What are you looking for when you hire a real estate agent?
Your home is the most expensive item you own. If you’re looking to sell your home you need to choose the right agent.
You may be thinking you simply want the highest price for your home, and to sell your house quickly. But is that the only thing? Does it matter to you if the agent is difficult to work with and doesn’t listen to your needs? Is saving money on your Realtors®’ commission more important to you than having an agent who will protect you from legal liability?
Clearly, choosing the right real estate agent is about more than just dollars. It’s also making sure you and your agent can both work together to get what you want.
We wanted to know what questions to ask prospective real estate agents to help us find the the best Realtor® if we’re thinking of selling your home. We asked several real estate professionals what the number one question they would ask prospective agents and compiled the best questions.
1. How often will you be in contact with me?
Real estate agents that don’t updated you regularly and return your phone calls can lead to frustration. Shannon McNulty, a real estate agent in Maple Ridge, British Columbia says “a good real estate agent should have no trouble giving you updates regularly on what they are doing for you. You should not have to chase them down for answers, or ever feel like they are too busy for you.” A good agent will be in contact with your regularly, even daily if needed.
“A good real estate agent should have no trouble giving you updates regularly” – Shannon McNulty
In addition, a good agent will follow up your question with, “What form of communication do you prefer”? If you prefer phone calls rather than text messages, then they should note your communication preference and try to be accommodating.
2. Which tasks will you handle yourself and which ones will you give to others?
Listing your home involves a lot of work. There’s a lot of time and work spent making sure all of the required paperwork is signed and that all of the agreed timelines are being followed. It’s a lot of busywork.
Andrew Helling is a Nebraska-licensed real estate agent and the founder of REthority.com, says, “Good agents typically delegate a portion of the busywork to an assistant. But delegating every part of a transaction may leave you wondering why you are paying the agent at all”.
“Good agents typically delegate a portion of the busywork to an assistant”. – Andrew Helling
An agent who does all of the work themselves might be someone who really particular about getting things done right. On the other hand, it might just mean the agent is too busy with paperwork instead of trying to sell your home.
3. What are you going to do differently to sell my home over other agents?
Every agent posts your home to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). In California, it’s required that your agent do this unless you request otherwise in writing. What you may not know is that the MLS also automatically syndicates your posting to Realtor.com, Zillow, and Trulia. Rick Albert, a Broker Associate with LAmerica in Los Angeles says, “That’s not special, it’s standard”. You’re looking for agents who will go beyond that. Albert says, “an example might be pulling up agents who recently represented buyers and sellers in your neighborhood and reaching out directly to see if they have another buyer.”
Will they use a professional photographer?
You also want to be listening for how they will photograph your home. Most agents try to save money by taking pictures with their cell phone. Be cautious if your agent says that they’re going to take pictures themselves. Albert says that is “horrible for a listing. If you are paying full commission, expect full service.” Using a professional photographer usually costs less than $150 and is well worth the price and a high producing agent shouldn’t mind paying for a professional photographer. As an aside, using a professional photographer is one of our top 10 tricks to selling your home quickly.
“If you are paying full commission, expect full service.” – Rick Albert
Do they recommend staging your home?
You should also be listening for staging suggestions. Most agents won’t stage your home as part of their services. They may offer suggestions of things to move or put away in your home. However, experienced agents know that professionally staging your home may help you sell it faster and for a higher price and should have contacts for local staging companies. Karen Gray-Plaisted owner of Design Solutions KGP, winner of the Real Estate Staging Association’s top Staging Professional award says, “Think of staging similar to detailing a car before you sell, or the decorative icing on a cake before a baker tries to sell it. If the product does not look good, to begin with, no one will be interested unless the price is a bargain.”
4. Will the agent ever represent both the buyer and the me at the same time for the sale of my home?
Agents will sometimes represent both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction. The real estate industry refers this as”double ending the transaction”. While not unethical, dual representation may not be in your best interest. Some agents, as a matter of practice refer the second party to another agent in their office, rather than risk not representing their client well. You want to know up front, how your agent will approach things should they have another client interested in your home.
5. Can you provide me a list of the last houses you sold and what percentage of asking price did they sell for?
Just about everyone we talked to, asked this question in one form or another. Some asked for a list of the last three houses, others for the last 10 houses. Others asked for the address of the last house the agent sold in the neighborhood.
