Brett Stomps | Windermere

Preparing For Your First Purchase

The steps to preparing to buy are simple, but many buyers go straight to touring property and have to backtrack several steps to get on track. Here's the steps outlined from a professional's POV.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Does This Sound Familiar?

Are you sick and tired of calling on listings? Do real estate agents and mortgage officers not call you back? Are they always trying to get you to sign paperwork or fill out applications?

All you want to do is tour the property, what is so hard about that?

Well, you likely haven’t done the following:

  1. Hired a mortgage lender and gotten a pre-approval.
  2. Hired a real estate agent and signed a required buyer agency agreement.

This is where most new buyers fall short and never get anywhere.

A Common Misdirection

So why do buyers get stuck here?

Mortgage Officers

Well, when it comes to lenders, most buyers often get confused with the amount of loan products that are available. Then, if it isn’t the number of products that confuse them, buyers are shopping rates, not realizing the rates sometimes change every few hours.

Real Estate Agents

Then when it comes to hiring a real estate agent, buyers often begin looking at listings online before interviewing and hiring a real estate agent. When a buyer sees a property they like, they call the number on the listing. This usually takes them directly to the listing representative (who represents the seller) and not their best interests.

While on the phone, the buyer is asked a million qualifying questions and the listing agent then tries to recruit the buyer as future client. The buyer, only wanting to know info about the listing, agrees to go along with the conversation if it means they learn more about the property. As the two end their call, there’s a loose promise to keep in touch and for one another to contact each other.

This is the misdirection

This is where buyers get lost and never achieve the level of service they deserve. Buyers scroll in search of a property they don’t even know if they can afford and talking with agents they don’t even trust and leave loose ends all along the way.

Buying real estate is a journey, not an act of timing. The buyer who never establishes a team and who never recognizes this will struggle to navigate the dynamic valley of the Columbia Gorge real estate market.

So, that’s why I wrote this article.

Follow these steps if you are a new buyer preparing to buy for the first time. Take it from an expert, after seeing how the industry works, this is the path to the greatest success.

Getting Pre-Approved

Step #1, Getting Pre-Approved. This is the first step buyers try and skip (or don’t realize is step #1).

If you require a loan, start by getting pre-approved. There’s no sense in falling in love with a home you aren’t sure you can afford. Additionally, being pre-approved will increase your odds of getting your offer accepted. Most real estate agents will want to see your pre-approval too before showing you property.

So, before you begin looking at listings, shop lenders early in the process so you know who you are working with when you are ready to submit your offer.

How to Choose a Lender

As you begin your real estate journey, your success is determined by the performance of your team. And a lender is more than someone who can loan you money or who has the better interest rate.

Take the time to learn: The Importance of Your Real Estate Team.

You can interview as many lenders as you want, but interviewing 2 to 4 is plenty to get an idea of what is being offered. If you need a list of mortgage lenders to interview, see Brett’s Preferred List of Mortgage Lenders.

Determine Your Expectations

Before meeting lenders for the first time, consider what are your expectations are for their services.

  1. Do you want a lender to tell you what you want to hear (being nice) or do you want your lender to tell you how it is (being kind)?
  2. How often do you expect to hear from your lender? What are your expectations of their availability?
    • Many lenders who work with credit unions and who are associated with large banks do not work on the weekends.
  3. Are they full time or part time?
  4. What is their overall experience?
  5. Aside from interests rates and loan products, what makes them different?

Brett’s Pro Tip: Only work with mortgage brokers who are available on the weekends. Chances are, you will want to tour property on the weekend, and if your lender isn’t available, then we are not equipped to act quickly if required.

How to Choose a Loan Product

With your expectations sorted out, it’s time to interview mortgage offers. While doing so, you’re going to see who has the better loan product for you. It’s okay to shop lenders, so long as you don’t confuse yourself. This is another point where buyers mess up.

For the best consistent outcome, ask your lenders the following questions:

  1. If you are new to the process, it is a great first question to ask how the loan process works.
  2. Ask for a rate quote.
    • Ensure you are asking lenders for a rate quote on the same day (because rates change daily), and sometimes even more than that.
  3. Ask for a closing cost estimate
    • This shows the full break down of all costs associated with the loan. If a broker is not willing to give you a closing cost estimate after you’ve completed a pre-approval, that is a red flag. It may mean that your lender could be hiding the truth of their service costs and may be reason not to trust them on your team. If it sounds too good to be true, it may be a bait and switch.
  4. Ask for their availability.
    • Can they be reached on a weekend? A traditional bank lender only works week days (business days) and cannot be reached on a weekend or after business hours like an independent broker.
  5. Ask if your loan is going to get sold.
    • Also known as loan servicing, know where to make your payments and who you can go to for support in the future. Who is going to be your main contact after you close?

