Your home is probably the most expensive purchase you will make during your lifetime. Selecting the right real estate professional to help sell it is as important as selecting the right candidate for a job you want done well. The recommended approach is to meet with a few different listing agents and treat your visit as a fact-finding interview session. Here are five questions to ask prospective agents.
How much experience do you have?
As obvious as it may sound, many sellers do not ask about a prospective agent’s job experience. While there is no magic number of years, you want to ask about their sales history. Any qualified agent will be more than happy to show you their annual sales report. The more closed sales the agent has facilitated, the better equipped they will be to handle your transaction from listing to closing. According to Rob Levy, a principal broker with Keller Williams Realty Professionals in Portland, Oregon and Palm Springs, California, it is important an agent demonstrates their knowledge of the area where your home is located, as well as familiarity with local inventory (Bankrate.com, 2016).
How do you plan to market my home?
It is simple; the better your home is marketed, the quicker it will sell. You will be doing yourself a favor by asking prospective agents to describe their marketing strategy for your home. Some insightful questions to help gauge an agent’s marketing expertise are:
- What is your marketing philosophy?
- What methods and resources will you use to reach potential buyers? (g. open houses, informational fliers, website listings, etc.)
- Do you hire a professional photographer/videographer? (If the answer is yes, ask if the services are included in the agent’s commission or if it is an upfront cost to you.)
- What is the plan should my home not receive good traffic after 30 days…60 days?
When evaluating an agent’s track record, look at past listings for the quality of photos and virtual tours, as well as the description of each home. Also, review the number of days their listings were on the market before selling. The average days on the market reflects the agent's ability to price appropriately, as well as effectively market the property. Should your observations concern you, ask the agent why a home took longer to sell and what they would do differently if they had to do it over again.
Finally, online reviews are an excellent resource for learning about an about an agent’s business and marketing style. You may also want to ask for a list of client referrals. Talking to past clients takes the self-promotion the agent feels they must do out of the picture. Another positive indicator is when an agent works mainly on referrals or repeat business.
What is your communication style?
This is an important question. During a real estate transaction, you should expect to conmmunicate regularly with your agent. Start by observing how well the agent communicates with you up to and during your meeting. If they fail to call you back or follow through on a promise, these are good indicators of future interactions. For more insight ask the following questions.
- What channel(s) of communication do you prefer to use? (If your styles are different, you may want to discuss how to overcome the differences. This might be a deal breaker for you − or the agent.)
- How frequently will we communicate?
- Are there others on your team I can contact in case you are not accessible? (If yes, you will want to know the method of communicating with the others. If there are no other team members to contact, it is a good idea to agree on what is a reasonable expectation for returning messages.)
Discussing expectations ahead of time is essential to avoiding potential conflict and working together toward the common goal of selling your home. Your communication styles need to be compatible to have the best experience.
Do you ever work for the seller and the buyer on the same transaction?
Sellers (and buyers) beware. It is not common for an agent to represent the seller and the buyer at the same time. But, some agents do. For this reason, it is good to know up front what the potential agent’s protocol is for such a scenario. For example, to avoid a potential conflict of interest, some real estate agencies prefer listing agents refer potential buyers to another agent. No one likes surprises or added stress during a real estate transaction, so get a clear understanding from the agent beforehand to avoid an uncomfortable encounter down the road.
What do you know about financing a home?
Financing can make or break a deal. Hiring a real estate agent that has a solid grasp of home financing brings unforeseen value to the table. Ideally, a buyer will be pre-approved for a loan before beginning to shop for a home. But even then things can get sideways if the buyer has an inexperienced or irresponsible lender. Ask about their experiences when a buyer’s financing fell through and it looked like the sale was doomed. Finding an agent who has connections with reputable lenders for these “just-in-case” situations could mean the difference in selling your home or not.
According to data from the National Association of Realtors, real estate agents say few sellers take time to ask in-depth questions when meeting for the first time (Bankrate.com, 2016). Many sellers hire the first agent they meet because the selection process seems overwhelming. The better method is to shop around by speaking with multiple agents − and their past clients. The previous questions should remove some of the guesswork, and help you select the best person to sell your home.
For a list of agents in your area, visit http://www.realtor.com/realestateagents.