Does the agent price homes right?
Don’t just look for the agent who gets the highest percentage of asking price. That could indicate the agent isn’t familiar with home prices in the neighborhood and simply under prices them. Similarly, if a large number of the agent’s listings sell for less than original asking price, it might mean that the agent over promises what you can sell your home for. If you want to sell your home in a reasonable time frame, you need to price it right to sell.
Keep in mind that many times, the agent’s clients could have been part of the reason for the previous listings selling under the original list price. Sometimes sellers get so emotionally attached to a perceived value of their home that they insist on pricing the home above what is realistic. The sellers insist on listing the home at some unreasonable amount, and then after weeks of no offers coming in, the owners allow the agent to lower the price. If a home the agent gives you sold for substantially less than the list price, ask the agent why.
Nadine Adamson, an Associate Broker with Brown Harris Steven in Manhattan, says “There’s a saying among the brokerage community that being the third broker is the best. The first broker and second broker often have to break down the seller’s pricing expectations, and the third broker sells the property and gets to be the hero.”
“The first broker and second broker often have to break down the seller’s pricing expectations”
Look for agent who is professional
Baron Christopher lead consultant and CEO of RedBaronUSA, and helps relocate high level executives says “your ideal real estate agent should have sold at least ten homes in the area comparable to yours, AND should have been able to transact with the highest paying ‘paperwork’ buyers vs. the easiest ‘cash’ buyers to close, AND should have been able to list, figure out, perhaps stage, show, and sell similar homes at your price range quickly –– because they are professionals.”
“Your ideal real estate agent should have sold at least ten homes in the area comparable to yours” – Baron Christopher
6. Are you full time or part time? If only part time, why?
Lisa Welsh, a real estate broker in Rocklin, CA who specializes in short sales, says if they answer “they work part time because they needed the money”, then look for another agent. You want an agent who loves real estate, not just the thought of working part time or making money as a side job. You also want an agent who can return your calls and messages promptly without having to waiting for their lunch break at another job.
7. Tell me about the other agents you work with
You want to know, what kind of network connections do they have? Mary Burak, is a Realtor® with Berkshire Hathaway in Los Angeles says, “Great agents work with other agents on a regular basis. This will tell you that they work well with others and can provide many services and options for you.” She adds, “Listen for them to make their response more about asking more questions. If they make it less about themselves and focus on asking YOU about your needs and wants, you’ve found the one!”
“Great agents work with other agents” – Mary Burak
9. How many homes similar to mine have you sold in my neighborhood?
Every neighborhood is different. You can have the exact same house in 10 different neighborhoods, and each will sell for a different price. Jose Hernandez a real estate agent in Chicago says that with this question, “you are basically asking two questions in one; type of homes they have sold and their experience in the neighborhood.” If the the agent responds by telling you how much their office did, rather than how many transactions the agent did, Hernandez says that should be a red flag. Saying “‘Our office sold $30 Million last year’, …obviously sounds better than ‘I’ve sold 3 homes similar to yours last year'”. You want an agent who is both familiar with your neighborhood and similar homes in your neighborhood.
“An agent who responds by telling you only how many transactions their office did should be a red flag” – Jose Hernandez
10. Does the agent ask you lot’s of questions, or are you the one asking all of the questions?
Michael Seaman with Keller Williams Realty in Boise says, “If you are asking your real estate agent questions, as part of your decision of whether to hire them, and they’re answering, you’ve already got the wrong realtor.” Seaman’s approach is one used by many professional sales people of answering questions with questions. He says, “My go to response to almost any question is ‘Great question. Why do you ask?’ A good agent needs to get a thorough understanding of your motivation. ‘What’s important to you, the most money or the fastest way to your next destination? Do you want low stress, and have me help you with everything, or do you want high communication, radical candor and to be a part of every single aspect of the transaction?'”
“If you are asking your real estate agent questions…you’ve already go the wrong realtor” – Michael Seaman
Welsh, puts it another way. She says, be sure “wait for the agent to ask if time or money is more important to you”. This will tell you if the agent understands your motivation and time frame.
There’s the top 10 questions when interviewing a real estate agent to help you sell your home. If you choose the right agent, you should be able to get the best price in a reasonable amount of time for your market. Asking the right questions and listening to their responses could keep you from having to breakup with your Realtor® later and choose another agent.