12 questions to ask when interviewing a realtor

September 25, 2017 — Written by Robbie Bernal

couple asking a real estate agent questions

Like any partnership, finding the best agent for you is a matter of asking the right questions. The challenge is that when you set out to find an agent—whether it’s for selling or buying—it isn’t always clear what to ask them. Below are a few crucial questions to ask any realtor that you consider to hire when selling or buying a house.

How long have you worked as an agent?

Experience is arguably the most important factor to consider when you’re interviewing real estate agents. A listing agent who has worked through different transactions for years will be able to help you with everything from setting the right price for your home to navigating multiple offers.

The same is true from the buying side. An experienced buyer agent will be able to help you with everything from getting in touch with a lender to finding a home in a neighborhood that works for you. Few things give you more confidence in an agent than the years of experience they have under their belt.

Do you do this full-time?

When it comes to this critical transaction, chances are you’re not going to want to partner with an agent who is distracted by other obligations. Plus, an agent who is working full-time is more likely to be up-to-date on the state of the market.

How many clients are you currently representing?

It’s hard to say how many clients an agent can reasonably take on at once. It’s up to you to decide whether you’re comfortable with the number of clients the realtor is working with. Agents with 30 or more listings or around 20 buyer clients may not be able to provide the individual attention you need.

Do you have a team?

Some agents work on teams where different team members handle different parts of the listing and closing process. You may want to know how many different people you will work with and how to best communicate with the various team members.

What do you charge?

Contrary to popular belief, there is no official commission rate — agent fees are negotiable. As the seller, you’ll typically pay a fee that is split between the listing agent and the buyer’s agent. Don’t assume that every listing agent asks for the same fee — ask and confirm exactly what the realtor charges. Also, you might not be aware of all the fees and expenses that a home sale entails, so we recommend that you check out our post about the total cost of selling a home.

As a buyer, unless you’ve offered to compensate them yourself, your agent will usually receive their commission through the listing broker. In other words, the seller pays the buyer agent’s commission, although the seller may figure this payment into their listing price.

Could you share some references?

It never hurts to ask an agent for references. People who have actually worked with the realtor are the absolute best source of information when it comes to finding an agent who fits your needs. If the agent is comfortable with it, contacting references and asking them questions will help you get an idea of what exactly you’re signing up for.

Previous clients may also be able to explain how the agent handled any challenges in their transaction, which will help you understand how they might overcome the hurdles that will come up in yours.

What sets you apart from the competition?

Experienced realtors will have no trouble selling themselves. Ask them why you should work with them, and listen carefully to advantages they focus on. The piece that differentiates them could be anything, like their ability to negotiate, their communication style, or their proven track record in the neighborhood you’re living or interested in.

Are you knowledgeable about my area?

As a home seller – or a buyer with a particular area in mind – it could help to know whether the agent is familiar with a specific territory. Things like list prices and the average time it takes to sell a home can vary drastically depending on the area. Ask agents whether they’re familiar with your neighborhood or the area you want to move to, and find out how many homes they’ve bought or sold there in the past year.

How often will we be in touch?

Just like any relationship, communication with your agent is essential. Ask the agent what their preferred method of communication is – whether it’s phone, text, or email. You may also want to find out how often you’ll hear from the agent, how long they’ll take to reply, and for sellers, whether they’ll provide feedback after your showings. If your expectations for communication are set from the very start of the process, you’ll prevent issues down the road.

Do you typically work in my home’s price range?

While some listing agents may be just as comfortable selling a $200,000 home as they are selling a 1 million dollar home, that isn’t true for all. If the agent typically works with homes that are significantly more expensive than yours, you may find yourself fighting for their attention against homes that could earn them more lucrative commissions. It’s worth asking what price range the agent typically works in to find out whether they’re comfortable marketing and finding a seller for your home. (Needless to say that the realtor should also be an expert on the most effective ways to increase the value of your house.)

Similarly, buyers will also want to know if the agent works in their price range. The range of prices the buyer agent typically works with can determine the neighborhoods they are most familiar with. If you’re looking for a home that is significantly more or less expensive, the agent may not know where to take you.

How do you plan on marketing my home?

For sellers, an experienced listing agent will have a perspective on which marketing tactics will work best for your home. Beyond putting up a for sale sign and listing the home on the MLS, the agent will likely have an array of tactics in mind, like spreading the word on their social network, posting the home listing on various websites, sending mailers and flyers, and hosting open houses. Before you begin a partnership with an agent, find out what marketing strategy they recommend. You’ll help to make any marketing plan even more successful if you educate yourself in advance about the essential steps to prepare your home for sale.

What was your average list-price-to-sale-price ratio in the past year?

Another thing that’s useful to understand as a seller is the agent’s list-price-to-sale-price ratio. The ratio is the final sale price divided by the last list price. If the ratio is below 100%, it means that the home sold for less than the list price. If it’s more than 100%, it indicates that the home sold for more than the list price. Ideally, the agent will have a ratio of at least 100% but take this number with a grain of salt – it’s possible that the realtor’s ratio can be hurt by sellers who set unrealistic prices.

Choosing an agent that aligns with your situation is critical for a drastically improved buying or selling experience – that’s why it’s key to ask the right questions when interviewing the realtors that are on your short list. Every agent has different strengths and weaknesses and a different communication style, and the right agent is entirely a matter of what works for you.

We hope these questions help kick off the conversation and get you closer to finding the real estate agent that meets your needs.

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