8 Questions to Ask a Realtor Before Buying a Home in Jacksonville

Posted on Dec 29, 2021

Ask a friend where they found the Realtor who helped them buy their home and they’ll often reply, “I met them at an open house” or, “Zillow assigned them to me.” Not surprisingly, many of these same friends may have run into complications and stressful situations during their home buying process.

The median home in the U.S. now lists for $378,545, making a home one of the most substantial purchases in a person’s life - if not the most significant purchase, ever. The Realtor you choose to oversee this transaction can have more of an impact than you think - so knowing which questions to ask your Realtor when buying is key to making sure someone knowledgeable and dependable is taking care of the most important transaction of your life.

Ideally, you want to ask these questions before you sign a buyer's agent agreement, which will lock you into working with that agent for a set period of time - regardless of whether they're the best person for the job.

Here are the questions you should be asking.

Questions to Ask a Realtor Before Buying a Home in Jacksonville

"Have you helped clients buy homes in this area before?"

Jacksonville is the largest city by landmass in the US - so two neighborhoods can be an hour away from each other. If your agent isn’t familiar with the general area you’re interested in, they might struggle to direct you to properties that match your must-have list. Oftentimes it takes a local knowledge of a city to know the facts that are less easy to Google: which streets are noisy, what areas are terrible for commuting, which neighborhoods are undergoing a revitalization and could be a great investment opportunity.

"Having a local agent is important because we can give them lots of information about the neighborhood, the school system, the local doctors and hospitals, banking, etc. so that they can consider if that’s a place they want to be," explains Jacksonville-based buyer agent Cynthia Frost-Perron.

"How long have you been an agent?"

According to the National Association of Realtors, the average Realtor in Florida has 6 years of experience - which is down from last year’s average of 7 years. Hiring an agent who has experience in the field is essential because few real estate transactions go completely smoothly. Having someone who’s gone through the process of buying a home a dozen, 20, or even 50 times is going to be key to ensuring that when a problem arises with the inspection or the appraisal comes in too low, you know what your options are and what the best path forward is. 

In this crazy market, hiring an experienced agent is also key to making a truly competitive offer that helps you land a home rather than lose out again and again.

Frost-Perron explains how setting realistic expectations is part of the job: "The Jacksonville market is like all the other markets now. It’s pretty hot and homes are often getting multiple offers over asking. So it’s really important that you have an experienced Realtor who can tell you if you’re going too high or if it’s not for you. A good Realtor is going to avoid putting in an offer that’s never going to appraise, just for the sake of putting in an offer. It’s not worth it because the buyer is only going to be disappointed."

"Are you experienced with negotiating?"

When a home seller is receiving multiple offers, it's easy for them to be choosy. As a buyer, you need someone on your side who's experienced with negotiating. 

Frost-Perron notes that buying a home involves a lot of interlocking choices and decisions: decisions that are best guided by an experienced professional who has been through this process dozens of times before. 

"You need someone that knows how to: negotiate, fill out the contract completely,  meet the timeline, and just give advice - do you waive an inspection or not waive an inspection? - based on the property and how badly you want it, and what's the smart thing to do," she says.

A good negotiator will not only help you get the home of your dreams; they'll help you get your home on terms that make sense for your situation.

"Do you work with buyers and sellers?"

At most brokerages agents work with buyers and sellers, taking whatever business they can get. The problem with this is that buying and selling a home are two distinct jobs and require unique skill sets. Someone can be amazing at selling homes (and correspondingly, have a lot of excellent online reviews as a result) yet struggle when it comes to the buy-side of the equation. 

The drawback to hiring an agent who does both sides is that they also may have less familiarity with the buy-side - do you really want to be someone’s first “buy” of the year, after selling 10 homes? 

This is why Houwzer is a brokerage that trains agents to be specialists on one side of the transaction. This ensures that their knowledge of the local buyer’s market is always up to date, and they’re able to cultivate a deep understanding of what it takes to successfully buy a home and get under contract with minimal stress. 

"Do you have referrals from past clients?"

People who are happy with their home buying experience are usually happy to tell other people about it and recommend their Realtor to friends and family. Ask your Realtor if they have past clients you can speak to - and make sure to ask these clients, "Would you be willing to work with this agent again?"

It also doesn’t hurt to check out an agent’s online reviews before you contact them (see Houwzer’s reviews here). This can give you a more unfiltered view of what sort of agent they are, and whether the majority of their clients leave truly satisfied.

"What's your availability like?"

Ideally, you don't want to work with an agent who's so busy helping other clients - or working side jobs - that they don't have time for you. Especially in this market, not being able to get in touch with an agent for 24 hours can be the difference between getting and losing out on a home.

"If your agent’s not picking up the phone when you call, or not getting back to you within 10 minutes, then that’s not the right agent for you," recommends Frost-Perron. "This market is so hot that you have to put offers in right away. If they're not available to show off property for one or two days, then you're going to lose that property. So a good agent has to be communicative and responsive."

If you notice that trying to get in touch with a potential agent involves multiple missed calls and it takes days to set up the initial meeting, you're better off looking for an agent willing to prioritize you.

"Which neighborhoods do you think represent the best value in Jacksonville?"

Jacksonville home prices are up 19.1% from last year, with the median home now selling for $275,000. This rapid price appreciation means that many residents are keen on finding a good deal - and that often means a neighborhood that is up-and-coming but hasn’t quite hit its peak yet. 

Realtors often have the best understanding of which neighborhoods are appreciating and what homes have good value for their money. A good agent will be able to take what you’ve told them and steer you towards homes that may not be exactly in the area you originally wanted, but hit all the important “must have’s” from your list in terms of size, commute, price, etc.

"I ask clients where they work, what do they want their commute time to be, if they have children and if their kids go to private school or public school, and then I ask what they like to do for fun. If they just want to spend every week at the beach, then they’re not going to want to live inland - they're going to want to live closer to the beach," explains Frost-Perron. "Then you put all that together and you create an area, and see what you can find."

"How will you help buyers find a home in this competitive, crazy market?"

It can be disheartening - and unsettling - to make 10 offers over asking, only to have one after the other rejected. Asking this question will help you gauge whether your potential agent has updated their playbook for 2022, or whether they're still encouraging their homebuyers to make offers the same way they did when the market was much closer to an equilibrium between buyers and sellers. 

Frost-Perron shares some of the advice she gives her clients buying in Jacksonville:

  • Be ready to pounce: "If a house comes on the market that they really like and they want to see, they need to drop everything, I need to make an appointment, and we need to go. They can't delay."
  • Go lower on budget: "If they have the budget for a $300,000 house, look for houses that are around $280,000, because they're going to have to go over that. If they’re pre-approved for houses at $300k, they can’t go looking for houses at $300k."
  • Patience is key: "The right house will come at the right time; be patient with this market. We will get them into their house, it just might take a little longer than they thought."
  • Do your prep work: "Their agent needs to go over the sale contract with them before they even start looking for a home. If they find a home that they like, we’re not going to have that time to do that, we’re going to have to get the offer in - so they need to be well versed on the documentation and the process. If their agent isn't spending that time with them upfront, I would tell them to reconsider their plan."
  • Don't try to time the market: "People are already getting priced out of the market because they were waiting for the prices to go down, and they're not, so I would tell them if they're on the fence that they need to talk to their Realtor about the pros and cons of waiting or moving forward."  (For more info: why the housing market isn't going to crash in 2022)

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