Brett’s Pro Tip: To get the get best results from a lender, be sure to complete their loan application.

Onboard With Your Lender

By the time you’ve made it to this step, you should know which lender you want to work with. Complete any other onboarding steps with your lender to satisfy all that they need from you.

It’s time to take your golden ticket (pre-approval) and start interviewing real estate agents.

Signing a Buyer Agreement

In 2024, buyer agency agreements became a requirement in OR & WA before a real estate licensee can give real estate services to a buyer. This includes touring property, explaining offer paperwork, giving customized market advice, etc.

There are 2 types of buyer agreements. Exclusive and Non-Exclusive.

Exclusive: The buyer is committed to the agent in the outlined area(s) for the term they signed. Whatever property the buyer purchases, their agent will be paid as outlined in the agency agreement and offer.

Non-Exclusive: The buyer(s) is not committed to the agent in the areas outlined in the buyer agreement for the term they signed. Buyer is free to work with other agents under who are also under a non-exclusive agreement. However, the agent that helps shows them property and with their purchase will earn a commission.

Related: Exclusive Vs. Non-Exclusive Buyer Agency Agreements

Buyers who choose exclusivity will receive the highest commitment and attention from their real estate professional. Whereas, buyers who choose the less committed non-exclusive option will tend to receive less attention. Both buyers are still in a far better position than a completely unrepresented buyer who does not sign either required agreement.

Note: Unrepresented buyers do not need to sign a buyer agency agreement.

How to Interview Real Estate Agents

Much like finding and choosing a Mortgage Lender, a good real estate agent can be life long relationship. The time you put into these relationships are well worth the little bit of effort it takes to get them started.

Besides, wouldn’t you rather do great things with other great people that you trust?

Here are some quick and simple questions when interviewing agents.

Determine Your Expectations

Not all real estate agents are created equal. Find an agent that suits your exact needs.

  1. How often do you want them to check in on you?
  2. What is their property type expertise?
  3. What is their region (area) of expertise?
  4. How involved do you want them to be?
  5. How many clients do they actively have? Will they be too busy for you?
  6. How often do they work in your price point?
  7. If a seller does not offer a BAC, what can you afford to pay your agent?

Present Them Your Pre-Approval

This is where you give your prospective real estate agent your golden ticket to buy. It will add to your credibility, and they’ll be that much more excited to work with you and give you more attention.

It’s a commission based industry after all, and clients who follow the steps to success get the most attention.

What Should You Ask Agents?

As someone who works with real estate agents everyday, I’ve found it important to ask the following:

  1. What is your commission rate?
  2. What areas do you serve?
  3. Do you work weekends?
  4. How long have you been in business?
  5. Why are you in the real estate business?
  6. What makes you different from other agents?
  7. Do you have any buyer packets for me?
  8. What does your onboarding process look like?

If you like the agent, sign a buyer agency agreement for the terms you are willing to accept. Be sure to interview a few to get a baseline.

Onboarding With Your Agent

After you’ve found an agent you want to work with, make sure you onboard with them complete. I offer the following and more when onboarding new clients.

  1. Understanding the locations of the gorge
  2. Setup Search (Prospecting Emails)
  3. Talk about scheduling Tours.
  4. Understanding the current market.
  5. Understanding how to write an offer.

Now You Are Ready

With a pre-approval in hand and a hired agent by your side, you’re ready to begin touring property. Congratulations 🎉

With a setup like this, if you’ve hired true professionals, you are going to receive top quality service on a consistent basis. You’ll be living your dream in no time.

Just remember, you’re in charge of the decisions, and they’re in charge of the process.

Good luck.


The information provided on is intended to be educational and accurate. However, information on does not substitute as buyer and seller due diligence when transacting real estate. Buyers and sellers are advised to work directly with a licensed real estate professional, seek additional professional services when applicable, and to inquire at the state, county, and city offices for their due diligence.