In today’s market, every detail matters. From timing, mortgage program and the real estate agent you work with, what you bring to the table can mean the difference between becoming a homeowner or delaying your big dream.

As you begin to find a reliable, knowledgeable and overall pro, you’ll want to ask the right questions before signing any agreement with a real estate agent. The following five must-ask questions can steer you in the right direction and land you the perfect person to help you buy a home.

Are you familiar with (blank) neighborhood?
Chances are, you have a least a handful of neighborhoods you are targeting. So, wouldn’t you want to work with a real estate agent who knows a thing or two about them?

Of course. That’s why it’s a good idea to quiz your potential real estate agent about the neighborhoods that interest you the most. Having experience selling and buying in your desired area is a huge leg up. They should also know about hidden gems, accommodations and red flags.

What active license or standing do you hold?
This may not be something you ask directly, but something you ask yourself.

Potential buyers can find information on a real estate agent’s license status and standing by visiting the California Bureau of Real Estate website. The last thing you want is so work with someone who has a tainted record — and didn’t disclose it. So do your homework before saying yes to Realtor Rick.

Can I talk to one of your previous clients?
Any real estate agent with a successful record will have no problem providing a long list of happy clients.

This is an opportunity to speak with past clients about the agent’s personality, work style and professionalism. Sometimes it’s hard to get a full reading of an agent after one quick meeting, especially if it’s over Zoom. So go ahead and ask for references. You are, after all, making a hire so it’s acceptable to poke around.

Can you summarize your experience and education?
This is a terrific conversation starter that can go in a number of directions. It’s a strong discussion topic and lets your potential real estate agent talk about themselves. They’ll be happy to tell you about any special accreditation they hold, schooling under their belt and their long list of victories in both selling and helping others buy a home.

As an open-ended question, it will certainly lend itself to others that you might not have thought of asking. First-time buyers also benefit because they will have a lot to learn. And if the real estate agent is knowledgeable and patient, it’ll be evident pretty quickly.

What is your team like?
In other words: Will I be working with you or your associates? You may find the hot real estate agent whose face is recognizable on online ad after online ad. In some cases, however, highly visible agents will hand you off to one of their associates. This approach defeats the purpose of your careful vetting process.

Remember, buying a home requires a good and active relationship with your real estate professional. So, you’ll want to know exactly who you will be calling and texting at odd hours of the day. Make it clear who you want to work with and who will work with you.