Setting Expectations with Your Home Buyers

couple working with a realtor

Most home buyers—particularly the first time homebuyer, come in pretty optimistic. They’re excited at the premise of finding their dream home, and they’re ready to hit the ground running.

Though that optimism is certainly enviable, it’s important for real estate agents to temper that excitement with a dose of reality.

What can the buyer expect in terms of competition?

What type of home can they afford with their budget?

How long might it take them to find a home that fits their needs?

These are all questions you should answer for your client long before the home hunt begins. Giving your client realistic expectations sets the stage for a more successful transaction on the whole—one that gets them the home they want, while also ensuring you have a satisfied, loyal customer who’s likely to refer you to friends and family.

When to Set Expectations with Your Clients

Before you sign a contract or even begin the house hunt, there needs to be a frank discussion of expectations with your clients. You can even include expectations in your contract or, at the very least, list them out in an email.

You’ll need to cover:

  • What they can expect from you, as their REALTOR®. This includes communication style, availability, knowledge, expertise, and exactly what services you will provide them. You should also include the items they’ll be responsible for.
  • What they can expect from the market. You should discuss how quickly homes are selling, whether they’re going for over or under list price, and if sellers are willing to negotiate. If prices are rising and inventory is low, they need to know—before it hits their pocketbook.
  • What they can expect from the home buying process. The first time homebuyer will especially need hand-holding in this area. The home buying process is a pretty complicated one, and for those who haven’t trekked through it before, it can be pretty overwhelming. Make sure they know what they’re getting into—both now and every step along the way.

You may need to check back in at different points in the home buying process to reset expectations. If the buyer is having trouble finding the right property or their bids keep getting rejected, then it might be time to step back and reapproach with a new strategy.

How to Set Expectations with Buyers

Setting expectations with buyers can be hard—especially if they’re a first time homebuyer with no experience. The key to success is to ask the right questions from the outset and get to the heart of what the buyer wants—as well as how you, the market, and the future seller fit into that equation.

Here’s what you should ask your clients when setting initial expectations:

  • How do you like to communicate? Do they prefer text or email? Are they more talk-by-phone type of people? Nail down their preferred method, and talk about how that meshes with what you can provide.
  • What is their schedule like? When are they available for showings? When aren’t they? In today’s tight inventory market, they may need to act fast when a home is listed. If they’re not readily available for showings, it could impact how quickly they can buy—as well as what homes will be available to them.
  • What’s their timeline? How quickly do they need to move? If they’re on a tight deadline, they might not be able to wait around for the perfect dream house—especially if there’s just not a lot of inventory out there.
  • How can they improve their chances? Talk to your buyers about getting pre-qualified for their loans, and stress the edge it can give them over the competition. Also discuss credit scores, and how that may affect their mortgage rate and other factors in the home buying process.
  • What are their responsibilities? What is your client responsible for in the process? How quickly do they need to respond when you send them potential listings or showings? When should they be available to talk or visit in person?
  • Who else will they be working with? Make sure your first time homebuyer knows that you’re not the only person they’ll be working with. They’ll also need to work with their loan officer, the title company, the seller’s agent, and a few other vendors along the way. They should know to respond quickly if one of these parties requests information or needs a signature; the faster they act, the quicker closing day will come.

Be sure to ask if they have any questions or concerns as well. Setting clear expectations up front can ensure everyone ends up happy—you, the seller, the buyer and even the mortgage lender. It can help ease the pains of the often overwhelming home buying process, and it can make the experience more enjoyable from start to finish.





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Aly Yale

Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer focusing on real estate, mortgage, and the housing market. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Bankrate, The Motley Fool, Business Insider, The Balance, and more. Prior to freelancing, she served as an editor and reporter for The Dallas Morning News. She graduated from Texas Christian University's Bob Schieffer College of Communication with a major in radio-TV-film and news-editorial journalism. Connect with her at or on Twitter at @AlyJwriter.