home won’t have everything your clients want. Prepare them for a little spending once they move in. There will inevitably be a few things that need to be addressed after closing.
When you’re doing the final walk-through, and they start picking out things that aren’t completely finished, it’s a great idea to ask them, “Is it important enough for you to not close on the house?” Keeping things in perspective will help a lot when it comes to managing these expectations for your clients.
14. Be Ready to Make a Decision
The real estate market these past few years have really forced buyers to be ready to make a decision more quickly than in the past. But as the market cools, you’ll be faced with buyers who hesitate on making that commitment. Encourage your clients to be ready to say, “Let’s make an offer,” when they see a house they love.
When they start to back-pedal and say things like, “Well, let’s keep looking,” just know that’s their fear coming through. Take a moment and then ask them, “If you found your soulmate, would you keep dating?” Sometimes just a little perspective is all they need to see what the next move should be.
15. Bid Competitively
This goes back to the negotiations—don’t let your buyers try to outsmart the sellers, especially if they love the house. Long gone are the days of the buyer’s market where there are several more options for buyers. Today we are living in a seller’s market, and the sellers have most of the control. If your clients love the house, then they should make an offer that reflects that.
16. Keep Contingencies to a Minimum
Ah, contingencies! We love them, don’t we? If you’ve done your job effectively as your client’s real estate professional, you will help them to alleviate as many contingencies as possible before putting any offers in for them.
A contingency could cause your client’s offer not to be accepted. So, as a real estate agent, you should view contingencies as obstacles. Try to resolve as many contingencies as possible. Our house hunting checklist will help you broach this topic early on in their homebuying process.
17. No House Will Ever Be Perfect
The perfect house is a myth. There is no such thing. It’s a unicorn. When explaining this concept to your buyers, start with the three-sided triangle first. But then explain that 8/10 rule to them as well. If the perfect house is a 10 and doesn’t exist, then if your clients can find a house that is an eight on that same scale, that’s probably going to be the house for them.
No house will have all the features and amenities they want. The questions to ask your buyers are, “What are you willing to accept? What are you willing to concede?”
For example, assume the house they’re considering has the perfect kitchen, but it doesn’t have a covered patio. Both of those things were on their list, but one is more important than the other.
Encourage your clients to go back to their priority list and decide what is a “must have” vs a “like to have” based on what they chose upfront as what is most important.
18. It’s Normal to Second-Guess Your Decision
This happens to practically every single homebuyer—even if they absolutely LOVE their new home, they second-guess their decision. It’s actually more fear of making a bad decision than real buyer’s remorse. They will fear they’ve made a mistake. It’s natural with such a large transaction. And buying a home is a huge step for anyone to take.
Encourage them and reassure them that they’ve made a great decision that will help them create familial wealth and put their other dreams in motion. And if they decide in a few years to sell and find another house, you’ll be there to help them with that transaction as well.
19. Don’t Forget Why You Wanted to Buy a Home
With all the craziness in a real estate transaction, it’s easy for your clients to get caught up in the frenzy and forget the reason they started the process in the first place. But if you go back to your initial interview with your buyer clients, you probably asked them some questions that will help you in these moments.
You can gently remind them of the reasons they shared with you in the initial conversation around WHY they wanted to buy a home. They most likely have dreams—start a family, build a business, generate familial wealth, be near better schools for their kids, open more opportunities, etc.—that you can remind them of to help them get back on track.
In many of these situations, a conversation with your clients is all it takes to give them a little encouragement and courage to keep moving forward. They’re counting on you to get them to the finish line. Be their biggest supporter and coach.
Your Take on Our House Hunting Checklist & Tips
It’s no small thing to coach and guide your clients through the biggest transaction of their lives. It takes patience, confidence, and an empathetic ear. Remember that listening is key to great conversations. Listen to your buyer’s concerns and offer positive reinforcement and encouragement. You are their trusted adviser, and they will listen to your advice, so give them information that will help them make the best decision possible. They will thank you for it and remember you when anyone asks if they know a good Realtor®.
Have you had some success with coaching your clients in difficult situations? We would love to hear about them. I love stories, especially when they help everyone learn. Share your stories in the comments. I’m looking forward to reading them.